Rep. John Garamendi (D-Calif.) was one of the first Members to utilize the platform by doing an IAmA in March 2011.
Polis — an Internet entrepreneur who describes himself as a “gamer” and a “nerd” — says Reddit is a great way for social-media-savvy Members to reach out to and interact with their constituents.
“I think for Members of Congress who are new-media-savvy, it can be an excellent way to increase name recognition and garner support with younger voters and the tech community,” Polis said. “But for Members that are not as new-media-savvy, I wouldn’t advise it. It’s not something you can outsource. You have to do it yourself … and you have to know the language.”
Bradley Shear, a lawyer who specializes in social media law, said the IAmA online town halls have their drawbacks — the most notable being that you can never be sure whether those participating are your constituents. But he said getting questions and comments from the public at large is a good way for politicians to gauge the popularity of their ideas and hear viewpoints they might not get at a traditional town hall.
“Politicians may use the site to send out trial balloons,” Shear said. “They can send out a message on Reddit and see what people think. They can do it anonymously or do it under their own name. … It can give them a chance to put their toe in the water to see how the wind blows without getting too much blowback.”
Terri Henderson, 6, center, whose mother is El Salvador, attends a rally with members of Congress at Union Station's Columbus Circle to announce the Restore Opportunity, Strengthen, and Improve the Economy (ROSIE) Act on July 29, 2014. The legislation provides incentives for government contractors to pay a living wage and other benefits that would help low-income workers.