Policy Making Through Social Media Relationships

By: Hector Barajas & Bryan Merica

With the stroke of a few keys on a laptop or phone, our entire society is empowered to organize, mobilize and bombard policy makers with ideas for change or to highlight an army ready to act in opposition to a policy – such is the power of our digital age.

Too many groups continue to live in a time when developing and molding policy required the transmission of those ideas based on preexisting relationships between an organization and politicians, with regulatory bodies of government and/or other decision makers.

The digital world has irreversibly shifted the landscape of how people gather information, how we communicate, and how policy gets shaped. Like so many tectonic shifts, many of these changes have been incremental and often unnoticed, but the cumulative effect is dramatic.

telephone social network blue

Under the old rules of the game, those who could afford to pay for better representation would often gain greater access and better results – these rules don’t necessary apply online. The new rules are based on the creative and viral nature of digital content to offer an entirely new avenue into the public affairs arena.

In California, 80 percent of our population is using the Internet and more than 16 million are on Facebook. Of those 16 million Facebook users, each person spends approximately an hour of their time each day on this specific social media platform alone.

From posting pictures, memes, inspirational quotes, watching videos, and catching up with friends and family. Facebook provides us with a glimpse on how organizations and associations are failing to use the latest modes of communication to their detriment.

Social media Use

Social Media Usage By Age

Caitlin Dewey, Washington Post, “98 personal data points that Facebook uses to target ads to you” writes:

“While you’re logged onto Facebook, for instance, the network can see virtually every other website you visit. Even when you’re logged off, Facebook knows much of your browsing: It’s alerted every time you load a page with a “Like” or “share” button, or an advertisement sourced from its Atlas network. Facebook also provides publishers with a piece of code, called Facebook Pixel, that they (and by extension, Facebook) can use to log their Facebook-using visitors.”

“On top of that, Facebook offers marketers the option to target ads according to data compiled by firms like Experian, Acxiom and Epsilon.” 

“When combined with the information you’ve already given Facebook, through your profile and your clicks, you end up with what is arguably the most complete consumer profile on earth: a snapshot not only of your Facebook activity, but your behaviors elsewhere in the online (and offline!) worlds.”

Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg

Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg

Understanding digital insights such as these provides campaigns with the opportunity to develop novel solutions. While Facebook is the current “Social Media King,” there are dozens of other social media platforms with their own unique reach and audience:

  • Twitter provides unparalleled access to policymakers and political insiders
  • LinkedIn gives an avenue for issue-based content to reach relevant professional circles
  • Pinterest is ideal for reaching audiences like parents and teachers
  • Instagram is one of the best avenues for reaching millennials
  • Snapchat reaches even younger audiences with location-relevant content
  • YouTube is a major channel for delivering engaging video content to a wide range of audiences.

These are just a few examples from a constantly shifting landscape. Most successful organizations utilize a combination of platforms to communicate with their target audience.

Relationships with policymakers are important, but in this digital age, you need to tell your story to get people involved in your cause and to build a community beyond your membership. While these efforts take time, building an army today that can support or oppose a cause, depending on how a politician or regulatory body responds, is vital in influencing key decisions. Ultimately, the cause and/or the client will be well served.

***

With two decades of political, legislative, and media experience, Hector Barajas has a proven track record of assisting clients with attaining their public policy goals by effectively communicating through the press, social media, and directly to decision makers. 

Bryan Merica’s 20 years of experience working in the technology industry drives him to continually deliver novel and modern solutions to his public affairs clients.

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