From the Editor

#policymakers and @socialmedia

By: Victor Abalos

social media3“How do I best use social media?”

This is probably one of the most requested topics from our members.

There’s no doubt elected officials should take advantage of social media platforms and it’s equally certain there’s tremendous under- and misuse of these platforms.

It would be really easy – and probably entertaining to many – to point out specific examples of how not to do it, but all you have to do is log on and scroll down and you’ll see what I mean.

In my other job, I provide strategic communications support to a variety of clients – many in the public sector. Here’s what I share with my clients.

socialmedia4The first question I always ask any elected official eager to jump into the social media landscape: “What do you want to accomplish?” It seldom generates the simple or concise answer it should.

Why do you use it?
Are you trying to generate interest in a policy issue or project?
Are you advocating on behalf of a specific measure or project?
Are you trying to raise awareness about something you believe your constituents should know about?

Too many elected officials are using social media just to be “seen.” Selfies of them with kids, firefighters, senior citizens, celebrities, etc. indicate they’re using social media like most everyone else: “Look at me!”

social media1While that may be productive, and on some level even fun, I will argue that it is a wasted opportunity. As elected officials these powerful platforms can be much more productive, particularly when you’ve got a message you need to share.

Need support for a controversial measure you’re going to introduce at the next meeting?
Facebook posts with photos can be an effective way to lay the groundwork.

Is one of your colleagues trying to sneak something past the community?
Social media is a powerful way to expose them.

Are you interested in making sure your community keeps up-to-speed on what you’re working on and why?
A consistent presence on social media can be more effective than community newsletters or Rotary Club speeches.

Like TV and any other medium, social media is filled with as much crap as it is with useful and entertaining information. How to avoid that?

  • With clear, concise and engaging posts. Take advantage of photos and video whenever you can.
  • Be consistent. Don’t log in fifty posts in three days and then disappear for a week.
  • Try to be positive. Voters and your constituents have demonstrated plenty of evidence they’re tired of “mean” or vindictive messages from their elected officials.
  • Offer solutions and hope, that’s always a better message.

And if you must take selfies, please, put the wine glass down first.


Victor Abalos: Editor's Blog

Victor Abalos is Executive Director of the Southern California Latino Policy Center and Editor of the Latino Policy Connection.

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