The Message Is Key For Rep. Ellison's Facebook Timeline

Becoming an early adopter and providing relevant and timely information were among the considerations of U.S. Representative Keith Ellison’s staff as they planned for the new Facebook timeline feature.

Jeremy Slevin, deputy communications director for Rep. Ellison, who is a Democratic member of the House of Representatives from Minneapolis, shared his thoughts regarding timeline as one of the first offices on Capitol Hill to debut the new feature. Here’s how Slevin plans to make the most out of the layout on Rep. Ellison’s Facebook page.

How did you approach the move to timeline?

The number one goal was to be an early adopter. Before timeline became available to fan pages, I looked for a cover photo that was both visually appealing and told the congressman’s story. That way, we could immediately upgrade once timeline became available.

More important was to continue sharing information that is timely and relevant to the lives of constituents. The increased attention on our page is the result of timeliness as much as design.

What kind of content do you plan to share to boost engagement?

The core feature of timeline — the ability to highlight the most memorable events in your life — allows us to tell a more complete story about Rep. Ellison’s background and what informs his values.

But it remains to be seen whether the updates will lead to higher engagement. Facebook has launched many updates in the past to varying degrees of success.

Do you think timeline will enhance communications with the constituents in your district?

I hope so. While the new design has a great new graphic interface, Facebook has also been limiting the amount of fans who see updates. Design updates only go so far if only 16 percent of our fans are seeing our messages.

This further disadvantages small businesses and public officials, who may not have the resources for big ad campaigns. If our engagement increases, it will mainly be because we’re talking about issues that matter to Minnesotans — protecting our environment, creating jobs, repairing our infrastructure.

Do you have a favorite new feature of timeline?

The cover photo is the biggest design change and will likely jump out most to users. A large widescreen photo across the top of the page is just more engaging than the old sidebar profile picture, and gives the site a more magazine-like feel. I plan on keeping the current skyline photo in place for a while.

Did you get outside help or guidance from a vendor?

We manage our new media in-house, including the timeline upgrade. However, we have used a vendor to buy Facebook ads in the past.

How did you decide to use the historical aspect of timeline?

Our strategy is still evolving. Right now, it only includes major historical events in Rep. Ellison’s life.

As the official page for a member of Congress, we err on the side of information that is relevant to the public interest. Keith would rather post about how we could invest more in jobs and the excessive influence of money in politics, than share pictures of his high school graduation, for example.

How do you plan on leveraging timeline’s features in the future?

Moving forward, we hope to use timeline apps to share unique content in ways we may not have otherwise shared before.

I recently set up a Pinterest account for the congressman, which can be shared via Facebook as an app. The key for our work is that the features maintain the intimacy and personality of the person sharing the content, in this case the congressman.

I think public servants are wary of using new features for features’ sake.

What advice would you give to other page administrators?

Make the move sooner rather than later! Pages are going to automatically upgrade at the end of the month. And remember that the means is as only as good as the message.

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