Social media is a tool to reach constituents and supporters and increasingly becoming a mainstay in the political messaging toolbox. However, just like any messaging campaign social media cannot be the only way elected officials reach their audience. While we continue to move towards a world where 140 characters is enough information for some, there is still a large percentage of constituents that want more depth. Social media should be used to lead audiences to more details. I use the “bread crumb” analogy for social media. You’re not going to get full on bread crumbs and you would have to digest a lot of information to get your fill. However, using social media to lead an individual to more information (full slice) will allow for a deeper dive into issues and the ability for the elected official to frame their message. Social media can and should be used to inform the audience to bring them to the message they seek. For example, announceming an upcoming town hall or a link to a webpage that provides details with depth. What you do not want to happen is to have 140 characters define your agenda and allow for a short message to be misconstrued. A tweet in today’s world is just the same as a quote. In addition, don’t forget about the other messaging tools such as email newsletters and direct mail pieces. While older generations are becoming more active on social media (Pew Internet & American Life Project, “Older adults and internet use” by Kathryn Zickuhr and Mary Madden, June 6, 2012) you can’t neglect what has worked to reach those audiences, especially since it is still the target demographic for political engagement.
Nick Palatiello is Vice President for External Affairs at John M. Palatiello & Associates, an association management and government affairs consulting firm based in Reston, VA. He manages messaging and digital media platforms for a variety of non-profit trade associations including the Business Coalition for Fair Competition (BCFC).