Social media has been the cool new thing for a while now, and it seems like it’s here to stay. When it comes to communicating with your representatives, it can provide unique opportunities in two primary ways.
1. Staying up-to-date: Social media is a great way to figure out where your Members of Congress are and what they’re up to. They’ll post about events they’re attending, when they’ll be back in the state or district, and what issues they’re working on. This is a great way to stay in the loop about the latest news and possibly even find out about events like town hall meetings you may want to attend.
2. Voicing your opinion on a current and specific issue: Because social media is constantly changing and updating to reflect trending topics, it’s a great way to voice your opinion on issues or legislation that are being discussed in real time. Unlike letters, which need to go through a screening process that takes nearly two weeks, social media posts can reach the office instantly. Many Congressional offices have added a staff position to their press team with the sole responsibility of monitoring and responding to social media. With the creation of these positions, it means that offices will definitely see your comments, and if those comments are constructive and thoughtful, they will likely even respond. Social media makes quick back-and-forth dialogue possible in a way that previous communication methods (letters, phone calls, and even emails) have not. And while you may not always get a response, the more active you are on social media (in a polite, respectful, and thoughtful way!!), the more likely the staff will recognize your name and pay attention to what you have to say.
(Added bonus: Several social media press staffers on the Hill have told me that their bosses, aka Members of Congress, love social media and are constantly looking at their own pages. For other types of constituent correspondence, such as email and phone calls, they simply get briefings from staff about the important ones at the end of the week. Thus, being an active social media poster makes it that much more likely your legislator will see your opinion first hand!).
One other tip! As I’ve said before, Members of Congress want to hear from their constituents. Social media makes it difficult to tell who is a constituent and who is not. If you have any way of identifying yourself as a constituent (i.e. providing you town name or zip code in a post), the office is much more likely to pay attention to your post and even respond!
Social media is a great way to actively engage with legislators. It in no way replaces the importance of emails and phone calls, but it can certainly enhance your engagement and provide effective alternatives for getting your voice heard in Congress!