Republican Congressman Gregg Harper of Mississippi is using Facebook to do more outreach to the people in the state’s third district.
Besides the media appearances and speeches that congressmen deliver on the floor of the U.S. House of Representatives, congressmen and their staff perform a variety of work for the people in their district.
Constituent casework can be anything from following up on a social security question to writing a recommendation for a military academy.
Congressional offices have traditionally used direct mailings, such as newsletters or postcards promoting an upcoming district event, to communicate with constituents.
However, Facebook is changing the way members of Congress reach out to the folks back home.
With that in mind, we spoke to Adam Buckalew, communications director and legislative assistant for Congressman Harper, about Facebook strategy.
In general, how does Congressman Harper leverage Facebook?
Each online platform serves a unique purpose. To use a football analogy, an email newsletter is great outlet for Congressman Harper to provide detailed post-game legislative analyses to his constituents, while Facebook is better equipped to present inside-the-huddle updates for those who may be more interested in the step-by-step process of a bill becoming a law.
How else does your office use Facebook?
There is a constant flow of constituents visiting our nation’s capital to witness their federal government in action. Going beyond the traditional staff-led tour, Congressman Harper makes an effort to visit briefly with each person that comes to his office.
But why should this interaction stop when these Mississippians walk out of the door? By taking a picture with each constituent and posting it to Facebook, the visitor has the option of tagging themselves and sharing their stories about the U.S. Capitol in the comments section.
What are some of the Facebook features your office has found most effective?
Facebook advertisements are phenomenal. By exploring innovative ways to employ the unparalleled geotargeting options with our advertising vendor, iConstituent, Congressman Harper has been able reach people who were looking for him, but didn’t quite know where to look.
For example, Facebook users who live in Mississippi’s Third Congressional District and support – - or like – - limited government may not necessarily like Congressman Harper’s page.
By simply inviting these users to receive Washington updates, or get help with a federal agency, they are instantly connected to their member of Congress.
What have been the results of using Facebook ads?
After six months, Congressman Harper’s post views increased by 118 percent, post feedback jumped 174 percent and his new likes were up a mind-boggling 313 percent. These results speak for themselves.
In fairness, not every advertisement has been a complete success. The underperforming advertisements have helped Congressman Harper’s congressional office prioritize content on the website to more effectively communicate with his constituents.
How many people in your office, including the Congressman, manage his Facebook presence?
Congressman Harper and I both have access to his congressional Facebook page, which allows him to make posts on the fly and gives me the flexibility to upload releases, pictures and other official publications.
Moving forward, are there new ways the Congressman would like to use Facebook?
Sponsored Stories. Each advertisement – - whether it be in print or online — must be approved by the Franking Commission, which reviews the content before it may be distributed.
While the commission has made enormous strides to follow the technological trends in online communications, sponsored stories are currently not allowed by the House of Representatives.
Anything else we should know about how Congressman Harper is using Facebook?
People are not standing next to their mailbox all day waiting for each individual parcel to arrive. But they are sitting at a computer and nearly 50 percent of them use Facebook.
Members of Congress are hired by the people. Why not talk to them where they are?
Readers, do you use Facebook to communicate with government?