Washington Congressman Holds Facebook Town Hall

Occupy Wall Street was the first question asked about in Washington Congressman Jim McDermott's first Facebook town hall this week with 150 of his constituents.

Representative Jim McDermott, a Democrat hailing from Washington state’s seventh congressional district, held his first Facebook town hall this week.

The livestreamed event might be one of the first Facebook town halls using live video by a congressional office, according to a spokesperson for the Washington congressman.

McDermott answered questions and garnered feedback from participants for more than an hour.

According to his spokesperson, the Facebook event is another tool in the congressman’s arsenal, helping him reach as many constituents as possible.

While the congressman expects to conduct more Facebook town halls, he also plans on continuing with other outreach activities, such as hosting coffee’s in the district and conducting telephone town halls.

McDermott’s office said the advantage of hosting a town hall on Facebook is the extremely low cost — or no cost — associated with the event. While telephone town halls, which have the advantage of targeting a different demographic, also have higher costs associated with them.

One reason the congressman decided to leverage Facebook in his outreach to constituents was the release of a study that named Seattle as a “Facebook” city, more interested in the social networking site than another popular platform, Twitter.

Since the office has put more emphasis on Facebook, the congressman’s page has grown from 1,500 likes in January to more than 5,000 likes today.

In addition to the town halls, the staff generates interest by creating brief videos, no longer than one or two minutes, for Facebook. For example, during Teacher Appreciation Week, the congressman shared a story on video about a teacher who had a major impact on his life. Why? Because the teacher said Rep. McDermott would never amount to anything.

The congressman and his staff also use Facebook to respond to breaking news. This week, the congressman shared a photo shortly after learning of the death of Steve Jobs.

Another post that boosted engagement was a photo of the congressman holding a framed congressional record statement printed on green paper for St. Patrick’s Day, and honoring the University of Washington’s appearance in the NCAA Final Four.

The Facebook town hall happened to coincide with the Occupy Wall Street protests that are gaining traction around the country.

The local paper, the Examiner, reported that the first question was, “Occupy Wall Street — good idea or great idea?”

Other topics covered included the government’s role in job creation, campaign finance reform and health care reform.

Would you participate in a live town hall with your congressman?

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