Now that your campaign supporters are still hearing from you and your official website is flawless, itís 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 Iíd 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 theyíre congregating online, introduce yourself and get to know them on their turf.
The most important thing to remember is that youíre having a conversation and not just broadcasting. The Internet talks back, and if youíre 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 peopleís concerns.
I wonít 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 isnít some distant future; itís the reality that your supporters and constituents live in. Continuing the online conversation keeps the grass roots involved in the Democratic process, and itís the best way to communicate with your constituents because the Internet is where they are ó and where theyíll 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.
James Jones, communications director for DC Vote, tapes a "DC Constituents Service Day" sign on the wall as he stands with other DC residents outside of Rep. Andy Harris's office on Capitol Hill to protest Harris' actions against D.C.'s marijuana laws on Thursday, July 24, 2014. DC Vote encouraged DC residents to bring their complaints about city services to the Maryland congressman.