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After the 2016 election, many political scientists turned their attention to the ways social media platforms such as Facebook and Twitter are impacting and evolving political discourse in the US. And while Facebook has been around for a long time, its use as a conduit for the spread of political information feels much newer. Facebook, which started out as a social network to help college students meet and connect, has grown into a platform for over 2 billion people, companies, and brands around the world to reach each other in ways people could hardly imagine just 15 years ago.

But is this phenomenon really new? Or is it just new to our democracy? Much research has been published on the effects of social media on governments in other parts of the world. The Arab uprisings, which began with the ousting of Tunisian President Zine El Abedine Ben Ali in 2011, have been repeatedly cited as evidence of the destabilizing effects social media can have on longstanding regimes. Most Western talking heads pointed to social media with pride while examining its role in tumbling governments in other parts of the world. However, now that the focus has shifted to the US and we are beginning to see exactly how powerful and disruptive social media can be to the usual order of politics, suddenly there is a sense that we may have created a monster that even we cannot control.

According to a study by the Pew Research Center, Facebook may in fact be contributing to increased polarization on both sides of the aisle. Pew reported that 25% of social media users follow government officials or political candidates online, and that Facebook is the main social media site most Americans go to for news. Pew analyzed data from January 2015 to July 2017, and found that of the news articles shared by Members of Congress on Facebook nearly half (48%) were to outlets predominantly linked to by members of just one party – and 5% of those news links pointed to outlets that were exclusively shared by members on only one side of the political divide. Additionally, they found that the more partisan the news source was that the Member of Congress linked to, the more likely it was to be shared among Facebook users – meaning the most partisan stories had the farthest reach.

In analyzing this data, it’s no surprise that many have been feeling a rise in political tensions in the US relative to the past few decades. But the heightened tension online has not escaped those in Silicon Valley. Facebook has faced intense scrutiny over its role in spreading “fake news” with executives even being asked to testify before Members of Congress about vetting practices of political advertisers. In response to growing concerns by Congress and the public, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg announced some surprising changes to its News Feed algorithms, changes that he said in a Facebook post, “should encourage meaningful interactions between people” by making public content like posts from businesses, brands, and the media less visible to Facebook users. He also conceded that he expected time spent using Facebook to decrease among users as a result. Advertisers and media outlets alike have decried the change, arguing that it will hurt American democracy and advertisers’ revenues. But the true impact of the imposed changes remains to be seen.

What do you think about the role of social media in politics? Has your office faced challenges adapting to the age of social media? For tips on using social media to connect with younger demographics, check out our best practice tips here.

This year, take the time to engage with the people who sent you to Washington.  Your state may still be in a blackout period with various restrictions on your outreach. But that doesn't mean you can't proactively communicate with your constituents - within Franking rules.  Sending 499s is a great way to communicate with targeted groups or random selections of contacts.  Whether you are restricted by blackout rules or not, we can help make sure your next email campaign is effective as possible.  Here are a few tips for optimizing your next newsletter:

1.  Design

Did you know that 84% of email users aged 18-34 use a preview pane to manage their inboxes?  Emails that don't pass the sniff test in the preview pane are destined to wind up in the trash.  Using intriguing design elements is a great way to engage your constituents before they get to your primary message.  Don't have an in-house design team?  We do.  Our graphic artists design custom eNewsletter templates for IQ offices - free of charge.

2.  Subject Line

A catchy, succinct subject line can sometimes be the difference between a successful email campaign and one that falls flat.  In fact, studies show that 69% of email users in the U.S. may report an email as spam based on the subject line alone!  Try to keep your subject line under 50 characters and resist the urge to use splashy clichés.

3. Use Social Media

Social media is a excellent way to generate opt-ins, build your contact lists organically and promote meaningful engagement in your district.  After all, anyone who follows the Member on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, etc. has already taken an active interest in what the Member is up to in Washington.  Using the IQ eNewsletter Wizard you can push your latest newsletter out to your social channels in just one click and direct your followers to your email opt-in page.

4. Events

Live events in the district are another great way to increase your opt-ins and build better contact lists.  IQ is integrated with Eventbrite, a leading global event management platform, which allows you to capture the contact data for everyone who registers for an event in your district, and then import into IQ for use in your next outreach campaign.

5.  Call to Action

As simple as it may be, a strong, consistent call to action is vital to generating opt-ins.  If you want people to sign up for your mailing lists, don't forget to ask!

6. Optimize for Mobile

Last year, 48% of all emails in the U.S. were opened via mobile devices.  Optimize for mobile and make sure your message is accessible in any format.  Clickable areas should be between 40-50 pixels and any images you use should be compressed.  This way, your audience can access and interact with your message on a mobile device, even with a weak cell signal.

7. Purchase Scrubbed Contact Lists

While we do believe that organic growth through opt-ins is the best way to build your lists, sometimes it is necessary to augment by purchasing new data.  If you do decide to go this route, it's very important to work only with trusted sources.  Leidos offers fully vetted, scrubbed data files to Congressional offices in a variety of purchasing options that can meet any budget.

8.  Quality vs. Quantity

In some Congressional offices, staff are under pressure to reach out to the largest possible number of constituents, regardless of the quality of the contacts or the likelihood of an interaction.  We encourage you to focus on fostering meaningful conversations with engaged constituents rather than simply looking at the total number of outgoing emails in a given campaign.

9.  Timing

When planning your next email campaign, consider conducting a simple A/B test to better understand when you can best reach your constituents. To perform an A/B test, simply split your list in two, choose different day/time combinations for each group, then send and review the results after about 48 hours.  While every district is different, Tuesdays and Thursdays, mid-mornings and late afternoons are historically considered "sweet spots" for email campaigns.

10.  Targeting Your Message

The audience of your message is one of the most fundamental componenets of any outreach campaign.  However, even the most experienced communications staffers sometimes neglect to take the time to properly understand who will receive their messages.  IQ gives you the ability to easily slice and dice your data until you've targeted the exact group you want to reach.  For example if you wanted to reach out to retired veterans in a certain ZIP code who also consider agricultural legislation their top issue, you can identify and select this group in just a few clicks and then craft messaging specifically for that group.

To learn more about how we can help your office optimize email outreach and generate opt-ins, get in touch with us today.

Quorum is the most comprehensive database of legislative information and constituent analytics on the market for Hill professionals. 

Elected officials and their staff use Quorum to track issues through the legislative process, on the internet and across social media platforms. With Quorum, Hill staffers are able to identify unlikely allies on key issues. The powerful data available at your fingertips can help you find out which Member of Congress is most vocal on a given issue, whose constituents are most likely to be impacted by a certain bill or event, to immediately identify any changes to legislation and easily connect with the staffers who are working on a particular bill.

 

To celebrate the partnership between Quorum and IQ, we'll be sharing one interesting fact from Quorum's database every day in October. 

 

  1. Combined, members of Congress tweet over 400,000 times per year.

  2. Members of Congress collectively deliver over 24,000 speeches from the floor a year.

  3. Collectively, Members of Congress cosponsor over 77,000 bills each year.

  4. Over 4,000 bills are introduced in Congress each year.

  5. Members of Congress collectively make around 373,000 individual voting decisions per year.

  6. The average Republican in Congress has missed around 2% of floor votes.

  7. But, the average Democrat in Congress has missed around 3% of floor votes.

  8. The top 3 most shared news outlets by Members of Congress are CNN, FoxNews and MSNBC.

  9. Senate Republicans represent states with the highest uninsured rates.

  10. The top key words mentioned by Members of Congress on social media for the past week were "woman" for Democrats, and "tax" for Republicans. See what else their conversations have included:
                                          

  11. On average, the 115th Congress is among the oldest in history.

  12. The average age of the Leadership in the House is 48 in the GOP and 72 for Democrats.

  13. The 115th Black Caucus is the largest in the Caucus' history.

  14. There are 105 women serving in the 115th Congress - occupying almost a fifth of the chambers.

  15. The average House Democrat votes against their party 6% of the time.

  16. Senator Hassan has been the most vocal Member of Congress on the opioid crisis - mentioning it over 136 times in the 115th Congress.

  17. Rep. Pramila Jayapal is the most vocal Member of Congress on immigration; she's mentioned it over 600 times in statements this Congress.

  18. When it comes to cybersecurity, Rep. Langevin is the most vocal Member of Congress. He has mentioned it over 130 times in the 115th Congress.

  19. Sen. Richard Blumenthal has sponsored or cosponsored over 340 bills this Congress - more than any other Senator.

  20. Sen. Dianne Feinsten may be the most effective Senator in the 115th Congress, she has sponsored or cosponsored 45 bills that have been enacted this session, more than any other Senator.

  21. Rep. Pete Sessions has sponsored or cosponsored the most enacted bills in the House this Congress - 22 in total!

  22. Washington, DC's Delegate Eleanor Holmes Norton has sponsored or cosponsored over 690 bills this Congress, far surpassing any of her colleagues.

  23. Congresswoman Kyrsten Sinema (D-AZ-9) is the most bipartisan Democrat in the 115th Congress. She's cosponsored more Republican sponsored bills than any of her Democratic colleagues this Congress. Here's the top most bipartisan Democrats:

  24. The most bipartisan Republican in the 115th Congress is Rep. Walter Jones (R-NC-3). Here are the top 10 Republicans that have sponsored Democratic bills:

  25. Democrats in Congress have mentioned "fake news" in floor statements 45 times in the past year, compared to 4 times from Republican Members.

  26. Democrats in the 115th Congress have mentioned Russia from the floor twice as many times as GOP Members in the past year.

  27. More than half of the Senators up for reelection in 2018 will be over the age of 65.

  28. Only 2% of Congress represent a region of the US-Mexico border.

  29. Elected officials mentioned "Comey" in social media posts and floor statements over 1500 times in 2016, and over 5400 times in 2017. That's an increase of 257%!

  30. The average Republican and the average Democrat in the Senate vote against their party 9% of the time.

  31. Sen. Markey, a Democrat from Massachusetts, has been the most vocal member on net neutrality mentioning it 84 times in the last year.

 

That's it for our Quorum campaign! Thanks for tuning in all month for fun facts from Quorum. Please email house.sales@leidos.com if you're interested in learning more about how Quorum can transform your legislative strategy.