This is a US-centric post, but some of it probably applies outside the US as well.
Contacting politicians isn’t just about using the phone to make calls. Twitter can *also* be a really useful way to talk to elected officials.
Politicians who have Twitter feeds pay attention to them. They use them to market themselves to constituents, and to gather information about what constituents care about. The way constituents interact with politicians on Twitter can make a real difference.
This is a post explaining some of how I interact with politicians on Twitter. There are a lot of things, and some may seem overwhelming. Don’t feel like you have to do everything — *anything* you do will help, even if it’s only occasional.
I’ve found that it’s much easier to keep up with and interact with politicians if I make Twitter lists of them. Here’s a way to keep up with your representatives on Twitter:
Step one: Make a Twitter list called “Representatives”. Twitter has instructions for making Twitter lists here.
- Step two: Find out who your senators and representatives are:
- You have one Representative in the House. Your state is divided up into congressional districts, and you are represented by the person whose district you live in. Find out who they are here.
- Your state has two Senators. They both represent you. Find out who they are here.
Step three: Find your senators and representatives on Twitter:
- Generally, the fastest way to do this is to search for “[their name] Twitter”
- Senators and congresspeople also often have their Twitter handle on their page.
- (You likely also have local and state level politicians who are on Twitter, but don’t get bogged down trying to find them if it’s taking a while. There will be more information about finding them in a subsequent post.)
Step four: Add your representatives and senators to your Twitter list:
- Now that you have a Twitter list, it’s easier to check up on what your representatives are saying.
- It’s also easier to remember who they are.
- This will be useful in a lot of situations.
Step five: Ready the block button:
- If you’re interacting with politicians on Twitter, you may attract unwanted attention from deplorables, Nazis, misogynists, and other cruel people.
- If you do, remember that you don’t have to talk to them. If people tweet obnoxious things at you, err on the side of blocking them.
- You may also want to subscribe to an automated block list in order to block known cruel people.
- (I subscribe to Nazi Blocker)
Now that you have a Twitter list of your representatives, here are some things you can do with it:
Check your “Representatives” list, and watch what your representatives are doing:
- When you open your list, you will see all your representatives.
- This can be a fast way to keep track of all of them.
- Even if you don’t interact directly, or don’t often interact directly, knowing what’s going on can be helpful.
Reward and boost tweets you like:
- When politicians say things you agree with, like and/or retweet them.
- You can also reply and say something like “Thank you, I’m glad you’re representing me”.
- Politicians use Twitter to market themselves to constituents, so it’s useful to tell them when you see something you like.
- It’s also useful to show *other people* who follow you that a politician is doing something good.
Express disapproval of tweets you *don’t* like:
- When politicians post bad things, it’s useful to tell them that they’re upsetting constituents.
- Eg, you can reply saying something like “I’m a constituent, and I’m appalled that you’d do/say that”.
Reply with a comment:
- You can also reply with comments that say more specific things than “thank you” or “don’t do that”.
- It helps to say something personal that establishes 1) that you’re a constituent, and 2) that this will have a real effect on you.
- Politicians respond well to stories.
- Eg: “I’m a North Carolina small business owner, and this healthcare bill would damage my business”
- Or: “As a public school teacher in [your town], I’m appalled that children are at risk of being deported as school”
Retweet with a comment:
- You can also retweet with a comment. If you do it that way, other people will see it.
- One useful thing to do can be to tag your other representatives.
- Eg: say, your senator @SenatorExample tweets about supporting Good Bill [S. Example Number].
- You can retweet it with a comment “Thank you @ExampleSenator. @OtherSenatorFromMyState @ExampleRepresentative, do you support it too?”
- You can also do that with bills that other people’s senators/representatives support. (I also maintain a list of politicians I like in order to do this.)
You can also initiate contact yourself. Use your Twitter list to remind yourself who your representatives are/what their Twitter handles are, and then you can do these things:
When you get an action alert asking you to call your representatives, you can also tweet to them about the issue:
- Generally speaking, phone scripts are too long for Twitter — but you can still use them to make tweets!
- The most important part is the specific thing you’re asking them to do.
- Usually, this will be either asking them to vote for a bill, cosponsor a bill, or vote against a bill.
- Sometimes it will be other things, eg: Asking senators to call for a Senate hearing on white supremacist violence.
- Point being, action alerts will contain a specific ask, and your tweet should too:
- Eg: “@ExampleSenator @ExampleSenator2 @ExampleRepresenative I’m a constituent from [Your Town], and I’m asking you to vote against Example Terrible Bill”.
- You can also add more details about who you are/why you oppose the bill.
- Eg: “@ExampleSenator @ExampleSenator2 @ExampleRepresenative Everyone deserves the right to vote. Please vote against the Terrible Voter Suppression Act.”
- Eg: “@ExampleSenator @ExampleSenator2 @ExampleRepresenative the Stop Abuses of Power Act would make us safer in [your town]. Please support it”.
Tell your representatives stories about issues you care about:
- Politicians tend to respond well to stories — and they can also sometimes use stories in speeches and negotiations.
- Tweet a story about who you are, and why you care about the issue:
- Eg: “I’m disabled. Civil rights protections made it possible for me to go to school in [your town].”
- Eg: “My grandmother came to this country as an immigrant. Please don’t deport other people’s grandmothers”.
- Eg: “Violent white supremacists marched through my town. I’m scared. What are you doing about it?”
- (If you have relevant pictures, it can be helpful to include them.).
Twitter can also be very useful at protests (whether or not you’re there in person):
Tweet about protests and tag your representatives:
- These days, most protests have hashtags. Include the protest hashtag in your tweet.
- If you’re there, mention that you’re there:
- Tweet something like “@ExampleSenator, I’m at #IStandWithPP asking you not to defund Planned Parenthood”.
- You can also tweet things speakers are saying at the protest.
- Check what others are saying in the protest hashtags. You can also retweet those, and tag your representatives saying you agree.
Tweet pictures of protest signs and tag your representatives:
- Tweeting close-up pictures of people with protest signs can be an effective way to show representatives that you and others care about this issue.
- Ask permission before taking pictures of people at protests — some people may be in danger if their picture is seen.
- When you ask “May I take a picture of your sign to tweet at representatives?”, most people will say yes.
- (But some people may ask that you leave their face out of the picture. *Always* respect this boundary. If someone doesn’t want their face in a picture, *leave their face out*).
- Remember to include the context when you tweet pictures, and make a specific ask.
- Eg: “We’re at #ProtestHashtag, asking you to protect our care by voting against Example Terrible Bill Act. @ExampleSenator @ExampleSenator2 @ExampleRepresenative”
- Some people may ask you to also tag *their* representatives. In which case you can say “@ExampleSenator, one of your constituents asked me to share her sign with you. Please vote against Example Terrible Bill Act.”
- This can show politicians that a protest is happening, remind them that the people protesting are real people and not just generic “protestors”, and show them that some protestors are constituents.
If you can’t go to a protest yourself, you can still use Twitter to draw your representatives’ attention to the protest by:
- Tweeting in the protest hashtag yourself, and tagging your representatives.
- Watching the protest hashtag, retweeting things you agree with, and tagging your representatives in the retweet.
- It’s especially helpful to retweet pictures. Eg:
- Say you see a sign that says “Kill the bill, don’t kill us” in #HealthcareProtest.
- You can retweet that, and add “@ExampleSenator Don’t kill me either. Vote against #AHCA and anything else that would cut Medicaid”.
It’s also useful to tweet/retweet information about where a protest is happening and why it’s happening. Whether or not you’re there, tweeting about it can help other people to go and/or boost the protest’s message.
Tl;dr Twitter can be a really useful way to interact with elected officials. Scroll up for some examples of ways to do it.