Perceptions of Citizen Advocacy on Capitol Hill This report is based on an online survey of 260 congressional staff on their opinions and practices related to constituent communications, including social media. The survey was conducted between October 12 and December 13, 2010Key FindingsThe Internet, Participation and Accountability. Most staffers (87%) thought email and the Internet have made it easier for constituents to become involved in public policy. A majority of staff (57%) felt email and the Internet have made Senators and Representatives more accountable to their constituents. Less than half (41%) thought email and the Internet have increased citizens' understanding of what goes on in Washington.Citizens Have More Power Than They Realize. Most of the staff surveyed said constituent visits to the Washington office (97%) and to the district/state office (94%) have 'some' or 'a lot' of influence on an undecided Member, more than any other influence group or strategy. When asked about strategies directed to their offices back home, staffers said questions at town hall meetings (87%) and letters to the editor (80%) have 'some' or 'a lot' of influence.It's Not the Delivery Method – It's the Content. There is virtually no distinction by the congressional staff we surveyed between email and postal mail. They view them as equally influential to an undecided Member. Nearly identical percentages of staffers said postal mail (90%) and email (88%) would influence an undecided Member of Congress.Grassroots Advocacy Campaigns – Staff are Conflicted. The congressional staff we surveyed have conflicting views and attitudes about the value of grassroots advocacy campaigns. More than one-third of congressional staff (35%) agreed that advocacy campaigns are good for democracy (25% disagreed). Most staff (90%) agreed – and more than 60% strongly agreed – that responding to constituent communications is a high priority in their offices. But, more than half of the staffers surveyed (53%) agreed that most advocacy campaigns of identical form messages are sent without constituents' knowledge or approval.Social Media Used to Listen and Communicate. Congressional offices are integrating social media tools into their operations, both to gain an understanding of constituents' opinions and to communicate information about the Member's views. Nearly two-thirds of staff surveyed (64%) think Facebook is an important way to understand constituents' views and nearly three-quarters (74%) think it is important for communicating their Member's views.97% In-person communications have the most impact90% - Agreed that identical form message campaigns are sent w/o constituents knowing87% - Internet’s made it easier to get involved57% - Made legislators more accountable to constituents41% - Think it’s made constituents more knowledgeable about DCIts not the delivery method, but the contentMore and more legislators use social media to listen and communicate, esp. FB
Here’s the bad news:It is well documented and well-publicized that direct mail fundraising is on a slow and terminal decline.So is email.While email will remain your #1 source of online actions, including fundraising, for a long long time to come. You cannot depend on it alone to sustain you. You must meet people where they are.
At the same time…Back in February of 2005, just 8% of adult internet users had used a social network site. That percentage had risen to 16% by August of 2006, and as of Oct 2009 stands at 46% of online adults. There’s even higher use among the younger set.---79% of American adults used the internet in 2009, up from 67% in Feb. 2005 46% of online American adults 18 and older use a social networking site like MySpace, Facebook or LinkedIn, up from 8% in February 2005. 65% of teens 12-17 use online social networks as of Feb 2008, up from 58% in 2007 and 55% in 2006. As of August 2009, Facebook was the most popular online social network for American adults 18 and older. ---Of adult SNS users:73% have a Facebook account 48% have a MySpace profile 14% have an account on LinkedIn 1% each on Yahoo, YouTube, Tagged, Flickr and Classmates.com10-12% are on “other” sites like Bebo, Last.FM, Digg, Blackplanet, Orkut, Hi5 and Match.com
Meet people where they are…and where are they? On Facebook.FB is the second-most visited website in the world. If you are already on FB and are comfortable using it, start here.If you want the quickest way to get on the radar of influentials and policymakers, start with Twitter and adopt FB as part of a long term 21st century outreach program.
If your program does not have a presence on FB, then it does not exist to hundreds of millions of people worldwide, and its through FB Pages that programs can best tap into the power of FB and make themselves available to the FB masses.-- Stats for GED test takers on FB – email Cassandra: what do we know about GED test takers and Facebook?FB Pages most important way for programs to raise awareness of adult education on FB.Next time you’re logged in to your personal account, go to fb.com/pages and select Create Page. From there, select Company, Origanizasiton, or Institution and select Nonprofit from the dropdown.Spell out full org name to optimize search engine resultsYou cannot change the name of your FB page later, make sure you do it right the first timeDo not create a cause for your org; those are better for campaigns like save the whales or save adult edDon’t need a personal account to create a pageGo to FB.com/pages, select Create Page, and follow instructions except when prompted select the I do not have a FB account option and complete process.In past, many not aware you could create a page w/o a personal profile, so they created a personal profile for an org which FB prohibits.If that is you, to to HELP center and search “converting your profile into a page” to locate the “business page migration appeal form.”When you complete your page you can create a vanity URL after 25 likes so ask people to like your page so that you can do that asap.
90% of power of FB Page is in the status updates. #1 priority should be to find out what kind of content from your org do your fans want to read and engage with. Always share a link, pix, or vidoe in status updatesPost no more than 1-2 updates/day – or less!Do not automate content and sync FB w/other SN sitesSend updatres 1-2 xs per monthEncourage staff/volunteers to be active on your pageHave more than one adminUse “Favorites” function“Tag” other pages to build partnershipsIntegrate your FB page into your website, enewsletter, blog, priint materials and TY landing pages and emailsIntegrate into mobile campaignsAdd share or like fxn to website or blogExperiment w/adsUse “events to allow people to rsvp direcly on FBYou’ll know when you start getting comments and likesTest diff tones of voiceAdd personalityShare links to your flickr slide shows or YouTube vidoesAsk questions using FB questions
Like” other relevant FB pagesLeave comments on other Groups & Pages that link back to your pagePost relevant content“Tag” other pages to build partnershipsPost about federal and state level advocacy campaignsComment on NCL’s FB pages and inform federal level advocacy work!
Some legislators have FB pages but using FB to engage w/them can be difficult. Better known political figures often have more activity, so posting on their walls may go unnoticed amidst other posts. Combat this by:Like pages of any policymakers you intend to interact with.Interacting at first with more local policymakers w/less page activity.Focus your message to them around specific legislation (as you would when writing a letter or meeting in person). Make adult education as relevant to them as possible. Hook into their interests.Ask your followers to post messages to the policymaker’s wall to voice support or concern.Thank leaders by tagging them in your wall post w/a TY note.
Engage with policymakers and partner organizations where existing relationships exist, or where there is potential for relationship building.Go to “What to say and how” for sample hooks: http://www.ncladvocacy.org/tksay.html
Child Care WorksCARE Class 7
Our messages are good. Our ideas are sound.Our commitment is solid. What do we do next?
Call local reporters about Early Care an &Education, your event, your story Suggest a story to them Invite them to your programWrite a letter to your editor Tell your story, the program story or a community story Kids always make great topics for letters.
oKeep it LocaloKeep it Interesting – what’s your hook?oKeep it Relevant and timely
Write with passionWrite clearly and concisely Try to keep it under 150 wordsFollow newspaper policyStick to the topicEnthusiasm is Key!Stick to the topic
If you’re responding to an anti-child letter, bepolite. Respect those you’re responding to.Use facts and figures to back up your points.Include major points in first few paragraphs. Editors tend to cut from the bottom of the text.Don’t be shy. Tell your story it is powerful.
Type and double space your letterProofread, Proofread, Proofread!!! Don’t be discredited by your mistakes. They lead to unfortunate stereotypes.Type name, address, telephone number andsign your letter. Include your contact information is you email the letter.Most papers will call you to ensure you wrotethe letter.
Newspapers are not the only place to write aletter.Don’t forget about: Monthly magazines Internet sites Blogs Social Media sources
After you start getting your story out there,don’t be surprised if others take notice.They may even start asking you questions aboutyour story – be yourself!Don’t be afraid to seek help for information, ifneeded!Remember children need a voice so all yourhard work is worth it!
Getting StartedHow Do You WANT to Use Social Media for your program?
The Internet’s Role in Citizen Advocacy Percentage of Staffs Agree In-Person the Best 97%Form Messages the Worst 90% More Involved 87% More Accountable 57% More Knowledgeable 41% 0% 20% 40% 60% 80% 100% 120% —From the Congressional Management Foundation: http://congressfoundation.org/projects/communicating-with-congress/perceptions-of-citizen- advocacy-on-capitol-hill
Importance of Social Media forCommunicating with Constituents
Why Social Media for Grassroots Advocacy? Email Open Rates are Declining According to M+R: Email open rates declined almost 63% between 2004 and 2008.
Social Network Use Is GrowingAccordingto Pew:46%of adultInternetusers aresocialnetworkusers – up6x from2005.
Blogging Big PictureCreating and DistributingContentDifferent PlatformsStrategiesExamples
Blogging Big PictureCentral voice – can be like a websiteDriven by fresh contentConsistent stream of timely fresh contentto tweet and post via FB and e-listsMissing piece for building e-lists & drivingtraffic to website and SM forumsImproves search engine resultsAllows you to grow fans and followers onSM sites
Blogging PlatformsWordPress.org – free, must be downloaded on aserver (not WordPress.com)TumblrBlogger, Posterous
Grassroots StrategiesUse your organization avatar for logoSimple designMake resources easy to find by categoryHave links to related content appear beneath each blogpostAllow comments, moderated; encourage participationPost regularly about advocacy campaignsBecome local hub for advocacy infoCross-link to resources widely used by your readershipEx: NYTimes
Grasstops StrategiesInvite grasstops to be guest bloggersRegularly feature local advocacy projects on blogUse email, Twitter, FB, to invite grasstops to visit and commenton blogFor Legislators: Outline the legislation you support Link to state / national organization legislative updates Send them to pertinent blog articles containing policy positions of your organization
Facebook Networking Big Picture Personal Profiles Program or Class Pages Topic-Specific Pages Post and tag photos Lead and respond to discussions * Second-most visited website worldwide!
Engaging GrassrootsShare links/media in status updatesEncourage conversationAsk questions & answer every commentPost no more than 1-2 updates/day – or less!Do not automate content and sync FB w/other SN sitesEncourage staff/volunteers to be active on your pageHave more than one adminUse “events” to allow people to RSVP directly on FBCreate topic specific pagesIntegrate your FB page into your website, e-newsletter, blog, print materials and TY landing pagesand emails
Anatomy of a ReTweet Indicates a Original sourceUser Name Retweet of information Link to more information or Hashtag Avatar photo or video / Logo
Shortening Links & Tracking Data Bit.ly Owl.ly
Ways to Send and Receive Tweets Tweetdeck Hootsuite
Engaging GrassrootsTweet 3-5 times a daySpread tweets out throughout the dayConversational tone, but consistent messaging acrosssocial media platformsFollow influential people who are likely to beinterested in your workReply and retweet at least once a dayUse relevant hashtags; but use sparinglyTrack RTs to see what gets the most attention
Engaging With Legislators / Grasstops Encourage your followers to RT / DM Ask legislators questions RT their content that aligns w/childcare issues; hook to their interests. Share information and actions from your organization via phone / mail. Repurpose into a tweet:“Rep. @AnderCrenshaw: thought you might be interested in… #childcareMN”
Getting StartedGo to twitter.com and set up an account.Keep your user name consistent with your usernameon other platforms like FB.Do not protect your tweets unless you are usingTwitter to create a closed community.Only enable tweet location if you are not tweetingfrom home. + to increase exposure of your programlocation.Don’t leave background information blank. You may beperceived to be a spammer.
Who to FollowYour legislators!Lots of great folks to follow! How to find them: Search for hashtags; follow those who tweet interesting content Look at their follower list; follow some of their followers who tweet interesting content Search for state/national organizations whose message you support. Follow them.
Video/AudiooYoutubeoVimeoo Powerful tool – keep em short, focus on audio
Getting Started2 minutes: Get Involved. Sign up for relevant updates. Bookmark sites Act on alerts Like important organizations on Facebook. Follow orgs on Twitter5 minutes: Get Others Involved. Sharefactsand alerts. Get sample Facebook, blog, and Twitter posts you can use to update your status.
Questions or Comments? Contact Wendy Johnson wendy@YourMediaDirector.com 651-428-9052