Taking it straight to them

Crowd-sourcing time!

Lately, I have run across a couple of references to nonprofit advocates using Twitter and Facebook to communicate directly with policymakers, in addition to their power as tools to mobilize supporters.

It’s the difference, in technical speak, between direct lobbying–taking our appeals directly to policymakers positioned to do something about the issues–and grassroots lobbying–contacting targeted members of the public, and requesting that they ‘take action’ to urge policymakers to take a specific position.

And, despite seeing some examples in Measuring the Networked Nonprofit and running across some comments within social media, I haven’t been able to find any documentation of how common this practice is, not any case studies that document how engaging a policymaker directly through social media has resulted in (or, at least, contributed to) a policy change.

When we use social media to engage our supporters, with an advocacy ask that includes reaching out to elected officials, then we have two bottom lines, essentially–we want the policymaker to take our position, obviously, but we also have the potential to energize our allies, strengthen their connections to our organization, and build our network.

When we use social media to take our messages directly to policymakers, there is obviously still some potential for collateral impact–we’re in a public sphere, and others will see and, we hope, engage with that same message–but it’s still a different end goal. With what we know about how congressional emails and voicemails are harder and harder to cut through, these days, in particular, there’s something really appealing about finding a sort of ‘side door’ to their ears.

So, can the crowd help me? Who has used social media in this way, and to what effect? Does anyone have data or case studies they can share? Best practices for using social media as direct advocacy?

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