Thirty Times the Communication? No Problem.

With so many messages getting communicated to Members of Congress, there is always the potential of going into overload. We're proud to say that our CRM has had absolutely no issues with capacity. On average, we receive between 500 and 2,000 emails a day for our customers. However, on Tuesday we had a banner day: we processed about 30,000 emails across all our House customers with absolutely no issues. Yesterday it was about 20,000.  Such a reliable system in place means no slowing down of your messages and no time wasted to get back to constituents.  And in today's real-time pace, that's crucial.  We’re able to deliver because we use the most advanced technology and highly-skilled staff on the Hill.

When time is of the essence and constituent communications is at its height, it’s essential your system is reliable. That’s what we are here for. We take care of it — so you don't have to.

Via AllFacebook: SURVEY: U.S. Congressmen Really Like Facebook

http://www.allfacebook.com/facebook-like-congress-us-2011-07

Members of Congress like it, they really like it… Facebook, that is.

According to survey findings released today, social media managers and senior staff on Capitol Hill prefer Facebook for understanding constituents views as well as sharing Members’ opinions.

The Congressional Management Foundation’s report, “Perceptions and Use of Social Media on Capitol Hill,” reveals that Congressional offices are embracing Facebook to gauge public opinion, communicate with constituents and reach new people.

In a Facebook D.C. Live event today, CMF Chief Executive Officer Bradford Fitch (pictured) contrasted social media with more traditional mainstream media:

The personality of members of Congress comes through on social media. These channels allow for an inside view of how the institution operates. For example, members can share their memories on a national holiday, like Memorial Day. Or discuss the tone of a caucus meeting.

Highlights of the survey include:

  • Nearly two out of every three (64 percent) of the senior managers and social media managers surveyed think Facebook is a somewhat or very important tool for understanding constituents’ views and opinions.
  • Nearly three-quarters (74 percent) of the senior managers and social media managers we surveyed think Facebook is somewhat or very important for communicating their Members’ views.
  • Almost three out of every four staffers (72 percent) believe that social media allows their members to reach people they had previously not communicated with.

Andrew Noyes, manager of public policy communications for Facebook in Washington, D.C.  said:

We’re pleased that more than 400 members of Congress use Facebook to communicate and connect with their constituents in an official capacity. The Congressional Management Foundation’s new findings underscore how Facebook has empowered Capitol Hill offices and citizens to connect in a way that is simple, personal, and engaging.

Facebook is one of the few third-party websites that has been approved for official use by both the U.S. House of Representatives and the U.S. Senate.

Readers, what do you think of your elected officials’ use of Facebook?

Congress= Innovative? iConstituent Launching Mobile Apps for Congressmen and Women

Via @ Tech Cocktail:

http://techcocktail.com/congress-innovative-iconstituent-launching-mobile-apps-for-congressmen-and-women-2011-07#.Ti8ccb-R3BB

Congress isn’t exactly associated with innovation, but a DC-based startup has been helping bring Congress into the 21st century with more interactive, online communications that go beyond eNewsletters.

iConstituent provides nearly 40% of Congress, statewide office holders, state legislative caucuses, and various non-governmental organizations with products and services that range from website publishing to smartphone apps.

 that allow his constituents to call his office, check his position and other contact information, take surveys and access content generated by his office.   Here’s a short video explaining the app:

A bunch of House members, including Ben Quayle (R-Ariz.), Erik Paulsen (R-Minn), and Bill Shuster (R-Penn.), already have their own apps, also developed by iConstituent.

While I think making it easier to keep in touch with your Congressional representatives is a great idea, I am curious as to how many people have downloaded and are actually using these apps.  Though with frustration over Congress’ inability to agree on a debt reduction plan, this might be a great time to start using the app to communicate with Congress!

Embrace Your News Feed

Facebook tabs are a great way to engage with your constituents. They are vital for welcoming new people and for advertising. But what you might not realize is that news feed are even more important, because most engagement with Facebook pages occurs in the news feed.

Here’s a few bits of useful information:

A Simple Strategy.
Because of the importance of news feeds, consider spending your resources on a content strategy surrounding your news feed, rather than on page applications. This very well could mean more engagement with your existing fans and new visitors to your site. 

Otherwise engaged.
Says Inside Facebook: “New statistics shared with us by analytics service provider PageLever indicate that Facebook Pages with more fans receive fewer unique Page views per fan. This means the focus of Page admins and the Facebook industry on Page tab applications for engagement may be misplaced, as most engagement with Pages with more than one million Likes occurs in the news feed.”
 [www.insidefacebook.com/2011/06/22/unique-page-views/]

Speaking of Strategy. . .
When it comes to content, pictures and videos generate more impressions than text alone. Remember this when it comes to your strategy.

We want to know:What is your news feed strategy?

How Do We Get More People to Interact with Their Representatives? Social Media and the Future of Democracy: Part Four

In the last installation of this four-part series, I'd like to cover the final — and pressing — question we face. As modes of communications change, let's look at how we can use available technology toward our ultimate goal: increasing communications, which ultimately promotes our democracy.

Increasing the Quantity of Impact

Currently, as an aggigate, Congress has a rate of 10% of constituents communicating with their Representatives. This is a dishearteningly low statistic, in my opinion.  At the Brookings Institute, I asked the question: How can we boost this number? 

A panelist made the point that we can start measuring things differently, when possible.  And another panelist used an example of imagining that you see an opinion online from a friend. It may affect you on some level, however you might not even realize it until a later conversation. The impact of that opinion cannot be quantified.  So perhaps what we need to ask is not: How can we reach certain numbers? Maybe the question has changed to: What can we do to get people to take action?

I think social networks are the key to unlocking this door.  And I think the future is mobile. Mobile is exploding, and so are social networks. If an extremely easy way to interact with your Representative via a mobile device existed, this could surely change communication as we know it. These are just a few ideas…

We want to know:  What do you see for the future of mobile and social networks? 
 

Social Media and the Future of Democracy Part Three: Can Technology Turn the Tide of Partisanship?

By Andrew Foxwell, Director of Marketing and New Media

In the last blog in this series on technology and the future, I talked about how trust is moving away from large institutions. Moving right along, here’s my next point:

Technology Can Lead to Greater Civility in Politics

Every day, people tell me that we need to be more civil in our politics. So what can we do to change the tone in Washington? It’s a big question. Some believe that we’ve always been partisan and social networking just reflects and brings light into what is actually happening. I believe this statement has validity.  However, I believe that with technology and real time feedback, we have the ability to get to a more genuine connection that is, in essence, better for civility. 

While people may still be throwing fits at each other, technology allows us to achieve a better and more genuine bond with our Representatives, one where they truly listen and take in what we have to say to them.  This leads to the concept of outbound messaging I have spent a lot of time thinking about recently- what I call the 'intention of impact.'  This concept is as follows: if the intention of impact of your outbound message is to coerce reactions then you'll get that.  Simple enough.  However, if the intention of impact is to gather feedback from all channels and listen to constituent opinions, then you'll get a much better connection and feedback cycle that people will trust.  This, just like in business, shows the importance of truly diving in on social media in reference to your Congressional brand, creating a better bond with constituents.

It's neccesary that we become creative with the outbound communications because this will lead to better interactions.  What about instead of a form letter, your office sending a personalized video response back to a constituent?   Or instead of seeing them once and shaking their hand, you can hold video chats via your official Facebook page that are open and honest conversations.  Indeed, these ideas are beginnings of greater respect and communication for all.  

The bottom line:  When used in the right way, technology can help improve partisanship, not hinder it. 

The final installment: How can we get more people to interact with their representatives? 

Top Six Things Marketers Need to Know About Google Plus (from Huffington Post)

This post is written by David All, the Chief Creative Officer at David All Group. Google Plus is an interesting application and we think it's useful to keep you updated on technologies as they evolve.

– iConstituent

Originally posted at: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/david-all/top-six-things-marketers-_b_893605.html

Google recently rolled out the Google Plus project, which seeks to make sharing online more like sharing in real life. Google Plus, already known by the shorthand "G Plus", takes the best features of Twitter and Facebook and combines them into one concise channel.

Here are the top six things every marketer needs to know about Google Plus:

Project vs. product: This is called the Google Plus project because Google wants users to know that it is adding a social layer to ALL Google products (search, photos, YouTube, etc.) rather than creating a stand-alone social application like Facebook.

Engagement is king: Google Plus is all about engagement. It has the potential to widely spread content and be a major driver of traffic to other websites. Google's search engine already serves that role, and Google+ undoubtedly will enhance it. Google Plus has become one of the top 10 referrers of traffic to TechCrunch, a top technology blog, in a matter of days.

Create circles: One of the main Google Plus features lets users categorize their connections into "circles" — such as business contacts, friends and family — and share different information with each circle, as in real life. Facebook attempted to do this with lists, but the process there is time-consuming and burdensome. Google Plus circles are easier to create and use. Unlike Facebook, you don't have to accept all "friends" into one large network and share information that at times may be irrelevant to many of them. You also can create niche circles for specific purposes — a "Media" circle to connect with the press, for instance, or an "Industry" circle to share information that will help establish your organization's reputation as a thought leader in your field.

Share information that sparks conversation: Google is an information engine, and the "sparks" feature extends that mission to Google Plus. Sparks make it easy for people to find interesting information to share with their circles. Sparks also filter information, providing you relevant content about your interests. Its location within Google Plus and its ease of sharing encourages users to share information with relevant circles. An example may be an organization, such as DAG, using sparks to find new information on Google Plus and then starting a conversation about how that news affects our team, clients and industry.

Hanging out online: The "hangouts" feature of Google Plus allows you to video chat with up to 10 people at once. Unlike Facebook's new video chat feature, which requires you to initiate a call, Google Plus lets you tell specific people (or entire circles) you are "hanging out" and invite them to join you for a face-to-face chat. Hangouts also foster group video chats, and therefore collaboration.

Start early, but tread with caution: Google Plus is not ready for businesses and organizations — yet. Google says it will have pages ready later this year and is actively discouraging brands not to create profiles before then. But you can get ahead of the curve by adding a "Plus 1" button to your website and applying to be a part of the Google Plus for businesses pilot program. You also can encourage representatives from your organization to create Google Plus profiles in order to start the conversation about your brand.

Google Plus is an exciting project — one that is clearly just beginning. For marketers, this provides a fresh opportunity to have relevant conversations with your brand activists.
 

Social Media and the Future of Democracy Part Two: The Movement of trust away from large institutions and toward social networks.

By Andrew Foxwell, Director of Marketing and New Media

The future is now.  In my last blog, I talked about how people are more important than brands, based on what I learned from the recent session I attended at the Brookings Institute, “How Social Networking Can Reinvigorate Democracy and Civic Participation.”

Here’s the next takeaway from that thought-provoking event:

Trust is moving away from large institutions

and toward social networks.

Instead of a homepage like CNN.com, people are now switching, en-masse, to their social networks for curated news they trust.  This makes sense: a friend telling you to read something is likely more interesting because they’ve already vetted it. 

This leads to the importance of Representatives having a presence on these mediums, where they are accessible.  Although it’s all too common, fear of these mediums and their impact is well behind the times. Whether you like it or now, people are talking, trusting, and taking part. And the more you interact, the more trusted and relevant you become.  

And don’t discount the power of fact-checking.  Be sure your intention is clear and true.  People are seeing through things more quickly and more efficiently, which is good for our democracy.  Today, citizens are now journalists that fact-check the halls of power.  This means a greater chance — and responsibility — for the average person to communicate effectively.

The bottom line: Social media is the future. Embrace it and make it work for you so you stay relevant.

Next in the Series: Technology Can Lead to Greater Civility in Politics

Social Media and the Future of Democracy Part One: Brands Aren't About People – Democracy Is

By Andrew Foxwell, Dir. of Marketing / New Media, iConstituent

Recently, I attended a session at the Brookings Institution called “How Social Networking Can Reinvigorate American Democracy and Civic Participation.”  It was an interesting panel made up of campaign consultants, academics and a representative from The White House.  From the discussion, it was obvious that all of these stakeholders have thought extremely in-depth about what technology can and is doing to change the way our democracy works.  With internet access increasing every day, it isn’t out of the question that one day all votes would come through the internet, for example. 

Currently, and with obvious exceptions, much of the technological innovation in the political sphere comes out of the campaign side.  But it’s clear that those inside the House and Senate are moving in this direction as well.  The demands for content are changing every single day, with videos, audio, and live-stream events at the forefront of interest.  Quora is also taking a lot of interesting turns, delivering real-time questioning and feedback that is a perfect way to get the exact answers constituents want. 

The panel covered these topics, and many more. In this three-part blog, I’ll reveal the main take-aways that are the most relevant to you, our clients.

Brands aren’t about people —  democracy is.

This statement rings quite true and it’s a concept I’ve thought a lot about recently.  The fact that someone can log on to Facebook and tell Coca-Cola that they love/hate their product is amazing.  But just as some products try to invade into people’s lives, the same can happen for Representatives. The reality is that some issues will hit home with people and some ways of asking them to sign up will work.  But not everyone is going to sign up for an email newsletter because you send them to a form.  What’s the incentive? What’s the real reason a constituent wants yet another email from my representative?  If I am going to sign up for an eNewsletter, what do I get out of it?  These are questions to think about constantly as a Congressional communicator.

The quick bottom line: Connect with people above all else.

Next in the series: Trust is moving away from large institutions and toward social networks. 

Please Give A Warm Welcome To Constituent Gateway 3.5

We love upgrades because we can save you time, improve your workflow, and help you achieve more integration. And that’s what we’re all about. Here’s what Constituent Gateway 3.5 has to offer:

Stronger Microtargeting.
Use the different data stored in the Voter File — including geographic, demographic, and voting history — to micro-target constituent’s with eNewsletters.

Automatically push out selections created via the Voter File Selection Tool into a list in the eNewsletter to create a mailing.

iConstituent Website customers can target the people who have actively sought you out — high value constituents who have a track record of wanting to engage.

New Mobile App
Use our Mobile App Report to see statistics on Mobile App usage, broken down by section so that you can see exactly how many each part of the App was used.

Improved Website
Share website content easier and boost search engine ranking with Friendly URLs.

See what queries visitors used to search on your website so you can understand what kind of information constituents want and get ideas for new content.

Publish multiple images simultaneously to the Constituent Gateway for maximum efficiency.

Social Media
Three new e-Stat Reports give you insight on where your eNewsletters are being shared, who is sharing them, and who is influencing other people to view the eNewsletters from their social network posts.

We want to know: What new functions will help improve your communications?