Conquering Capitol Hill, 140 Characters at a Time 21

By Brent Carney, @BrentRCarney

Social media has become the norm on the campaign trail, and is quickly becoming entrenched on Capitol Hill. Members of Congress and their staffers alike have taken to Twitter, Facebook, YouTube and any number of other social media sites to interact with constituents, sway public opinion and counter political opponents.

Social media is even pushing traditional media aside as the venue for politicians and political parties alike to attack their opponents – often harshly. In recent months, both sides of the aisle have been engaged in an ongoing battle for women’s votes. Speaker John Boehner took this fight to Twitter, disputing Vice President Joe Biden’s recent claims of a Republican “war on women.” This month’s disappointing jobs numbers opened the window for yet more attacks by Republicans with Speaker Boehner tweeting to his 300,000 followers that “today’s #jobs report is more evidence President Obama’s policies aren’t working for families & small businesses.”

With new political battles being waged daily on social media, and political parties fighting to gain the upper hand, new opportunities are being created for citizens, companies and non-profits alike to engage legislators and their staffs through these same platforms.  Because of security screening and volume, most mail and emails are not opened on Capitol Hill until well after a critical vote is taken. The immediacy of social media gives it an edge, and with so many Members and their staff taking part, this has become one of the best ways for getting your voice heard.  It’s also increasingly effective because members of the media are now following Twitter discussions on Capitol Hill and watching discussions taking place.

For local citizens who need immediate assistance with an issue in their community, there has never been a better way to directly interact with their Senator and Member of Congress – and the same is also true for companies and non-profits who are looking for new ways to amplify their voice, or in the case of some small businesses, join the conversation.  By interacting with elected representatives and their staffs in social media circles were they walk, companies are influencing media coverage, opinions and votes on legislation, and in some cases – election results.

In person meetings, mail and email will always play an important role in political offices.  They remain an important way for constituents to get the services they need and deserve.  However, those who adapt to these changing times effectively and adopt social media as a new tool will find new successes – while those who do not may pay the costly price of being left behind.

This article originally appeared in Racepoint Group’s Capital Ideas Newsletter. If you would like to receive subsequent issues, please use the following sign-up form.

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