California state Congressman Howard McKeon talked with social media reporters today about his early adoption Facebook and social media in general.
Here are some lessons and tips from the Republican social media enthusiast and one of the original co-chairs of the New Media Caucus.
How did you get started with new media?
Social media can give some of my colleagues headaches, but not me. When I purchased my first flip-cam, I walked around the office, interviewing members of my staff. That was the beginning.
From there, we started posting videos to YouTube, Facebook, and on my committee and personal web sites, making sure those platforms were up to date.
New media allows members of Congress to be more open. For example, comments for a major piece of defense legislation were posted 24 hours before the committee started mark-up of the bill. All of the Armed Services committee hearings are streamed live and archived for searching later.
Any tips for other lawmakers on using social media?
Get involved, use it for good, and use it in the right way.
I believe it has to start with the member, then build staff and let them know it’s a priority. When I started several years ago after buying my flip-cam, I told my staff that, I’m older than all of you, but I’m thinking younger than all of you.
What’s your favorite platform?
I’ve noticed that Facebook may have lost some followers, but my 31 grandchildren all use it more than say, Twitter.
What new technology are you using in the office?
To reach out to a wider constituent audience, my office launched Facebook ads 2 weeks ago. In just 2 short weeks, we have seen some of the best results in Congressional history:
- Over 8,000 unique constituents saw the ads
- Over 500 new likes
- 58 percent increase in feedback to the Congressman’s posts
- Launched ads in Spanish to reach out to the growing Hispanic population in district
How should members manage social media in their office?
I think having a devoted staffer is very important because these platforms need to be managed 24/7. I’m comfortable designating a staffer who is up to date on everything going on in the office and my job is to push my staff to make it happen.
We regularly survey constituents. I occasionally posts updates, but I also regularly dictate messaging or direct staff to articles of interest to share. I’m engaged in the entire process.
These media platforms should be used for both pushing information out and gathering information from constituents. We read every single Facebook post, direct message, LinkedIn message, YouTube comment and mention in the media, then respond accordingly.
What’s changed since you started in Congress?
I used to do live town hall meetings by phone. Now I have 2,200 Facebook page likes, 5,000 Twitter followers and 15,000 opt-in, email subscribers. Every member seems to have an iPhone.
Republicans seems to be more active with social media than Democrats. Why is that?
The Republican leadership in the House decided it was important. Representative Cathy McMorris Rodgers, who led the New Media Challenge, has a regular report in the weekly conference meetings urging Members to participate in social media.
While President Obama used it to a huge advantage in the last election, I’ve seen (California gubernatorial candidate) Meg Whitman and other candidates around the country get involved with it. Social media is a way to get around the national media which tends to be liberal.
Is social media a positive influence in politics?
Not always when its used in the wrong way. As a politician, you use it at your own peril. However, if you don’t get involved with it, you can’t communicate with your constituents. People today are more in tune with the issues as a result of social media. The uprisings in Yemen, Egypt and elsewhere in the Middle East are examples.
How do you gauge interest from your supporters?
When an article shows up online and negative comments are spreading, social media enables the office to respond quickly and get our side of the story told.