So, it’s that time of year again. This was only the third year that I celebrated New Year’s Eve without this queasy feeling–a combination of anxiety and dread–as I anticipate the coming legislative session.
I’ll be in our state capitol several times this session, on behalf of a couple of organizations on whose Boards I serve, and I’m considering taking the kids up at some point, because I think that my oldest son would be very interested in the construction in the building, at least! And I’ll be talking in this space quite a bit about the happenings there, particularly about the state budget and the implications of the expected massive cuts for social workers and social services, in particular. And I’ll be tweeting about media coverage of the legislature, and also updating the Facebook pages of a couple of organizations doing work in the capitol this session.
And that has got me thinking about how advocates can use social media for their legislative work this session. Here are some specific ways in which social media strategies would have helped me as a nonprofit lobbyist–let me know if you’d like to work together to implement some of these strategies into your advocacy in the 2010 session!
One of the greatest challenges for state legislative advocates is how to engage people in the issues in a way that mobilizes them for action. Blogs can help in this! If your organization already has a blog with a dedicated following, then incorporating content around the legislative session would be fairly easy–remember that the state capitol building should have free Internet access, for those moments in between committee meetings when you’d have time to post (for those, like me, not lucky enough to have an iPhone!). If you don’t have a blog yet, reach out to your current supporters via email, newsletter, and/or other mechanisms of communication, and include some content on the blog that they can only get there (like in-depth analysis of pending bills) to “push” them to the site.
For those actively using the micro-blogging site, Twitter offers a virtually “real-time” communication medium. You can search through Twitter for all of your existing supporters who might be on already, but you should also seek out potential allies, “follow” them, and then hope that they will return the favor, so that you can build your network of supporters. Then, you can use Twitter to:
The social networking sites’ potential for advocacy has not yet, in my opinion, been fully realized. To be most effective, your organization would need to build a strong Facebook fan page, use tabs to capture people’s interests, and then use your Status Updates to push updates about pending legislation, Links to highlight media coverage and links to background information, and perhaps Causes to raise money for specific advocacy projects. In the absence of such an infrastructure, state legislative advocates might use social networking sites to:
And don’t forget other technological innovations with tremendous promise for this year’s legislative session (and beyond!):
What are your plans, nonprofit lobbyists, for integrating social media and emerging technologies into your advocacy during this state legislative session? Activists for social justice, how do you wish the lobbyists who represent your concerns were using these technologies to engage you? What tools have I left out that you think offer tremendous potential? Or what ideas do you have to use these tools in different ways? If you’ll be tweeting from Topeka this session, please find me on Twitter: @melindaklewis, so that I can follow!