Why is this even news? Best Use is not a Popularity Contest

Recently, Facebook DC asked their fans to “weigh in on the best use of Facebook in 2010 by members of Congress, political campaigns, and government agencies.” They have now released their results, which aren’t presented in scientific form, rather in a colloquial way. The results, found here, could be simply be described as predictable. For the most part, the government Facebook pages with the most fans seemingly had the most support for being good at using Facebook. I’m no statistician, but that sounds like an obvious result.

Trying very hard to remove partisan politics from GovSM, I cannot ignore that the most of the votes went to GOP sites. Generally, the GOP is slightly ahead of the Democrats when it comes to understanding and using Social Media, but they are not that far ahead. The difference here is in online followers and activists, where the GOP is considerably ahead. Sarah Palin, it is noted, has 2.5 million fans. Sen Scott Brown has 230,000. Rep Paul Ryan has over 50,000 fans. Each of these numbers are huge and completely unrepresentative of the group (Government Facebook pages) as a whole. Basically, the votes did not go to the accounts that made the “best use of Facebook in 2010”, rather the votes went to the pages with the highest fan bases.

To be sure, the results included some feedback about lesser known politicians and candidates and some of the things they have done on Facebook that made their fans happy. But any serious look into the “best use” has to be objective, with some sort of standard. Nothing of the sort is presented to the reader here. Instead, the results page has a nice large picture of Palin. I would suggest this was chosen since they heard more from her fans than anyone other.

From everything I’ve seen over the past few years, every time Facebook gets involved with politics, it moderately helps to bring in a larger audience, but whatever angle they tackle, it’s either very safe and bland or largely superficial. This “best use” survey is mostly superficial –  not much more than a popularity contest.

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