How to Use Twitter as a Political Advocacy Tool

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Lots of people use Facebook, but in my opinion, Twitter is much more useful for immediately reaching reporters, congresspeople and other influencers, and enlisting them to amplify your message, on traditional or social media. Facebook is best for connecting with people you already know, for organizing and sharing with affinity groups. Twitter is the great democratizer. It can connect you directly with anyone right away, and can help you reach a lot of people–it’s the only major social media platform that allows you that kind of direct access to key influencers.

Twitter is also nimble. It moves very quickly–statuses are limited to 140 characters–and is often where news breaks, before you’ll see it anywhere else. I use Twitter to:

  • Find allies
  • Organize
  • Learn about breaking news and events
  • Contact reporters others in media
  • Contact congresspeople immediately*
  • Share messages and allow them to be amplified by others

*Congressional staffers report that phoning is the most effective way to weigh in and be counted on a topic. Twitter is for breaking news and responses and for getting immediate attention, especially regarding controversial events.

Almost every member of congress on Twitter, as well as members of their staff. Many reporters use Twitter to find stories. I’ve had great personal success connecting with reporters and others through Twitter, who I believe would never have opened my email. This personal success story (and, what the heck, this one) came about through a connection I made on Twitter.

That’s not to say that everyone you mention or message will see your message and respond, but many will, and a wave of people with similar messages and concerns will certainly get someone’s attention.

Twitter is immediate. It forges relationships. It amplifies your message. It gets results.

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How To: Quick Start Guide to Twitter

  1. Sign up for a free Twitter account. Upload profile and header photos and write a brief bio. Don’t worry – you can change these whenever you want.
  2. Follow people Twitter suggests. Once you follow accounts, you’ll see those people’s updates in your feeds.  See below for some suggested lists to follow.
  3. Follow people who the relevant accounts follow. (I tweet about politics at @enter_stream and @millvalleycan.)
  4. Follow relevant accounts:  News and media sources and reporters; people writing about Trump, politics, and resistance; MOCs (members of Congress) and their support staff, such as chiefs of staff, legislative assistants, etc.
  5. Start following certain hashtags (#). Hashtags denote interest areas. Examples are #Resistance or #NotMyPresident or #ImpeachTrump. Popular hashtags change all the time. The purpose of a hashtag is that Twitter users use them to search for tweets and people. You’ll get ideas for the hashtags to search for and to use in your own tweets when you follow other political activists. Look for the following hashtags: #Resistance #TheResistance #NotMyPresident #ImpeachTrump, and many more. They’re often topical based on current news. Examples: #TrumpRussia #Russiagate
  6. Tweet. Go ahead. The first one is the hardest.

Once you find trending hashtags and issues, join in those conversations. Twitter is a multi-way conversation, so you want to engage and listen, not just broadcast.

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How to Get Someone’s Attention on Twitter

1. Tweet to them – Mention them outright by using their Twitter handle within your Tweet. For instance @SenFeinstein or @maddow or @IndivisibleTeam

The person will get a notification that you mentioned them. Everyone looks at their notifications. Congressional staffers look at their notifications, reporters look at their notifications, allies look at their notifications. Once they get a notification, they can choose to engage with you.

If you’ve also used a hashtag in the tweet, other allies may engage with you too, by starting a conversation with you or by sharing what you’ve written.

2. Retweet (RT) them – RT is sharing someone else’s tweet. You can share outright or you can share as a quote and add a comment of your own. If you have space use one of your relevant hashtags so other people searching for the topic can see what you’ve written. RTing isn’t only for your own gain. If you RT, the original poster sees it. They may thank you or get into a conversation with you. If it’s a large account, now all of their followers will see their tweet with your name in it. When Indivisible Guide came out, I tweeted about my local Mill Valley Community Action Network meeting (mentioning and hashtagging them), and they RTd and mentioned MVCAN.

3. Direct Message (DM) them. I generally don’t find this method as effective as the above, which puts their mentions within the public sphere of Twitter, but it is another tool in your arsenal, which may work for you, particularly when reaching out to smaller accounts.

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How to Use Twitter to Build Relationships

Social media is, well, social, and the people who use it best use it to build relationships, and not merely to broadcast. Mention and RT reporters when you like their stories, not just when you want them to do something for you. Build a relationship first–Link to their stories and share them. Likewise, be sure to thank MOCs when they do something you like. Support them. These are trying times and it’s vital to support, in addition, to advocating. Thank reporters for covering an important event or story. MOCs and reporters are human. Be generous in sharing, praising and crediting.

Check your own notifications to see who mentioned you, and engage with them. Follow relevant followers back. Start and enter conversations.

Practice

It takes time to get the hang of Twitter, to find your voice and build a following. Read accounts. You’ll find a lot of articles and actions that you haven’t seen elsewhere. You’ll find news in real time. Like me, you may come to find Twitter the best source of real-time news and conversation. Don’t forget to add pictures.

Fight Overwhelm

Twitter is fast. Updates are 140 characters or less. Don’t worry about keeping up with everything, especially if you are following a lot of people. Think of it as a moving stream. Just jump into each new session. You’re not going to keep up with everything.

Suggested Twitter Lists to Start With

C-SPAN has multiple Twitter lists, such as Senators, Members of Congress, Political Reporters and many more. Go to this C-SPAN link and choose a list to follow and/or manually follow some or all of the members on that list.

Twitter’s Verified List of U.S. Members of Congress (MOCs)

Complete List of Senators’ Multiple Twitter Accounts and Staff Accounts

Follow everyone, or selected accounts, that MVCAN follows

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Read more:

9 Ways to Use Twitter to Connect Politically

Wired’s Twitter Tips for New Users  recommended! very thorough and easy to follow

Mashable’s Guide to Twitter extremely thorough, some may be dated

#SeeyouonTwitter!

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