How To Tweet With Your Elected Officials

Guest blog post by Dana Lawrence, Director of Communications & Grassroots Advocacy for Michigan Primary Care Association, and Regional Field Representative for NACHC

danahughesAs the staff person who launched Michigan Primary Care Association’s (MPCA) first social media site in 2009, I am a firm believer that social networking is an effective way to communicate with a variety of different audiences – including elected officials.

That belief was reaffirmed this week as I worked to advocate for Michigan’s U.S. Representatives to sign on to the Bilirakis-Pallone Health Center Letter that is circulating in the U.S. House until April 10th. With just a few key strokes and clicks of the mouse, one U.S. Representative retweeted an MPCA tweet and another started following MPCA. It was a good day!

The Congressional Management Foundation conducted an online survey of Congressional staff in 2010 about their opinions and practices related to constituent communications, including social media. Key findings confirm that Congressional offices are using social networking to help gauge public opinion, they include social media sites among tools used to communicate the views and activities of Members of Congress, and that social networking allows Members to reach people they had previously not communicated with.

Following and communicating with/about Members of Congress on Twitter is easy. By doing a little research to find out who from your state’s Congressional delegation has a Twitter account and then following them, you can open the door to two-way, real-time communication.

twitter_birdHere’s a quick “how to” that’s worked for me in my role as the Director of Communications and Grassroots Advocacy at MPCA. I’m sure you’ll settle into your own routine, but hopefully you will find these steps useful as a starting point.

1. Determine which of your Congressional Members have Twitter accounts. I found govtrack.us to be a great source for that information. It lists Members of Congress by state and provides comprehensive information about each one, including their Twitter handle.

2. I (and by “I” I mean MPCA) then started following each Member on Twitter. (One caveat to remember is that when following an elected official on Twitter from your Health Center’s Twitter account, be sure to follow them in their official capacity as a Member of Congress, not as a candidate running for office.)

3. In a few instances Members of Congress (or more likely, their staff) have started following MPCA back, right off the bat. When that happens, I can use MPCA’s Twitter account to directly message them to ask for their support of an issue impacting Health Centers – such as to sign the FY14 Health Center Funding Letter.

4. Even when a Member isn’t following MPCA, I can still communicate with them by including their twitter handle in a tweet. For example, this week when Congressman Sander Levin signed on to the Bilirakis-Pallone Letter I (speaking as MPCA) tweeted, “Thank you U.S. Rep Sander Levin @repsandylevin for signing on to the Bilirakis-Pallone letter in support of Health Centers! #fqhc.” Imagine my excitement when he retweeted this thank you.

I’ve replicated this process for communicating via social networking with members of the Michigan Legislature, as well. Happy tweeting!

–Dana Lawrence

You can follow MPCA on Twitter at @michpca and Dana at @danaslaw

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