House Testimony: The Impact of Social Media on Congressional Communications Strategy

October 31, 2019  ·   Policy

Our co-director Joshua A. Tucker testified before the House Select Committee on the Modernization of Congress.

Credit: C-SPAN

Today, NYU's Center for Social Media and Politics (CSMaP) Co-Director Joshua A. Tucker testified before the House Select Committee on the Modernization of Congress at a hearing entitled "Congress and the Frank: Bringing Congressional Mailing Standards into the 21st Century."

Although the hearing largely covered how members of Congress use traditional postal mail for communications, Tucker's testimony explained how the shift to social media could change their strategies. Specifically, he made the following points:

  • Social media are viable platforms for reaching large portions of the US population due to their increasingly widespread use by large segments of the US adult population.

  • There is, however, a great deal of variation in how social media tools can be used to communicate with the public both due to platform affordances and the preferences of individual Members of Congress.

  • There are crucial distinctions between communicating with constituents through the US Postal Service and social media platforms due to the fact that the latter are large, multinational, for-profit corporations that fundamentally rely on ad revenue for their business models.

    • Members consequently have much less control over how their messages are delivered and to whom, as well as much less ability to monitor in retrospect how well these processes are working.

  • Ongoing efforts to make social media data available for outside research and analysis, therefore, should provide value to Members of Congress seeking to use these platforms to communicate with constituents, as access to social media data will be necessary to assess the functioning and impact of Congressional communication efforts.

Read Tucker's full testimony here and watch it below, starting at 24:53.