Are you active on social media? Did you know that your elected officials are, too? Now that you know, how can you use it to your advantage? We’d like to tell you.
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In 2015, the non-partisan Congressional Management Foundation conducted a survey with congressional staffers and aides to see what, if any, influence social media carried with Congress.
When asked about social messages sent out by Congress, 76% of respondents said that “social media enables us to have more meaningful interactions with constituents.” As for accountability, 70% answered that Congress is held “more accountable to constituents” because of the transparency and accessibility provided by social media.
That’s great, right? More meaningful interactions and higher accountability. But what happens when constituents engage with their legislators on social media? According to the findings, 80% stated that fewer than 30 messages about an issue can influence their decision. Of those, 35% can be persuaded to consider a position with less than 10 messages. Your best chance of being heard, however, is within hours of their initial message. After a day or two, most stop looking at responses.
What about your own messages? Ones not prompted by something an elected official said? While the study doesn’t touch on that aspect of social influence, there is something to be said about the very nature of social media. What makes it different than emailing? How can it carry more weight than a direct phone call? Publicity. How they respond – or even ignore – an issue is right there for everyone else to see, creating that accountability they mentioned in the survey.
So back to using social media to your advantage. If you’re not currently following your elected officials on Facebook and Twitter, go ahead and do it now. Following them doesn’t imply that you support their views, but rather that you recognize they work for you and in order to stay informed, you need to know where they stand on issues important to you. But don’t stop there. Engage. React. Let them know you’re there and you care about what they’re saying – good and bad.
When you take action from an email we send, you have the ability to share that with your followers on social media. Doing so will raise awareness of the issue and encourage others to take action as well. Occasionally we’ll send out opportunities for you to contact your elected officials via social media. Please take action, just as you would with an email. You could be one of those 10 or 30 messages needed to sway a vote.
Knowing that social media is a reliable tactic can allow you to change the conversation and help you make your community a healthier place.