Using social media for advocacy

Over the past several years, social media has provided new and innovative ways to communicate with legislators. Legislators’ offices are paying attention to what their constituents are saying via Twitter, Facebook, and they’re increasingly pushing out information via YouTube, blogs, and even Snapchat to be more accessible to those they represent.

For the constituent, social media allows you to communicate with multiple people in the legislator’s office. For example, a tweet directed to a legislator’s Twitter handle may be seen by the communications director, legislative assistants, chief of staff, and perhaps even the legislator him/herself.

Social media also breaks down the geographic barriers to communicating with Congress. Normally, legislators only want to hear from constituents - the people who live in their district, vote for them, and keep them in office. Social media, of course, is not tethered by geography - you can communicate through Twitter and Facebook with a legislator in a position of leadership, or who is a member of a key committee, even if they aren’t your legislator.

Twitter

Twitter has become a favorite tool of legislators to release press statements, photos, and short news items. Every senator and nearly every representative uses Twitter.

The easiest way to find your legislator’s Twitter handle (as well as their other social media accounts) is by visiting their website. You’ll see social media icons (usually at the top or bottom of the page) such as Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, and others. If you don’t know who your legislators are, you can find them by visiting congress.gov.

To reach your legislator, simply begin your tweet with their Twitter handle (user handles begin with an @ sign). You’ll also want to include relevant hashtags (which begin with a # sign). Hashtags are a way of branding your tweet and making it easier to track conversations over time.

Facebook

More than 95 percent of legislators in Congress have a Facebook page and use it for sharing information with constituents. Legislators frequently use Facebook to communicate their opinion on pending issues or legislation. However, they also use Facebook to talk about what is going on in their states or districts, including events they’re holding or attending. This is a good way to find out where you can meet your legislators in-person.

In a 2010 study by the Congressional Management Foundation, nearly two-thirds of U.S. House and Senate social media managers said Facebook is an important tool for understanding constituent views and opinions.

Keep track of what they post and be sure to add your thoughts -- these are great ways to make your voice heard.

Download the Reeve Foundation Advocacy Toolkit in its entirety as a PDF.