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Frequent Congressional Social Media Users Are Outliers

Although they are the smallest caucus on Capitol Hill, Senate Republicans are the most prolific social media users in Congress, according to a study by the Congressional Research Service.

Senate Republicans lead the pack in both the amount of tweets and Facebook updates they send per day, tweeting on average 1.53 times and updating their Facebook pages 0.84 times daily, according to the study released late last month.

They are followed closely on Twitter by Senate Democrats, who tweet an average of 1.49 times per day, and on Facebook by House Republicans, who update their Facebook pages an average of 0.71 times per day.

House Democrats are the least prolific users of both Twitter and Facebook, the study found, tweeting an average of 1.09 times per day, and updating their Facebook pages an average of 0.48 times per day, according to the study.

Although the CRS study was comprehensive — analyzing 30,765 tweets and 16,261 Facebook updates from 451 of 541 members of Congress, including delegates and Puerto Rico’s resident commissioner — the data collected was from August 2011 to October 2011, eons ago in social media time.

A Pew Research Center study found that although Twitter usage by adults is still low — with about 15 percent of adults using the social media website — the percent of users doubled between 2011 and 2012.

The CRS study also found that the top 20 percent of Twitter and Facebook users from Congress compose more than half of the tweets sent per day, meaning that prolific tweeters such as Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., who often tweets a dozen or more times per day, are outliers in the group averages.

Authors of the CRS study acknowledge that social media use is a rapidly evolving phenomenon, and that members of Congress are adapting to the medium rapidly as they come to realize that social media allows them to better communicate with their constituents.

The CRS also reported that members are devoting more resources to staffers who devote their time to social media, which they say is indicative of the importance of the tools to member communication strategies.

“These mediums allow Members to communicate directly with constituents (and others) in a potentially interactive way that is not possible through mail or email,” the study concludes. “For Members and their staff, the ability to collect and transmit real time information to and from constituents could be influential for issue prioritization, policy decisions, or voting behavior.”

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