Now that your campaign supporters are still hearing from you and your official website is flawless, it’s time to reach out to potential supporters where they are. Broadly this could mean going on a site such as Reddit or participating in a national grass-roots political blog such as Red State or Daily Kos. But I’d also suggest seeking online communities in your home state or around issues that you care about. The best way to expand your own grass-roots network is to find people where they’re congregating online, introduce yourself and get to know them on their turf.
The most important thing to remember is that you’re having a conversation and not just broadcasting. The Internet talks back, and if you’re not listening, even your biggest supporters will eventually tune you out. Some easy ways to engage are to solicit feedback, respond to questions and report back frequently on people’s concerns.
I won’t pretend that participating online as a member of Congress is easy. It takes time, attention and resources. There are campaign finance laws and congressional ethics rules to learn. And it goes without saying that not every person you encounter online will agree or be civil. But the benefits of committing to an online presence far outweigh the risks. The Internet isn’t some distant future; it’s the reality that your supporters and constituents live in. Continuing the online conversation keeps the grass roots involved in the Democratic process, and it’s the best way to communicate with your constituents because the Internet is where they are — and where they’ll continue to be.
Melissa Ryan is a digital strategist who handled blog and progressive media outreach for the Obama campaign. Follow her on Twitter @melissaryan.
Rep. Elijah Cummings, D-Md., right, hugs Harold Schaitberger, General President of the International Association of Fire Fighters, after the Congressman spoke at the IAFF's Legislative Conference General Session at the Hyatt Regency on Capitol Hill, March 9, 2015. The day featured addresses by members of Congress and Vice President Joe Biden.