We have seemingly reached the point where social media is accepted in all crevices of Capitol Hill. A vast majority of members from both parties have twitter and/or Facebook pages, and are updating them regularly with posts highlighting legislative achievements and local news appearances. So now what?
While a majority of politicians have social media pages, they are still not leveraging their full capabilities. It is not enough to tweet and post on Facebook, the true power in social media is its ability to inspire action. Matt Lira, new media director for House Majority Leader Eric Cantor, said in a recent Politico article that social media’s “real potential lies in organizing government itself and how it functions.”
There is no formal definition of social media 1.0 and 2.0, but here is my vision. Social media 1.0 is what you currently see coming from most Member offices. It involves basic posting on Facebook and Twitter and floor speech recordings on YouTube. Its goal is to supplement traditional media coverage and draw attention to a Member’s legislative achievements.
Social media 2.0 is a planned and clearly orchestrated attempt to inspire action among its followers. Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube posts are coordinated to present a central theme and encourage followers to express their feelings through replies or definitive action. All social media postings are integrated to ensure a consistent message. In addition, new forms of technology – such as mobile – are leveraged to enhance exposure.
A recent Roll Call article discussing radio’s influence on Congress included a quote from Rachel Maddow noting that “comparatively speaking, messaging on the left is much more ad hoc, much less disciplined and repetitive, and much less wide-reaching.” The fact is Republican social media has been much more coordinated, with many more GOP members leveraging Web channels, as noted in our past article “Enthusiasm or Emphasis?“. While social media is not the only reason for greater Republican messaging coordination, it is an important one.
Need a lesson on the power of social media 2.0? Look to private business or entertainment. Watch television commercials and see how the advertisements are encouraging you to log online or visit a Facebook page for more information. Congressional communications in the digital age is about salesmanship as much as it is about substance. And Members of Congress that harness a coordinated message supplemented by next generation social media tactics will be the ones to prevail.