Dayton spends 28K on a social media consultant. Worth it?

Mark Dayton shelled out $28,000 to social media consultant Nicole Harrison this year, according to MPR’s Tom Scheck.

What does $28,000 buy a candidate for governor? Is he listening to the expensive advice? Well, let’s see. Dayton hasn’t sent a message on Twitter since March (and it was a banal tweet at that):


Dayton appears to have given up his campaign blog about the same time he abandoned Twitter. His Facebook profile lists 5,000 friends, but seems rather unexceptional:


Citing client privacy, social media consultant Harrison wouldn’t say what she does for the Dayton campaign, except that she remains on retainer. Campaign spokeswoman Katie Tinucci refused to go deep into campaign strategy, but defends her candidate’s social media efforts, saying Dayton maintains his own Facebook profile and wrote all his tweets.

“A year ago Mark had never heard of Facebook,” Tinucci said.

But Twitter wasn’t his bag.

“He found 140 characters to be extremely limiting,” Tinucci said.

Still, Tinucci says if Dayton comes out on top August 10, he might become a tweeter again.

“Mark is now convinced that if he wins the primary he’ll get back on the Twitter,” Tinucci said.

What do you think? Is Dayton to be criticized for letting his social media efforts wilt, or did he make a good decision? Maybe all this Twitter, Facebook and blog stuff is really just a big distraction without much value for a Minnesota candidate?

  • BJ

    Some huge distraction for small market. What percent of MN voters are on twitter? If he makes a mistake and does a bad tweet media kills him for it. Not tweeting, not a campaign ending problem.

    Same with FB and other social media.

  • @BJ, you’re probably right about Twitter’s direct reach today. However, Twitter could be an effective tool for communicating quickly with every political reporter in the state.

  • This is appalling.

    I’ve been advising clients on how to use social media for nearly a year now. It wasn’t exactly my first choice for business, but I became tired of the charlatans out there posing as social media experts. My clients needed help, and they couldn’t find it. I stepped in to fill the void.

    It’s a decent living when you do it properly and serve your clients well.

    This, however, is exactly what gives the entire profession of social media consulting a bad name – and the same for social media generally. It’s far too common.

  • Kevin Watterson

    Maybe her consulting consisted of telling him he really shouldn’t do this.

  • KP

    Leave Twitter to Sarah Palin. I think a FaceBook presence is a good thing though.

  • Jon, I respect you tremendously, but this post seems unfair.

    Consultants make recommendations. It’s up to the clients to execute (or empower consultants to execute).

    If I was held personally responsible for all the strategies I’ve offered clients they didn’t execute in the last decade, I would be out of a job.

    I don’t know Nicole, but since she hasn’t said if she was retained to do social crisis response, grassroots community building or managing social network profiles (like this post alludes), this seems like a lot of misdirected hand waving.

  • AM

    We use Social Bundle. They’re local and actually post updates to FB and Twitter for you. I think we pay about $2K a year. Way less than the $28K that Dayton wasted.

  • Zebulun

    I guess we will all find out on August 10th if Dayton made the right choices. That’s when the only number that matters will be determined.

  • Greg-

    I respect your opinion on the matter.

    In the post, I didn’t cast aspersions of Harrison. Rather, I questioned whether Dayton spent his money well when he has a very lackluster social media campaign, and actually wondered out loud whether it’s not such a bad thing to abandon blogs, Twitter, etc when there is no apparent payoff.

    The point raised by Erik Hare, whether some social media consultants are “charlatans” and charge exhorbitant rates, well, I didn’t really raise that point in the post. In the early days of social media I did not feel warmly toward this new profession, but now that I run social media efforts for MPR News, I see up close that organizations need help in learning best practices, devising and implementing strategies, etc. I’m still somewhat sympathetic to me earlier feelings that social media is not that difficult — post good stuff, interact with your audience, throw a body or two at it — and that it can be done in-house rather than finding outside experts. But again, in this post, I didn’t really talk about that.

    It would have helped if Harrison or Dayton’s campaign had been willing to share some details about the nature of the relationship, but they were not. I understand their hesitancy.

    Thanks for the dialogue…

    -Jon Gordon

  • Claire

    Nicole Harrison used to work on Dayton’s campaign and is accomplished in her field.

    I find Twitter no more useful than a 10-second soundbite. Would rather candidates not use them and depend on more substantial communications.

  • Chris

    When the Dayton campaign gets a presence on urbandictionary making up nasty definitions of opponents, then I’ll be impressed.

  • Kelly O’Brien

    If the Dayton campaign wants to see how a great social media effort looks, all they need to do is look at Margaret Anderson Kelliher’s operation. It has Flickr and YouTube content, very active Facebook posting, and a network of Twitterers tweeting and retweeting the MAK news of the day. There is something for everyone there.

  • So what! Honestly, I don’t care about a candidate’s tweets or how many photos they have posted. It might look nice, but actions speak louder than Flickr photos and tweets.

    Even better than listening to debates, reading trusted news sources and trusted blogs is actually meeting the candidates and talking to them. There is a need for technological savvy in today’s world, but it has come at the unfortunate expense of personal contact.

    Watch for news of debates and attend them yourself if you can. A lot of people attend the State Fair and don’t bother looking for candidate booths. Attend events in your area that feature candidate appearances. Ask them about their experience. Ask them what their plans are. Tell them what concerns you.

    If you’re unable to get out, then seek out other trusted sources. Twitter hasn’t made everything else obsolete (and let’s hope they never do). The character limit might work for sound bites and talking points, but smart voters need real answers – not 140-letter messages and emoticons.