Interact With Legislators on Facebook and Twitter
Social media has radically increased the number of venues and opportunities constituents have to communicate with lawmakers. Legislators continue to rely on traditional means such as their own websites and email, but have begun using blogs, YouTube, Twitter, and Facebook to be more accessible to those that elect them. Additionally, electronic communications are less expensive than sending postal mail, and allow legislators to respond much more quickly.
Finally, social media allows you to break down geographical barriers to communicating with Congress. Normally, legislators only want to hear from constituents – the people that live in their district, vote for them and keep them in office. Social media, of course, is not tethered by these restrictions; you can communicate through Twitter and Facebook with a legislator in a position of leadership, or who has jurisdiction over a key health committee, even if they aren’t your legislator. (Learn more about congressional committee jurisdiction.)
More than 90 percent of legislators in the 113th Congress have a Facebook page and use it for sharing information with constituents. Legislators are most frequently using Facebook to communicate their opinion on pending issues or legislation. However, they also use Facebook to talk about what is going on in their states or districts, including events they’re holding or attending – this is a good way to find out about where you can meet your legislator in person.
In addition, legislators read comments and posts on their Facebook pages. In a study by the Congressional Management Foundation, nearly two-thirds of House and Senate social media managers said Facebook is an important tool for understanding constituent views and opinions. Keep track of what they post and add your thoughts; these are great ways to make your voice heard.
Twitter has become a favorite tool of legislators to release press statements, photos, and short news items. In the 113th Congress, 100 percent of senators and more than 90 percent of representatives use Twitter. Every state has at least 70 percent of its delegation on Twitter.
There are two easy ways to find your legislator’s Twitter handle:
- Visit www.tweetcongress.org and enter your home address. You’ll be given information about your legislators as well as their Twitter handles.
- Visit www.govsm.com, a Wiki page devoted to legislators’ social media usage. You’ll need to know the names of your legislators in advance, but you’ll see the full range of social media platforms they are currently using.
Reaching your legislators through Twitter is easy; simply begin your tweet with their Twitter handle (user handles begin with an @ sign). You’ll also want to include relevant hashtags, (which begin with a # sign). Hashtags are a way of branding your tweet and making it easier to track conversations. For example:
@SpeakerBoehner Please support children’s health by providing funding for #Medicaid and #CHGME.
Other common hashtags used by the Children’s Hospital Association include: