10 Suggestions for Interacting with Legislators on Twitter

01 Jun, 2015

10 Suggestions for Interacting with Legislators on Twitter

Connecting with policymakers on social media can seem daunting, but it need not be difficult. Rikki Amos, the Council’s director, U.S. public affairs practice, suggests 10 tips for engaging legislators that you can put into action today.

1. Be visual.
Visuals markedly increase the likelihood of a tweet being seen and shared.

  • Share pictures from your site visit or fly-in.
  • Extend your thanks for the meeting.
  • Share your trade association or organization’s infographics.

2. Be a positive contributor.

  • Negativity rarely enhances your online influence
  • Recognize and share contributions, thoughts and posts by others.
  • Say “thank you.”
  • Write like you talk, and be both funny and serious when the time is appropriate. Show your personality so that readers — including legislators — feel like they’re talking to a real person and not a press release.

3. Avoid politics.

  • Avoid talking about elections, candidates and races.
  • Focus instead on the issues.

4. Tie the tweet to #existing conversations or campaigns.

  • Twitter and other social media are filled with conversations. The power of online interaction comes from being part of those conversations and amplifying your message and the message of others.
  • Be sure to include the hashtag (#) your industry, campaign, the legislator or others use to talk about your issue.

5. Mention your trade association as a resource.

  • Draw on the strong visual resources created by others to support your case.
  • It leverages two core best practices for online engagement: being visual and shining a light on others.
  • Include your trade association’s or other thought leader’s handle (@PACouncil, for instance) in your tweet.

6. Retweet and comment.

  • Unsurprisingly, social media thrives because of its social component.
  • Do more than just send out your own tweets. Retweet posts from your legislator’s office. Reply and comment thoughtfully on what they’re sharing. Legislative offices appreciate seeing amplification of the content they generate.

7. Keep it short so that you can be retweeted.

  • Your goal is to get others — including the legislator — to respond, retweet or otherwise leverage your comments.
  • This means keep your tweets shorter than the maximum 140-character limit so that your legislator has room to reply, comment and include their handle. 100 characters is a good baseline.

8. Build your influence around relevant issues.

  • This helps the legislator’s office see that you are a thoughtful and engaged constituent.
  • Demonstrate your knowledge and credibility over time on a given issue. Share details about your background and experiences that reinforce your expertise.
  • Connect that expertise to the issues at hand.
  • Build an audience of followers who care about the same issues.

9. Establish your constituency.

  • Just as it matters when you write a letter or send an email, legislative offices will take the most notice of constituents who consistently and thoughtfully engage via social media and who have a demonstrated influence and reach of their own.
  • Remember that a legislator wants to engage with those who have the opportunity and following to positively influence the way that other constituents view their efforts.

10. Remember your audience.

  • As social media is a relatively new communication tool for many legislators and legislative staff, keep in mind that many legislators are personally engaged on Twitter.
  • Write every post and message with the understanding that the elected official and the general public can see it and respond.
  • Think twice, but post only once.

Rikki Amos serves as director, U.S. public affairs practice, for the Public Affairs Council. In this capacity, Rikki oversees the Council’s team of U.S. public affairs experts who provide training, services and resources for domestic public affairs professionals. Her areas of expertise and oversight include grassroots, domestic government relations and lobbying, corporate social responsibility, political action committees, ethics and social media in public affairs.

Contact Rikki at ramos@pac.org or 202.787.5973