Tagging, Tweeting, Trending: Congress “Likes” Social Media…and What That Means for Your Advocacy Strategy
Posted on August 17, 2011
Ever feel that engaging in social media is more like yelling into a giant black hole? If you’re doing that yelling towards Capitol Hill, the good news is that they’re listening and talking back.
Congressional Management Foundation (CMF) recently released a study on how the Hill uses—and values—social media. According to CMF, “it is hard not to conclude that both legislators and citizens have benefited from a robust new offering of communications vehicles and platforms.” CMF surveyed 260 Hill staffers, from social media managers to senior staff, and to discover seven key findings. Highlights include:
1. Congressional staff feel the benefits of using social media outweigh the risks.
2. Congressional offices use social media to help gauge public opinion, augmenting traditional tools used for that purpose.
3. Many staffers—especially in Democratic offices—feel their office spends too little time on online communications.
How Social Media Stacks Up in Getting the Message to Constituents
According to the survey, nothing beats local media, constituent mail responses and attending local events for communicating members’ views and activities back to constituents. But as the graph indicates, Facebook and YouTube also rank highly and are significantly more valuable than online town hall meetings or even the member’s own blog.
During a recent CMF webcast on the study, Jason Gross, chief of staff for @RepJoeCourtney, shared insight into his office’s social media use, particularly though Facebook and YouTube.
Jason noted that his staff found adding YouTube embedded videos of otherwise little-seen floor speeches and sharing local media coverage clips in their weekly newsletter received great feedback from constituents at local events.
What This Means for Advocacy
Through our legislative work at VOX, we’ve seen that pushing out a strong article using the right tools reaching the right audiences is an impactful way to amplify our clients’ message. Our first-hand experience affirms the study’s findings that Facebook, Twitter and YouTube are clearly valued as important and beneficial tools for members of Congress to reach and interact with their constituents. From an advocacy perspective, Hill staff are paying attention to social media and these tools can be an effective way to get your message to staffers and complement a broader campaign when used strategically. Remember:
- Congressional staff are not watching your client’s tweets or Facebook posts. Consider bringing their attention to your issue by:
- Tagging photos of the member from your group’s Capitol Hill visit on Facebook.
- Engaging in the conversation on Facebook and Twitter started by the member.
- @ referencing the member in a tweet.
- Using a hashtag to track and report the conversation to Hill staff.
- Social media messaging should supplement a surround-sound of activity including phone calls, emails and face-to-face meetings.
- Social media reaches staff more immediately than email — an important point to remember in the hours directly before a vote.
- Be smart about search engine optimization. The more you mention the full name of a specific member of Congress, the more likely your blog post is to get picked up in public searches—and perhaps even by their offices.