According to a recent report from the Congressional Management Foundation (CMF), Congress is in lockstep with business executives who see using Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube as a strategic imperative.
In fact, the survey found that most members of Congress now use social media to weigh public opinion, connect with constituents and attract supporters.
As you might expect, there are still some holdouts (typically older folks and self-described “late adopters” of technology). But, for the most part, congressional staffers are now communicating via social media as frequently as with older technologies, like fax and email.
The research was based on a survey of 260 congressional staff conducted between October and December 2010.
Here are a few of the highlights:
- Nearly two-thirds (64percent) of the senior managers and social media managers surveyed think Facebook is an important tool for understanding constituents’ views and opinions. Less (42 percent) say Twitter is important, and about one-third (34 percent) say YouTube is important.
- Nearly three-quarters (74percent) of the respondents think Facebook is important for communicating their Congressperson’s views. YouTube is viewed by nearly three-quarters of staffers surveyed (72 percent) as somewhat or very important for communicating their Congress members’ views. More than half (51 percent) of the staffers surveyed say Twitter is a somewhat or very important vehicle for their member’s communications.
- A healthy majority of staffers (72 percent) believe that social media allows Congress to reach people they had not communicated with before. Likewise, most (55 percent) feel social media offers their offices more benefits than risks.
- Two-thirds (66 percent) of the staffers 30 years old and younger feel social media is worth the time their offices spend on it, compared to only about one-third (32 percent) of their colleagues 51 and older who feel the same.
- More than one-third of the staffers surveyed feel their offices spend too little time on online town hall meetings, posting videos, their official website and their official blog. Democrats were more likely than Republicans to say their offices do not spend enough time on online communications.
“Social media tools have been adopted more rapidly than previous technologies,” said Bradford Fitch, President and CEO of CMF. “These technologies are starting to change how Congress communicates with their constituents and is allowing members to reach citizens who otherwise might not engage in the democratic dialogue.”
Apparently, the communication is flowing both ways. According to online news service Mashable, Obama’s Twitter campaign may have played a role in the debt ceiling deal – though not without inviting an onslaught of negative Tweets.