I suppose that this entry is geared towards the staffers who work for electeds. As a former staffer myself, I remember that position, and I remember what it was like to try to convince the boss of something. I was lucky: my boss was usually right in either agreeing or disagreeing with me. Of course, that’s not always the case. And when it comes to social media, you know that your boss should have a page – but he or she may not agree. How to you convince them that you are right? How to you get over some of the most common objections? Here are some thoughts:
1) “I don’t want to put myself out there”: One of the more common fears of starting a social is this idea that you are going to somehow say something that you wouldn’t say anyway. The response is simple: you don’t. No one in politics should use social media to say something that they wouldn’t be willing to back up either by voting, interviews, press releases etc. You’d never use social media in a manner that isn’t in concert with who you are as an elected official. Instead, you use it to reinforce positions you already take, press releases you have already sent out or votes you’ve already made.
2) “I can’t control what other people say about me”: They are saying it anyway! Whether you have a page or not, people are using social media to discuss you – trying to stop this is as futile as trying to stop an ocean wave. The better response, then, isn’t to stick your head in the sand: it’s to create a social media presence on your own in which you can put out your own information, encourage and provide feedback to your supporters and channel negative criticism to a place where you can be made aware of it and respond appropriately.
3) “I don’t want anything said in my name that I don’t approve.”: No problem. A simple Facebook page can be established, and no content sent out without explicit authorization of the elected themselves. This requires a bit more planning and makes the page slower, but it’s better than nothing. I would add, however, that as elected officials, staff are frequently speaking on our behalf. I have four people who work for me (two full time staffers in my district office, one part time staffer in the district and another part time staffer in Harrisburg) – they speak for me all the time when dealing with constituents, attending meetings, etc. I trust them explicitly to speak in my name, and that includes on Facebook or Twitter. If you don’t trust someone to speak on your behalf when it comes to social media, there might be a broader issue when it comes to managing staffers.
4) “It’s just another thing I have to manage”: This is absolutely true. A good social media presence requires the active participation of the elected official to make sure that the content is on message, that people are being responded to appropriately, etc. It is something else to cram into a very busy schedule. Of course, that’s just too darn bad. Are town hall meetings time consuming? Duh. Legislation? Of course. Door knocking? You betcha. But they are all absolutely necessary in this job – and yes, social media is the same way. Social media provides elected officials with a golden opportunity to communicate with our constituents – yes, it is another thing to manage, but how can you turn your back on an opportunity to connect with the people you represent? That’s our job!
Anything else to add? Let me know in the comments!