Lets Get Local: Using Social Media in State and Local Campaigns

Earlier this week, Jacob and I were joined by a colleague, Karen Middleton of Emerge America, at the Nonprofit Technology Conference where the three of us spoke about the use of social media in state and local advocacy campaigns.

The three of us are longtime activists and advocacy campaigners. Jacob and Karen are both former elected officials (Jacob a city council member and mayor, Karen a state legislator and member of the state board of education). Having served, they bring a unique perspective to the discussion. We explored the challenges that elected officials face, particularly those at the state and local level where resources are highly constrained.

Saul Alinsky in Chicago, 1966. We may be communicating digitally but it's still about organizing relationships.

The framework of our presentation was tied together by the premise that while social media (and email and other online communications) are digital (or virtual, if you like), advocacy is local and, especially at the state and local level, the work of influencing local elected officials is all about relationships. Understanding how the people in your online networks know and relate to officials goes a long way towards using social media in a powerful and strategic way.

We had a great discussion with people in the room, many of whom are engaged in some strong campaigns. Nancy Marks from the Boston-based organization Health Resources in Action shared their Face Off Against Tobacco campaign which is a great use of personal messages and photos. The more personal you can make your messaging, the better, and this is very true at the local level.

We are sharing the slides from the session below. We’ll be sharing similar versions of this talk at some future events in Colorado and online. Stay tuned.

You might also want to check out the Digital Engagement Guide. I came across it recently and it looks to be a good new site tracking the use of digital tools and networks in the public sector.

The National Conference of State Legislatures has a page listing the social network links of the legislative leaders of all states.

If you have tips or other examples of local campaigns with great uses of social media we would love to hear from you. Share them in the comments.

2 thoughts on “Lets Get Local: Using Social Media in State and Local Campaigns

  1. Hi Ted! As always – it’s fantastic that you were at NTC this year. You always bring so much thoughtfulness to our conversations. One thing I appreciate about this topic is the tension between global and local in social media. I think that just because social media CAN be global very easily, it’s easy to forget how local and relationship-driven it can be. I’ve seen community centers and local food banks use Facebook and Twitter to convene their communities in really meaningful ways! Thanks for adding to that discussion!

  2. Holly ~ Thanks for the comment! We framed this session and the discussion during it primarily around the advocacy context. A little different then how local service organizations would intend to use social media. We spoke a bit about identifying political power, targets and translating theory of change to social network communications and organizing. The thing is, though, that social media is (as you say) largely driven by relationships (or it should be). This is especially true at the state and local level where social relationships are more personally meaningful then the standard transactional sort of interaction (we posted this, we think this, please comment and share).

    Local organizations could teach a lot to larger groups about how to think of and use social networks in a truly relationship-driven way.

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