Social Media is an aspect of technology that has been more enticing, faster-moving, more powerful, and more fickle than any other mode of communication—an almost daily topic here on npENGAGE, and one that nonprofit grassroots activists are constantly trying to harness. But because of the diversity and breadth of technology now available to grassroots advocates, it can be difficult to focus on where to make an investment.

What actually works in terms of influencing public policy?

Here at Congressional Management Foundation (CMF), we study how congress and citizens communicate and strive to improve communication pathways.  Social Media interests us deeply in pursuing this mission, and that’s why CMF undertook a new study of the impact of social media on Capitol Hill.  Respondents included communications directors and legislative directors in the House and Senate—the very people who review content posted on social media and decide how to integrate it into public policy actions.

We asked these decision-makers firsthand: what catches your attention and influences your thinking on an issue?

We’re excited to host a webinar this Tuesday, June 16th at 2:00-3:00 PM EST in partnership with Blackbaud to illuminate this topic. Here’s a sneak preview of some of the insights we’ll share:

The survey results showed some pretty clear strategies for using social media to connect your supporters to Congress.

  1. Don’t get dazzled by the 127 different social media platforms. Reddit, Instagram, and Snapchat may someday have their day in the sun, but as far as Congress is concerned, Facebook is king and Twitter is the crown prince.
  2. Legislators and their staffs focus mainly on reactions and comments to THEIR own posts, and are not too keen when someone tries to hijack the subject. This means that professional advocates need to plan accordingly, know when a lawmaker is attending a hearing or dropping a bill that will almost certainly end up in their Twitter feed. Politicians will closely monitor reactions, placing greater weight on constituents or representatives of constituents (such as a nonprofit leader).
  3. Even our experts at Congressional Management Foundation were shocked at how powerful and efficient social media can be in driving change: Whereas it might take hundreds of phone calls to move a needle during a crucial campaign, our survey showed just a few dozen well placed, authentic Facebook or Twitter comments will find their way into the office of a Member of Congress.

Although rallying 40 or 50 of your supporters to friend a House member or Senator and comment on an issue may seem small, it may in fact hold the power to be truly revolutionary! 

For more on the Congressional Management Foundation survey of congressional staff and how social media is viewed on Capitol Hill, attend the upcoming Blackbaud webinar on Tuesday, June 16, 2:00 pm ET.  Register and find more information at


Bradford Fitch has spent 25 years in Washington as a journalist, congressional aide, consultant, college instructor, Internet entrepreneur, and writer/researcher.

Fitch began his career as a radio and television reporter in the 1980s. He began working on Capitol Hill in 1988 where he served for 13 years. He worked in a variety of positions for four Members of Congress, including: press secretary, campaign manager, legislative director, and chief of staff.

Fitch left Congress in 2001 to work for the Congressional Management Foundation. As Deputy Director of CMF, he served as a management consultant for Members of Congress, offering confidential guidance, conducting staff training programs, and writing publications on enhancing the performance of individual congressional offices and the institution. He served as editor of Setting Course: A Congressional Management Guide for the 108th Congress and 109th Congress editions. In 2005 Fitch managed CMF’s Communicating with Congress project, and co-authored the report, How Capitol Hill is Coping with the Surge in Citizen Advocacy. He left CMF in 2006 to form a new company, Knowlegis, in affiliation with Capitol Advantage. Knowlegis is now a part of CQ-Roll Call Group, where Fitch served as a Vice President until 2010 when he returned to CMF.

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