There’s been an undisputed rise in civic engagement and grassroots advocacy across the nation, heightened by the election of President Trump. While Congress’s phones may be at capacity and their email inboxes are likely overflowing, there’s another avenue to ensure your advocates’ voices are heard by elected representatives: social media. 100 percent of Congress is now using social media to communicate with constituents, making channels like Twitter and Facebook an ever-more effective way to be heard.
According to a study from Pew Research Center, 70 percent of adults are on some form of social media, and 80 percent of social media users say they check in daily. Which is why advocacy groups of all sizes and affiliations flock to social media to take advantage of this captive audience, issuing calls to action that can be achieved with just a few clicks.
While social media is often heralded for its marketing and communications benefits, there are three major benefits of making social media a key component of your advocacy efforts:
- When more people are inspired to speak up, legislators will notice. This is perhaps one of the greatest benefits of social media outreach. While elected officials might not be aware of the sheer volume of calls coming into their offices, they are very likely to notice a rush of tweets or posts to their social media platforms. In many cases, they even have access to their own account, and thus see first-hand the influx of messages. The opportunity to directly appeal to a legislator via social media is unparalleled.
- It’s easy to create a following and to amplify your message. Opponents of the Affordable Care Act have been using the hashtag #RepealAndReplace as a rallying cry since before the bill was signed in 2010. What began as a catchy slogan has now turned into an official Republican policy plan, with its support largely amplified by the conversation continuing to trend on Twitter. With the popularity of this platform, both lawmakers and everyday people are able take part in shaping the narrative around a divisive political issue.
- The possibility of connecting with legislators is a two-way street. For example, Tim Kaine used his Facebook following to solicit stories from people on how they benefitted from the Affordable Care Act (ACA). Thanks to a powerful response to his post, Kaine was able to go to the floor of the Senate with concrete examples of how the repeal of the ACA would impact his constituents. The stories he got from his Facebook followers legitimized his argument to a new degree.
On both ends of the political spectrum, elected officials are engaging with constituents on social media to talk about critical policy issues. This widespread use of online tools by lawmakers and the everyday people they represent is changing the way grassroots advocacy works. It is no longer necessary to make an in-person visit or even pick up the phone to influence a vote, meaning anyone can be an advocate and lead conversations about the political issues that matter to them. The level of contact that social media is making possible between constituents and their representatives is a valuable way to affect tangible and lasting change through grassroots movements.