Let me share a not-so-secret secret. I will NOT buy from a company that doesn’t have a web presence. That’s a very ‘millennial’ statement, I know. It’s true though. In this day, at my age (27), not having some presence on the web is equivalent to my parents not being able to find you in the phone book. If you’re not there, you’re not worth finding.
The same is slowly becoming true in social media. It seems counterproductive or irrational, but people, as individuals, are becoming more legitimate by their presence on the internet.
What does this mean for politics, you ask? There is very little excuse not to participate in the political process when social media has so significantly lowered the bar for entry. This is true for both the average citizen and the politician. So, what do you do?
1) Sign up! Take a swim in the shallow end of the pool.
- Joining doesn’t necessarily mean the loss of privacy.
- The commitment is minimal; you can quit at any time and come or go as you please.
2) Join the conversation, talk about what interests and seek out like-minded individuals.
- Share things that interest you like your views on issues on important points about/from candidates.
- Always remember that social media is a personal form of broadcasting, of publishing, not your diary.
On the other hand, politicians have recently become some of the most prolific social media users around —now that they understand the bookface and the twitters. However, they suffer a different problem, entirely—speaking too much and saying too little:
1) Be real.
- Getting the digital handshake and ‘don’t forget to vote’ line is like calling customer service and being sold to.
- Mix business and personal. Political operatives are rolling their eyes right now, but people elect the person not the just the idea—that’s why so many folks consider themselves moderates.
- You’re not broadcasting; you’re talking to one person, a lot of times. However, you are publishing, don’t pull an Anthony Weiner.
- People will talk back, be prepared to engage them. Even if it is the constituent services department or the PR team, people expect you to communicate in two directions.
The possibilities are endless in social media. As a constituent, your voice carries significantly farther in social media. You not only impact the decision making process of your elected officials, you have the opportunity to change the dialogue or frame the debate for fellow constituents. There is no reason to be a disinterested citizen in this society. It’s not all good, I know, but it doesn’t have to be every legislator or every issue—pick your favorites, speed date. Want help getting started? Check out tweetcongress.org to find your tweeting elected official.