Making your point: 6 ways elected officials can use social media for advocacy

Every elected official has their pet issues that are of vital importance to them.  Some are broad, like education.  Others are smaller and more focused, like financial literacy or preventing teen pregnancy.  As elected officials, we also have more in common with the people we represent then you might think at first blush: We are constantly trying to influence the opinion of the public, and of other decision makers.

While social media can be useful for influencing public opinion, it’s doubtful (and inefficient from a time perspective) that anyone will change the mind of someone on the staff of the House Speaker, or in the Governor’s office, because of a Facebook post.  What is more likely, however, is that an elected official will influence some members of the public while positioning yourself as a knowledgeable, passionate person in a certain field.

To that end, here are six tips on how elected officials can use social media for advocacy:

1) All politics is local: Former Speaker Tip O’Neill’s advice remains as relevant today as it did when he first uttered those words.  Broad based policy is vitally important, but if you can’t connect your advocacy back to your constituents, the advice won’t connect.  Any posting you make about any legislation should tie back to your district.

2) Don’t be afraid to get an edge: As I wrote last week, I think people hate when a politician sounds too polished, and while I wouldn’t advise over-doing it, don’t be afraid to get angry and get passionate if that is how you feel.  Just…don’t sound like a robot.  People tune you out.

3) Make it personal and emotional: Cold facts and figures don’t always ring true for people, and while they can be helpful in making an argument, don’t over-rely on numbers when making a policy point. Instead, make your posts personal: tie them into a story of yours, or a constituents.  Additionally, appeal to someone’s emotions: their compassion, anger or sense of fairness.  That post will hit home more than any other.

4) Be proactive, not reactive: Of course, as elected officials, we have to react to news stories in an environment that we exhibit very little control over: current events will (and should) always trump an editorial calendar.  However, every post should not be about a news story, as you want to look like a leader, not someone who is just controlled by whatever is in the news.  Be proactive in the vast majority of your posts.

5) Rope in others: If possible, tag or mention other elected officials or advocates who are as passionate about an issue as you. This should get them involved, and will possibly help both of you grow your audience and your reach.  If it’s something you are truly interested in discussing, coordinate with that official ahead of time and let them know that you’d love to have their response and comments.

6) Be prepared for a debate: Police generates controversy.  If you are going to make a policy post, make sure you are prepared for a debate and to respond to comments that aren’t in agreement with you.

Anything else to add?  Let me know in the comments!

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