Facebook Has Favored Status Among Advocacy Experts

Advocacy experts, technology companies and grassroots organizers are meeting in Miami to share stories about Facebook and social media's role in changing the way citizens communicate with elected officials.

Advocacy experts, technology companies and grassroots organizers are meeting in Miami to share stories about Facebook and social media’s role in changing the way citizens communicate with elected officials.

“Grassroots” is outreach that involves average citizens using their voice to reach policymakers, traditionally through phone calls, in-person meetings or letters.

But platforms such as Facebook are revolutionizing grassroots communications because constituents can contact members of Congress, state legislators or local city council members directly.

And it’s one reason why the Public Affairs Council is devoting a major portion of their National Grassroots Conference to effective social media use, which includes an in-depth look at Facebook.

According to the online schedule, Facebook’s Kathryn Harbath, associate manager of public policy, is leading several panels, including “Facebook Forum 101.” She joins other speakers with public policy and social media expertise.

If the Facebook and Twitter conversation about the National Grassroots Conference is any indication, the opening day didn’t disappoint when it came to sharing Facebook tips and takeaways.

  • Brad Fitch of CMF offered an impressive statistic in the opening presentation: 72 percent of Capitol Hill staffers believe social media, including Facebook, helps them reach constituents they haven’t reached before;
  • In the CMF’s report on social media usage on Capitol Hill, nearly two-thirds of social media managers surveyed think Facebook is a somewhat or very important tool for understanding constituents’ views and opinions, and
  • Nearly three-quarters of the senior managers and social media managers surveyed think Facebook is somewhat or very important for communicating their members‘ views;
  • This Facebook tip was tweeted by @RyanCohn:”For maximum effectiveness, have constituents reach out to politicians on Facebook/Twitter when the bill you care about is in committee.”
  • And this: “Facebook works in Congress. Your organization can be effective on a purely social media campaign.” This blog has profiled several members of Congress who are trying different Facebook techniques–such as advertising, videos and poll questions–to interact with voters and grow their support online;
  • Several attendees commented online that social media and Facebook can increase trust between voters and their elected officials, and also serve as an accountability tool; and
  • Facebook and social media conversations are more genuine and can serve to humanize members of Congress.

Andrew Foxwell, marketing and social media manager for iConstituent, shared two observations from the conference with us. “Public affairs organizations are now realizing how powerful a members’ social media profile is for communicating with that office.” Unlike a letter or email, “the Facebook page is the place where an interactive dialogue happens,” between constituents, staff and elected officials. And it happens, “immediately and publicly,” Foxwell added.