Social Media: Changing the Legislative Communications Paradigm
By Beth Becker
As recently as twenty years ago, communication experts talked about political communication using two key buzzwords: “rhetoric” and “gatekeepers.” In those days, political communication was about getting the gatekeepers, primarily the mainstream media (remember that this was before the heyday of cable TV), to regurgitate their rhetoric to their constituents in the hope that they would remember it on election day.
Today, social media has blown the paradigm to bits. Today, we don’t have rhetoric so much as we have targeted messaging and messaging strategy. Today, the mainstream media would like to believe they are still the gatekeepers, but more and more people are discovering that THEY have the power to be gatekeepers of their own.
What does this mean for legislators?
In order to effectively communicate with their constituents and future voters, they need to engage them using the channels and language that make them comfortable. Twenty years ago, that meant going to mud sales and diners and churches. Today, that means live video and tele-townhalls, Twitter streams and Facebook walls.
Does this mean they no longer need to use traditional methods? Absolutely not. It means they need to do more, but they also need to be more strategic in their thinking. Politics is still about people and relationships; the need for a legislator to go out and shake hands and kiss babies will never disappear. Today, however, in between shaking hands and kissing babies, they also need to upload a picture of the event to Twitter and Facebook.
The good news is that the technology allows that to happen. Recent reports lead me to believe that within two to three years smart phones and tablets will be the preferred online conduits. Social media platforms are ahead of the curve on this and are ready and waiting to carry the load.
So what now? A legislator needs a Twitter account, a Facebook page and even an account on Visible Vote — but what should they do? What should they not do? [Ed. note: Anthony Weiner has some tips on the latter....]
Stay tuned…we’ll be exploring these topics over the next few months in my new series here on Epolitics.com, “Social Media: The Dirty Dozen to Ensure You Engage Your Audience.”
Thanks Beth! Looking forward to the rest of the series – cpd