One of the more common questions I am asked when I speak to groups is this: What’s the best way to reach out to you personally? What’s the best way to influence you and other elected officials? I tell people the truth: Don’t send a form Email (that’s nice, but we just kinda count those as a measure of intensity), call (I try to take all of those myself), send a personal Email, or use social media. With the social media part, I’m always careful to caution that social media is a great way to connect with me, since I have it with me at all times, but for some electeds, that’s monitored only by a staff.
Turns out, a new survey shows that social media really is a great way to connect with elected officials. According to a canvas of Congressional staffers, conducted by the Congressional Management Foundation, 30 or less social media posts can cause a Congressional office to “take heed” of public response.
I’d also make the argument that this is even more impactful on a local level, when elected officials tend to manage their own social media. This study proves what I have been saying for years – that good use of social media is a great way to cut through the filters, through lobbyist groups, and connect with elected officials. Because of its ubiquity, transparency and virtual requirement of genuineness, social media ensures that feedback is real and personal. In all but the most advanced cases, it’s difficult to astroturf a social media campaign, and that means that elected officials tend to pay more attention to feedback received that way.
What does this mean for democracy? Well, it’s good news. Social media has made life harder for the media to some extent, because everyone is now a reporter. You can apply that principle to democracy as well: Everyone can now, more than ever, be a lobbyist, with access to elected officials and their staff which was previously unavailable. Thanks to social media, you can connect with your elected officials better than every before, and as noted by the study in question, can actually influence them too.