By Michael Reiter, Attorney at Law.
I am not a great fan of Facebook because of privacy concerns, but there are plenty of people who like Facebook and other social media outlets such as Twitter. As time goes on, reaching the Facebook demographic is another tool for local political candidates to use to reach voters and supporters. Here are some caveats for Local Poltical Campaign Facebook Pages based upon what I have seen in the San Bernardino City elections to be held on November 8, 2011.
1. If you are going to have a Facebook page, make sure your grammar and spelling are correct. Social media makes connections easy, whether it is done from a personal computer or a mobile device like a phone. That does not mean that you can ignore grammar and spelling. The worst is when using a mobile application, a candidate uses text speak, or even worse, some dialect of leet. The worst are the candidates for Member of the San Bernardino City Unified School District Board who cannot write grammatically correct sentences.
2. Have separate personal pages and campaign pages. You should not use the personal account for campaigning and vice versa. Sometimes, your real life friends or family will say something stupid that should not appear in public. You will be unfairly judged for the actions of those around you.
3. Anything you say on Facebook can and will be used against you. Employ the “New York Times Rule” for all postings. Once again, the ease of posting can relax a candidates’ inhibitions, and they can say something that is not appropriate for the campaign.
4. Consider restricting the dialogue on the site between you, your supporters and voters. If you do not control your message, your supporters can hijack your page for their own ends, or worse, you can be drawn into debates with your opponents’ supporters, trolls, gadflies, and opposition researchers. The benefit of Facebook is its interactivity, but that interactivity can be a double-edged sword and end up hurting you.
5. If you are going to have a Facebook page for your campaign, make it open to the public. Especially people who have no other web presence, it is counter intuitive to require a potential voter to become a fan or friend you in order for them to see basic campaign information.
The information you obtain at this blog is not, nor is it intended to be, legal advice. No attorney-client relationship is established by reading or commenting on this blog. You should consult an attorney for advice regarding your individual situation.
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