How to Lobby Washington, D.C., via Social Media

By Greg Rushford

Excerpted from
How Washington Actually Works For Dummies

Increasingly, congressional offices in Washington, D.C., are using social media to help gather and disseminate information. They are mostly populated by young people, who communicate a lot differently than their bosses did at their age. Think twice about faxing a press release to staffers in your typical senator’s or representative’s office; they probably won’t read it even if they know what a fax machine is.

A survey by the Congressional Management Foundation found that 64 percent of the senior managers and social media managers in congressional offices think Facebook is a somewhat or very important tool for understanding constituents’ views and opinions, 42 percent say Twitter is somewhat or very important, and 34 percent say YouTube is somewhat or very important.

When it comes to communicating to constituents the views and positions of the senators and congressmen, 74 percent of these same managers think Facebook is somewhat or very important, 51 percent say Twitter is somewhat or very important, and 72 percent think YouTube is somewhat or very important.

Not surprisingly, the survey also showed that the younger the staff member, the more useful social media was considered to be.

Going forward, lobbying efforts will undoubtedly tap into the power of social media. In 2012, for example, the U.S. Department of Agriculture quickly responded to an online campaign that saw tens of thousands of people petitioning for the removal of so-called pink slime from the ground beef served in school cafeterias.

The days of writing an actual letter to your member of Congress — or even of calling his or her office to express your opinion — may soon be past. You can bet that professional lobbyists are devoting a good chunk of their time and budgets to ensuring that they’re utilizing technology to best serve their clients’ interests.