Every day, members of Congress post more than 1,300 times on Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram. For many elected officials, social media is a megaphone for announcing policy positions, discussing issues with constituents, and, of course, sharing the occasional selfie. Here are a few key strategies for how your organization can use social media as a means for engaging legislators on the issues you care about:
The first step to engaging a member of Congress on social media is to familiarize yourself with the kind of posts they’ve typically engaged with in the past. This is helpful in seeing what organizations have had success in garnering engagement from particular members and what tactics they used to garner that engagement. Did they retweet something the member posted? Did they tag the member in a post about one of their constituents? Did they use a hashtag the member frequently uses? These strategies vary across every office, so start by focusing on your list of potential or known champions and policy influencers.
After you’ve familiarized yourself with their social media habits, take steps to get their office’s attention. Start by tagging their official Twitter or Facebook handles in any post you want them to see.
While tagging their Twitter or Facebook handles will send them a notification, including photos or graphics will help your content stand out and likely drive more engagement with your post. Office visits during a Hill Day or district site visits during recess are great moments to snap photos with a legislator and share online.
Depending on the ask you have for a member, take note of tagging either their campaign or official account, as their willingness to engage may be different depending on what kind of content they are seeing.
Understandably, members of Congress prefer to engage with their own constituents. If you call into a congressional office, the first thing you are typically asked is "Where do you live?" However, on social media it can be hard to tell where someone is from, and whether that person lives in the member’s district. To boost your chances of having a member engage with your social media content, find a way to signal that you are a constituent.
Facebook makes this easy—individuals can opt in to have a “constituent badge” next to their name that flags that they are a resident of a particular district or state, but on Twitter it can be a bit more challenging. Make sure you add your location to your Twitter profile, and consider adding your town to the tweet itself.
As a way to increase the chance that a member’s office actually sees your post, try responding to a post the member shared with a follow-up question. This ensures that the issue you’re discussing is something that the member is actively talking about in his or her daily work. It also gives them a clear way to respond with an answer to your question. If you simply tag them in a comment, they may “like” your post if they agree with it, but you won’t learn anything new about their policies or have an opportunity to continue the dialogue. Asking questions shows the legislator that you are reading what they are posting.
Success! You got a member to engage with your content, ideas, or question—now what? Don’t let the conversation die online. Use their online engagement as an easy follow-up for in-person engagement. If this is happening on a larger scale for your organization (i.e. thousands of advocates across the country engaging with legislators), be sure to log any instances of engagement so that your team can refer back to those posts in future meetings or advocacy days.
Don't forget to report out the number of engagements you've garnered on social media in aggregate to help prove the value of your efforts. You can also consider trying out tools that are built specifically to help measure the impact of social media advocacy.