Thanks in part to the midterm elections, we witnessed great strides regarding Congressional use of multimedia channels in 2010. A vast majority of Congressional offices now have Facebook and Twitter pages, more Members of Congress are recording their floor speeches, and campaign mobile applications began appearing on smartphones around the country. But where will Congress take multimedia in 2011? Here are three guesses from Multimedia Politics.
The use of mobile and smartphones to connect with constituents is going to increase at an exponential pace in 2011. Americans are turning to smartphones at an extraordinary rate and ditching their landlines in the process. Recent research from IDC expects a 22 percent increase in smartphone sales and as many as 42 million tablets – such as iPads – on the market in 2011. In addition, research from the Centers of Disease Control and Prevention finds a majority of Americans ages 25-29 live in a household without a landline. Overall, 27 percent of Americans depend solely on wireless phones. In order for Members of Congress to reach their constituents, they must start texting more, creating mobile applications, and begin utilizing mobile video.
Interactive Website Elements
In many ways, the migration to mobile phones exacerbates the need for office’s to create interactive website elements. In order to contact people via mobile phone, Members of Congress need to collect phone numbers and encourage supporters to opt-in for text message alerts and calls. Having constituents participate in surveys is an effective way to collect contact information.
House Republicans demonstrated progress in developing interactive elements in 2010. The YouCut campaign, created this past spring, helped the House GOP collect hundreds of thousands of names in preparation for the 2010 elections. In addition, Senator Al Franken (D-MN) created an online petition in support of net neutrality, which garnered more than 31,000 signatures. With Republicans taking control of the House in the next Congress, we expect the Democratic Party to develop more interactive elements in order to maintain its voice in the lower chamber.
Many offices are now recording floor speeches and appearances on the local nightly news and posting them on Youtube. But as the equipment to produce videos becomes less expensive and easier to use, Congressional offices – particularly Senate offices that have multiple press professionals – will begin developing self-produced videos. Topics can include explanations regarding divisive votes, reviews of trips into the community, and behind the scenes looks into the daily life of a Member of Congress. A recent example is Senator Mark Warner (D-VA), who produced a video in the summer showcasing his forays throughout the Commonwealth of Virginia during the August recess.
New technologies, coupled with a continued shrinking of traditional media, are forcing Members of Congress and their staffs to seek out-of-the-box avenues to disseminate messaging and connect with constituents in 2011. We are excited to see what unfolds.