Skip to content

2009 King County Elections – Some websites just don't click

2009 October 30

My ballot is in the mail.  Wouldn’t it be amazing if you quit seeing and hearing all campaign ads the day you mail your ballot?  Ahhhh.

I have a few election questions one of which I touched on in a previous post:

  1. If our elected officials know that we citizens hate robocalls enough that they banned businesses from making them, why do they use them, even though they granted themselves a loophole, knowing that 99% of the calls are wasted, and/or just piss people off?
  2. The city I live in, Bellevue, WA has one of the toughest sign ordinances in the country.  Retail establishments hire real people to hold signs at busy intersections because temporary signs are NOT ALLOWED.  Except during election season when candidates can post their signs willy nilly.

But this post isn’t about answering those questions, it’s about Social Media and how it’s being used in the election process in King County, WA where I live.

The County itself has done a nice job of incorporating Social Media tools to educate voters on the new process of mail-in only voting, and to bring awareness to the issues and candidates being considered.  In fact, King County has added a video voters guide which explains the issues and allows candidates to pitch themselves.  The video and its site are clean and easy to navigate but the videos are deathly boring.  But it’s a very nice complement to the printed voter’s guide and a wealth of online tools.

Now on to the races:

King County Executive:

In the County Executive race, Susan Hutchison has a very informative website.  Not sure I would have used this pic in a You Tube Video Post, but hey . . . .Sherrif Rahr, Susan HutchisonThe Hutchison site has great navigation, a lot of information, endorsements, and terrific video; which you would expect from a former news anchor. What her site is missing is tools that allow people to forward information, or share pages people find interesting with their friends.

But the site gives a good flavor of the candidate, what she stands for, and reflects her personality well.

Dow Constantine’s site is not nearly as intuitive.  The home page contains an online pitch for volunteers to help reach 500,000 voters before the election – a very important goal I’m sure to the campaign; but probably not top of mind to the person who is wanting more information about the candidate before casting a vote.  Though the printed content is excellent, the site’s navigation is really clunky, with some navigation tabs across the top, but most of the interesting stuff along the bottom – and no button that takes you “home” which is very annoying.  There could be a lot more video integrated into the site; in fact I saw only one video on the entire site and it was produced when Dow announced his candidacy.  There are some pictures and some video but in order to see them you are directed to third-party sites – not a great solution.  There are, however, “share” buttons at the bottom of the pages.

Washington State Initiative 1033:

I had a very hard time finding Tim Eyman’s official website and was astounded that when I searched “Tim Eyman’s Website” I got page after page of links urging me to vote no on 1033, and no links supporting the ballot measure.  I declare the NO on I-1033 camp as the Social Media marketing winner in this campaign.

Washington State Referendum 71:

The Protect Marriage PAC (the PAC who opposes preservation of the Domestic Partnership Law) has designed a very effective website.  It is bright and inviting with lots of content, easy navigation, links to important information easily accessible from the home page, and tools for web surfers to share pages with friends; it really is worth looking at from a design and content perspective.  It shows that it was well thought out for use as a Social Media advocacy launching pad.  I’m sorry to say the Approve Referendum 71 organization’s site isn’t quite as intuitive and inviting as their opponents’ site from a Social Media standpoint.  There is an abundance of great information on the site and the navigation on the home page is good, but there is no easy way to get back “home”, and no way to easily share pages with friends via email or social networking sites.  And I really wish they had taken advantage of the wealth of videos that support approval of the referendum including this very effective video endorsement from Seattle Mayoral candidate Joe Mallahan.  Campaigns have to really start looking at the use of online video and the ease of sharing both campaign created and user-created video.  One thing I did really like, however, was the ability to create a custom profile picture “badge” for use on Facebook to show your support for the referendum.  That was a very clever touch!!

Speaking of the Seattle Mayoral Race:

Joe Mallahan’s campaign has created a very easy to navigate and engaging website; actually a well-connected mish/mash of several sites; including social networking site Ning, You Tube (though again, I wish the videos had been integrated into the site with a video channel widget (As an example I’ve included a link to a page on my website with a You Tube widget), an outsourced campaign data base site which handles donations and volunteers, and real-time rss Twitter feeds on the home page.  This mish/mash is held together very well with consistent navigation including a way to get home from all pages except from You Tube.  As in other sites there are no buttons on the site to easily share content.  Mike McGinn’s site is proof positive that you don’t have to spend a lot of money to create an effective website.  It appears that the McGinn camp is utilizing off the shelf blogging software as the backbone of the site.  The links to other sites are very clear.  The McGinn campaign did integrate a McGinn for Mayor You Tube Channel widget on their site along with a Flickr photo link, a nice touch .  The main website does have “share me” buttons on every post which makes it very easy for supporters to spread the word.  McGinn attempted to integrate Ning into his campaign, with a site called “We Like Mike” but I could only find a link to it from his Facebook Fan Page, and no real integration with the main website.  On the Ning site I did take a look at the multi-media tab which took me to a page with pictures from the campaign, and hidden waaaay down in the bottom right corner of the page were two radio interviews Mike had done with KIRO’s Dave Ross, and KUOW’s The Conversation.  Those should have been easily accessible from the candidate’s home page.

In Conclusion:

Websites are the backbone of any Social Media Marketing campaign.  They are the anchor that ties everything else together.  I did see a cautious start toward engagement, but I didn’t see much in the way of enabling supporters to easily crow online to their friends – which is what Social Media Marketing does best.  It seems that all of the campaigns took their online presence seriously though it was obvious that it was more important to some candidates and issues than others.  As media usage evolves over the next few years, campaigns will have to focus more strategic attention to their websites and overall Social Marketing strategies.  Because over the next few years, the 30 second news-bite may exhaust its 15 minutes of fame.

No comments yet

Leave a Reply

Note: You can use basic XHTML in your comments. Your email address will never be published.

Subscribe to this comment feed via RSS