Engaging Elected Officials on Social Media

Video: Gus Wagner, speaking at #140Conf in Des Moines, Iowa, on engaging public officials on social media.

We live in a time when only 45 out of 435 members of the U.S. House consider themselves ‘rural enough’ to be members of the Rural Caucus. Those numbers aren’t getting better for those of us in most Congressional districts in the states right now, and that covers most of us in the Midwest.

Consider for a moment that in addition to the shrinking representation and influence agribusiness and rural concerns receive in government and in real life, that in the Midwest, we’re lagging in social media, as well.

According to the current HubSpot Twitter Grader, the Midwest is falling well below the national average for use of Twitter (Missouri is 42{628954cb2bad821921117287c23504a7919be1893c483613421612ad8712cddb} below the national average, and Iowa and Wisconsin are both 14{628954cb2bad821921117287c23504a7919be1893c483613421612ad8712cddb} below it).

If, in Missouri, we want to relate to our 390 Congressional City Cousins to engage on our issues, we must impact them with our #AstroNetTurfRoots — using truth and transparency.

This post is inspired by the opportunities I’ve had to do public speaking and marketing training for membership organizations, nonprofits, and advocacy groups along with my public service to the state of Missouri as a Chief of Staff in the State Senate.

I’ve been on both sides of the lobbying and advocacy pitches and I believe I know what can help you.

When working with membership organizations, I try to put things in perspective by asking members if they have ever had a face-to-face lobbying or advocacy meeting with:

· A local official from one of the 19,000 municipal governments in America?
· An elected official from one of the 3,141 county governments in America?
· Someone from one of the 99 House of Representatives or State Senates in America?
· A Governor?
· A United States Congressman or United States Senator?
· A President?

I have met with and addressed issues with all of the above.

I then ask members if they’ve ever had a personal social media conversation with an elected official about an issue — without blasting press releases at them or throwing a stack of talking points their way.

Also, it never works to blind them with science – throwing facts and figures without explanation – when you are trying to build a relationship.

What I’ve discovered is that if membership groups can organize and mobilize their dozens, hundreds, thousands of members as social media advocates, that they can take real world actions using social media tools.

Increasingly, elected officials at the local, state, and federal level are active on Twitter or Facebook (or both). Their staff employees and other government influences are active on social media as well. Membership organizations need to take advantage of this social media presence in order to communicate effectively outside of their membership silos.

I suggest that membership organizations across the Midwest, especially in capital cities like our home base of Jefferson City, aggressively and positively communicate with members and elected officials using social media.

Here are two more of our blog posts written with membership organizations like yours in mind:

17 Ways Membership Organizations Can Practice #AstroNetTurfRoots 

Top 6 Things to Avoid in #AstroNetTurfRoots


Gus Wagner

Gus Wagner is the President.Owner of The Rocket Group – an award-winning marketing and communications firm. The Rocket Group has specialized in building effective tools across traditional means and new media for clients in businesses, organizations, and nonprofits since 2001. Gus is also a five-time certified Social Media Strategist, a former Chief of Staff in the Missouri State Senate, a retired national champion amateur hockey coach, and a would like to be a singer/songwriter. His Welsh Corgi, Taffy, lets Gus and his wife, Farrah Fite, live with her in Jefferson City, Missouri.