by Pam Greenberg
The Congressional Management Foundation’s (CMF) has released a new report-- #SocialCongress: Perceptions and Use of Social Media on Capitol Hill--a survey of congressional staffers' attitudes about their offices' use of social media.
The major findings are summarized below and the details in the report are interesting to read.
• Congressional offices are using social media to help gauge public opinion, augmenting traditional tools used for that purpose.
• Congressional offices now include social media among the tools used to communicate Senators' and Representatives' views and activities.
• Younger staffers see more value in social media than their older colleagues.
• Staffers from offices that embrace technology are more likely to see media as a benefit to the office and to believe the Internet has improved the dialogue between citizens and Congress.
• Social media managers have a more positive view of constituent communications than senior managers or staffers who are primarily tasked with answering the mail.
• Many staffers—especially in Democratic offices—feel their office spends too little time on online communications.
My guess is that state legislative staff perceptions may mirror those above. Another similarity struck me when reading the report’s first paragraph:
Congress is often accused of being slow to adapt. Whether it be through institutional reforms or technological developments, the House and Senate are regularly criticized as being resistant to change. This has not been the case with social media. While congressional offices may lag behind some leading private-sector organizations in their use of Facebook, Twitter and YouTube, the legislative branch has adopted social media much more quickly than it adopted other technologies, such as fax machines, email and websites.
The same is also sometimes said about state legislatures—there’s often a reluctance to be on the “bleeding edge” of technology. But state legislatures, like Congress, may also be adopting social media tools and new devices more quickly than they have in the past.
As members of the National Association of Legislative Technology (NALIT) were discussing plans for sessions at the NCSL Legislative Summit and the NALIT Seminar, they spoke about how social media and consumer devices are game-changers—legislators are no longer relying only on the IT department to supply laptops or develop apps for them, they’re bringing in their own mobile phones and iPads and tablets and downloading apps themselves. And IT departments are finding ways to adjust—becoming more agile and faster in turnaround on services. Social media trends and the constant roll-out of new consumer devices offer immediate gratification, but the legislative environment is designed to move slowly, so it’s making for an interesting mix.
NCSL has a web page that tracks legislative agencies, committees, offices and caucuses that use social media. Let us know about any changes or additions, and tell us what you think about how state legislatures are using social media.