Association lobbyists: Congress is kicking our butts when it comes to social media

Say what you will about Congress.  You can’t deny that the institution has embraced some form of social media.  Members of Congress have their own Facebook pages.  Congressional committees use Twitter to promote upcoming hearings.  The House and Senate have their own YouTube channels.  A few are even creating their own app.  However, as association lobbyists, are we using those same tools to promote our advocacy efforts to our members? 

Taking an informal poll during ASAE10, I was hard pressed to find many attendees without some type of smartphone.  I’m sure the same can be said of our members.  And yet, many association government relations offices are promoting their work on Capitol Hill or in the State legislatures with a 4-page double-sided hard copy biannual newsletter that, quite honestly, very few people read.   Sure that same report may be published on the association’s website.  But can your members find it, let alone will want to read it on their Blackberry?

Let’s get creative.  We’re doing some great things on behalf of our members and we need to promote that using every tool at our disposal.  Email is an effective way to get your message out to your grassroots advocates.  However, it’s no longer the only way.  A great example of using social media for advocacy is the Stop the Medicare Therapy Cap Facebook page: http://www.facebook.com/pages/Stop-the-Medicare-Therapy-Cap/290661517047?v=wall  The page was the brainchild of the American Physical Therapy Association in coordination with other  groups (full disclosure – including my former employer) to call on Congress to repeal a financial cap on rehab services.  Status updates describe everything from coalition meetings with congressional staff to how everyday citizens can get involved.  Many of our issues not only affect our members, but the public as well.  Social media is a great way to engage these people.

Email and paper will always have a place in lobbying.  However, we need to accept that social media is now a vital part of the advocacy effort.

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