Social Media Advocacy


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This presentation was given at the AAFP Family Medicine Congressional Conference on May 14, 2013. The goal of the presentation was to explain the effectiveness of social media in advocacy efforts.

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  • Since then, each party has sought to use social media to their advantage
  • Constituent services may include helping with problems with Social Security payments, Medicare , veterans' pensions, grant applications, help with federal agencies, academy nominations, tours of the White House, State Dept. and Pentagon
  • The amount of time that members of Congress in both parties spend fundraising takes up a large portion of a typical day. This includes "call time" spent on the phone with potential donors, or in person at fundraisers in Washington or back home. While social media use is growing as a tool for fundraising – it is kept separate as part of member campaigning, this presentation will focus on social media as part of member’s legislative and constituent roles.
  • In fact, expert input rank highest, followed by constituent views. In terms of primary care, physicians represent both expert and constituent views which makes your voice vital. Personal contact with your legislator is the most effective influence on their positions. Meeting with them, providing information that supports your position on a bill, intermittent reminders by phone or in person – all of these are the most important advocacy activities you can do.
  • Prior to email, it was postal mail or fax. Faxes are NOT preferred by congressional staffers as the faxed information must be logged into their constituent database and merged with other communications specific to that constituent. That represents a lot of time and effort when staffers are already over-burdened. Long distance calls used to be too expensive until the AT&T divestiture. Now phone calls have become more common, especially when time is off the essence.
  • Congressional office staff sizes have not increased since 1979. House members are permitted 18 full-time and 4 part-time staff. Senate staffs are based on state size. Members can choose to allocate staff responsibilities as they sit fit.
  • A CAPTCHA is a type of challenge-response test used to ensure that the response is generated by a human being
  • CMS/CSS is the main option along with Tweetdeck and Hootsuite for social media monitoring.
  • Notice how the staffer can quickly filter incoming messages?
  • While individual reps may tweet, the main work falls to staff
  • Understanding the channels your member uses is important In direct communications, it makes no sense to post a picture to Pinterest if your member doesn’t use the platform. Using the power of social media as a form of indirect communication, posting a picture on Pinterest, blogging, creating a video all serve to build awareness among your fellow supporters as well as attract the attention of the media. This groundswell WILL get your member’s attention.
  • Congressional staff value social media far more for communicating representatives' views than for understanding those of constituents. It also allows each party to sidestep the mainstream media and “talk” directly to constituents. In addition, the ability to quickly rebut statements with links to facts and figures is an important tool for each party and helps to shape the online discussion as part of their real-time messaging strategy. As far as channels, YouTube comments are not frequently utilized by members or visitors.
  • Facebook allows a member to connect with constituents, inform them of what they are doing and promote themselves at local event and town hall meetings. Of all three main social channels used by your member, facebook is arguably the one monitored most for trending constituent concerns.
  • By sharing and engaging in civil discussion, you may attract others to your position. As your member is monitoring the page, this gets your topic noticed.
  • Social media is not viewed as influential as other traditional methods of communications between constituents and their elected officials. A likely explanation for this is that members "cannot tell whether comments are made by constituents. Legislators don’t really have the staff to monitor, process and respond to social media posts across platforms. CONGRESS USES SOCIAL MEDIA TO COMMUNICATE AND SHAPE THEIR MESSAGE – NOT ENGAGE. TO PROMPT A RESPONSE, YOU HAVE TO INTRUDE UPON THEIR MESSAGE OR HAVE A MESSAGE THAT THEY THINK CAN BENEFIT THEM, WHICH THEY WILL THEN SHARE
  • The primary purpose and power of grassroots advocacy is to demonstrate strength in the collective voice of our members. One tweet may get attention but having a coordinated, collective voice on twitter can intrude upon the member’s goal of shaping the message – prompting a response.
  • The ease with which constituents can communicate with their member has diluted the quality of communications. Congressional offices receive too many emails, posts and tweets that seek to forward the Congressman to a YouTube link or include 'is this true' as the only message. Besides resembling spam, there simply is not the time to engage with this linked content unless your message is well written (has an effective ‘hook’). Be specific. Effective social media reaches influencers which helps to amplify your message
  • Social media use by members is still evolving. There are no current best practices guides or guidelines to help them. Fear of current senate and house rules that could potentially apply to social media use generates a lot of confusion, unease and an unwillingness to engage with constituents using social media.
  • Social Media Advocacy

    1. 1. Social Media AdvocacyFamily Medicine Congressional ConferenceWashington, D.C.May 14, 2013Kirk Ackerson, Social Media ManagerJessie Williams, Grassroots Advocacy Specialist
    2. 2. 2008 presidential campaign validated theuse of social media as a powerful tool …• The 2008 Obama campaign iscalled the "gold standard“ interms of political social mediause.• President Obama showed thatsocial media could be used notjust for fundraising, but to winelections.• Social channels allow a politicianto directly reach supporterswithout going through traditionalnews channels.
    3. 3. … and the social media “arms race”was launched!
    4. 4. To effectively use social media to advocate,you must understand how legislators useit.Legislative(drafting laws that govern our nation)Constituent(performing various services for theirconstituents)Every Member of Congress has two official roles:
    5. 5. Fundraising is the third “unofficial” roleThis is the daily schedule prescribed by the DemocraticCongressional Campaign Committee to the incomingclass of 2013:Social media is becoming a powerful tool in fundraising --supplementing “call time.”
    6. 6. Members of Congress represent theirconstituents first and foremost• Senate and House ofRepresentative offices feel agreat deal of pressure toreply to all of theirconstituent communications.– This forces them to prioritizesome messages over others– Non-constituentcommunication is forwardedto the appropriate Member ofCongress as a courtesy
    7. 7. How do your elected officials makedecisions?ConstituentviewsWhat’sgood for mydistrict/stateKnowledgeof thesubjectPartyideologyExpert inputon theissueYOU – as experts and constituents – are their firstsource of information. This makes your voice vital!
    8. 8. Traditional methods of communicating toMembers of Congress
    9. 9. Email alone has grown, while staff andbudgets have remained pretty stagnantAdd in social media messaging, and staffers feeloverwhelmed.
    10. 10. The amount of socialand digital contentproduced andconsumed everyminute is staggering1.7 million FacebookPOSTS2.8 millionYouTubeVIEWS275,000TWEETS200 millionEMAILS5.6 millionTEXTS2.1 million GoogleSEARCHESSource: Edelman 2013 Social Media Essentials, SOCI@Ljumpstart; Photo by Herr Kaczmarek200K Facebook pictures7,610 LinkedInSEARCHES3,125 FLICKRPHOTOUPLOADS
    11. 11. Congressional staff works to controlincoming communication• Methods such as web forms and captchaverification were implemented in order to filterout spam and all but constituentcommunications.
    12. 12. Constituent Management Services• To deal with vast amount of constituentcommunications – and filter out spam – staffimplemented CMS/CSS systems (correspondencemanagement system (House) / constituent servicessystem (Senate).• CMS/CSS are good for creating a record ofconstituent communication, merging email, phonecalls and letters.• These systems are NOT good for social media asconstituent identity can’t be determined.
    13. 13. Example of a CMS
    14. 14. Diagram of how a typical emailcommunication worksConstituent visits the member’s Web siteand fills out the comment formCongressional or Senate staff receive and compile all messages in aCMS/CSSThe Legislative Correspondent drafts aresponseThe Member of Congress approves, and the responseis sent to the constituentThe Legislative Assistant/Director and/orChief of Staff review, edit and approve thedraft
    15. 15. Members of Congress have adoptedsocial media• In fact, setting up Twitter and Facebook accounts wasone of the first official actions for many new members ofthe 113th Congress.
    16. 16. Members of Congress have adoptedsocial media
    17. 17. Social media use varies widelyamong elected leadersFacebook, Twitter and YouTube are the most commonlyused channels.Senator Claire McCaskill(D-MO)Senator Thad Cochran(R-MS)
    18. 18. How are these channels used?Media-focusedConstituent-focused• Connect withconstituents• Inform constituents ofwhat each electedmember is doing• Promote districtevents, partnershipsand activities such astown-hall meetings• Monitor feedback andissue trends• Real-time messaging• Stake out theirpositions on issues• Quickly respond topolicy proposalsand criticism withlinks to facts andfigures• Sidestepmainstream mediareporting• Media outreach
    19. 19. How do Members of Congress use Facebook?Connect PromoteInformAlmost two-thirds of congressional offices believe Facebook is animportant tool for understanding constituents’ opinions.“It’s great for me to go on Facebook right now, go to my page and seewhat people are saying,” Rep. Cathy McMorris Rogers (R-WA) toldCMF. “We’ll post something and get feedback immediately from thepeople that I represent.” Source: Congressional Management Foundation (CMF).
    20. 20. How should you use Facebook to advocate?1. Find and “like” your member’s Facebook page2. Comment on member posts3. Engage in discussion with your fellow constituents4. Be specific by identifying the bill number or issue5. Share news on your profile – your friends may beinterested too!6. Be respectful
    21. 21. Sources: CBS News, The New York TimesHow do Members of Congress use Twitter?At a rally in North Carolina, thePresident tells the crowd he is open to“any serious idea” Republicans offeron jobs.Brad Dayspring, Majority Leader EricCantor’s former communicationsdirector, quickly tweets…Obama says he’s open to any“serious #GOP idea. Here are15 jobs bills stalled in theSenate to get him started<LINK>
    22. 22. How should you use Twitter to advocate?1.Be specific2.Add a relevant hashtag3.Mention key influencers that agree with you4.COORDINATE YOUR ACTIONSThe power of grassroots advocacy is todemonstrate strength in the collective voiceof our members – Twitter is made for this!
    23. 23. Anatomy of a tweet targeting a SenatorBad: .@ChuckGrassley Is this true? <LINK>Good: .@ChuckGrassley Support physicians, repeal#SGR by supporting Schwartz/Heck Bill HR 574 FYI@drmikesevilla #AAFP– Publicly targets the Senator– Pushed to hashtag audiences• Issue specific (#SGR)• Affiliation group (#AAFP)–3rdParty influencers• Health care blogger (@drmikesevilla)
    24. 24. Social media is currently not viewed asinfluential as other traditional methods ofcommunications• Why? Members can’t tell whether comments aremade by constituents.• Legislators don’t have the staff to monitor, processand respond to social media posts across platforms.• Members currently use social media to communicateand shape their message and public opinion – not toengage with constituents.• To prompt a response and get noticed, you have tointrude upon their message or have a message theythink benefits them, which they will then share.
    25. 25. Social media is becoming more of a priorityfor outreach to Members of Congress• Social media use by members is still evolving.• There are no current best practices or guidelines tohelp them.• Fear of current senate and house rules that couldpotentially apply to social media use generatesconfusion, unease and an unwillingness to engagewith constituents using social media.• As tools to identify constituents using social mediaimprove, more Members of Congress will usesocial media as an engagement rather than simplya broadcast medium.
    26. 26. How to stay educated, informed?• How does grassroots advocacy work?• Coordination with the AAFP is vital tosuccess.Jessie WilliamsAAFP Grassroots AdvocacySpecialist