In the current age of social media, most members of Congress have a Twitter and Facebook page. A good number have ventured onto Instagram. But Yelp and Tumblr? Those are much less common.
However, for Rep. Mark Takano (D-CA-41), these out-of-the-box sources are key to his constituent outreach online. Deputy Chief of Staff Yuri Beckelman shared his office’s insights with Quorum for how and why Rep. Takano takes his social media out of the box, and how others can do it too.
“The philosophy was if you’re going to do social and messaging and reaching out, you need to give people content in the way they want to receive it, not necessarily in the way that you want them to receive it or the message that you want them to hear,” Takano’s Deputy Chief of Staff, Yuri Beckelman, told Quorum.
When Beckelman was scrolling Yelp for his own personal use, he happened to come across a page for one of Rep. Takano’s colleagues—something Beckelman had never seen before. But the page hadn’t been started by that particular office. A constituent, rather, had reviewed the member of Congress’ office after visiting DC.
“It was just a very good reminder that if you don’t own the digital space that’s out there, someone else will do it for you,” Beckelman said. “If you look around you’ll see members of Congress with bad google reviews and that’s just because they haven’t gone out and taken care of it themselves.”
The congressman uses his Yelp page to show his constituents the services his office can provide if they come to DC to visit, such as tours of the Capitol.
“It tells a really good story about how if you come to our congressional office no matter what your politics are, we’re going to treat you well as our constituent and help you enjoy your time in DC,” Beckelman said.
Beckelman referred to tumblr as a “home for people who have very niche interests and communities”. The Takano team sees this as a resource to interact with constituents outside of where voters typically find their news, allowing them to share info with constituents in a unique way.
“It’s important to meet people where they don’t expect you to be because their defenses won’t be up,” Beckelman said. “They’ll be interested in having a conversation with you because they think there is a shared interest.”
Beckelman has seen an increased response rate to posts on the office’s tumblr, and the unique usage of this platform has garnered press coverage for Takano’s work.
While Takano’s office has seen success on Yelp and Tumblr, the most important key to success is a willingness to experiment.
“Not everything we try will work every time, which is an important thing to remember,” Beckelman said. “Sometimes things that didn’t work today will work tomorrow. Going viral is a combination of strategies mixed in with a little bit of magic.”
By embracing all that social media has to offer , Rep. Takano has gained a new following of constituents who are aware and interested of his work that he may not have captured otherwise.
“I think that people are starting to be creative. I’ve seen a lot more of it and that’s a good thing,” Beckelman told Quorum. “Social media is not about press releases. It’s about engagement, it’s about having conversations.”