Dominating the social media world
some time now, we here at OhMyGov! have been harping on about social
media's usefulness for improving
and communication. It's not surprising that new media services such
as Facebook, YouTube and Twitter have emerged as
forums for facilitated engagement between representatives and their
constituents. However, some Congressmen have been quicker than others
to embrace these new media. Sometimes, a bit of good friendly
is necessary to really get people involved. Luckily, Rep.
has launched the New Media
a competition for the House
Republican Conference to expand their presence on Facebook, YouTube and Twitter... tournament-style.
Launched on April 20th, the 6-week
contest pitched dozens
of Republican representatives and caucuses against one another to gain
more followers, subscribers and fans/friends on Twitter, YouTube and
Facebook, respectively. At the end of the 6 bracket phases, an overall
winner will emerge.
What the top performers win, other than expanded online presence
and influence, is unknown and beside the point. The goal of the
competition, as explained by Patrick Bell, the Director of New Media for
McMorris-Rodgers, is to "encourage colleagues to be active, social,
and to expand their existing online presence"; the quantifiable
aims are more followers gained, meaning more interactions with voters
1 inaugurated the Twitter Round, in which 56 participants gained more
than 8,000 new followers. The following week saw 46 participants
for fans on Facebook; House Republicans gained over 11,000 new fans.
The third week marked the YouTube Round, and the 24 participants added
over 800 new subscribers. The last three weeks are an all-out all-medium
Politely, the Congresswoman's staff gave a bit of advice to competitors:
re-tweeting, asking constituents to participate and spread the word,
reciprocating follows and responding to direct messages or @ replies
are all examples of encouraged strategies. Some, like Rep.
Lynn Jenkins of Kansas, chose to incorporate familiar methods into
media, with this Facebook note/letter asking for support:
Rep. Jenkins's letter
notably relays the significance of social media to her Facebook
and welcomes followers to engage on multiple social media platforms.
Naturally, some competitors are so serious that they refuse to reveal
their tactics until the challenge is over. Speculation on strategic
specifics aside, the tactical mantra seems to be, as Patrick Bell
us, to maintain "a human voice, don't just automate." When
it comes to social media, personality is key.
The benefits for increased
engagement aren't merely tilted for one side's political gain;
enjoy and feel empowered by having their representatives just a tweet
away. Moreover, imagine how it feels to find out that Rep.
John Shimkus, the notorious
bible tweeter, has
your Twitter follow.
The past year alone has seen steep
increases in government's social media participation, and the contest
has pushed participation numbers among GOP representatives even
higher. Between January 2009 to April 2010, the numbers of GOP social media users jumped from 37% on Facebook to 79%, 28% to 64% on Twitter, and 56%
to a whopping 98% on YouTube. Even before the contest, Republicans in
government had the edge on Democrats in regards to social media
the contest has exaggerated the gaps, with GOP figures towering over
the Democrats' January 2010 Internet presence with 34% on Facebook,
20% on Twitter and 65% on YouTube. Perhaps the GOP's revitalized social
media activity will inspire a similar response on the other side of
the aisle as well.
Rep. McMorris-Rodgers brought
up her idea for a social media competition at a brainstorm meeting with
her staff, and they excitedly hashed out the March Madness-style bracket
setup. Fittingly, the Challenge used
social media tools to organize and disseminate information throughout the competition.
The contest's setup is user-friendly, and it provides both good-natured
competition and ever-flowing sports analogies. Case in point: this tweet
from Representative Darrell
Issa early in the
which set his tone for the game, preluding a good-humored rivalry with Peter Roskam.
The New Media Challenge is an
attempt to utilize social media in aiding government and affecting a
more open and connected democracy. And, with midterm elections in
expanding one's contact pool is no waste of time. So, hats off to
McMorris-Rodgers and her staff, and good luck to both the competitors
and the Democrats, who seem to have some catching up to do.