Fewer legislators to turn to social media: Edelman study

WASHINGTON: Senior staffers for lawmakers around the world expect a decrease in the use of social media to communicate with constituents in the next three years, according to a study by Edelman.

WASHINGTON: Senior staffers for lawmakers around the world expect a decrease in the use of social media to communicate with constituents in the next three years, according to a study by Edelman.

More than half of legislators (53%) use Twitter to communicate with their constituents, up 15% from 2010, according to the report. More than four in 10 (41%) staffers have seen growth in constituents' use of Twitter to reach lawmakers, up from 7% in 2009.

However, 41% of lawmakers are expected to continue to use Facebook in the next three years, although 60% of staffers say their legislators now use the social network as a communications tool. The use of Twitter by lawmakers is expected to drop to 42% in that time, while legislators' use of text messaging will shrink to 41%, according to the report.

Jere Sullivan, chairman of global public affairs at Edelman, said another not-yet-invented social platform could emerge in that time, noting Twitter was virtually unknown five years ago.

“Who knows what tools we will have three years from now,” he said.

He added that legislators in countries such as France and Germany tend to be more conservative in their use of digital media. However, the firm is hoping to convince them to embrace it, he said.

“The biggest thing to instill in PR staff is that you have to have [social media] built into a campaign if you want to be successful,” Sullivan said. “Not doing so is like going to battle with only half your weapons.”

Sixty percent of staffers said they go to the Internet to learn about important policy issues for the first time, compared with 46% in 2009. One-third (33%) said they have changed their opinions based on what they have read online, a nearly 200% jump from 2009.

Meanwhile, traditional avenues of constituent communications are seen as highly effective. More than nine in 10 (94%) respondents cited in-person visits between legislators and constituents as the most effective way of raising an issue's prominence for a lawmaker, followed by telephone calls (83%), and written letters (81%).

Sullivan said traditional outreach methods will remain primary forms of influence, in part because lawmakers tend to be older while social media users are younger.

The firm interviewed 542 senior legislative staffers in 11 countries, including Argentina, Brazil, China, the UK and US for its third annual Capital Staffers Index.

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