Opinion

Twitter is Sacramento’s ‘Fourth House’

A Twitter user logs on with her digital tablet. (Photo: Daniel Krason, via Shutterstock)

It is a colossal mistake for those who desire to influence state policy to ignore Twitter, brushing it off as a playground for pop stars, professional athletes and the President. As demonstrated in Randle Communications’ inaugural Digital Influencer Report, digital advocacy, and specifically Twitter, remains a growing and potent tool for those who seek to shape outcomes in California’s Capitol.

Twitter has become Sacramento’s ‘Fourth House.’ The Governor, nearly every lawmaker, the Capitol Press Corps and stakeholders on all sides of the spectrum are engaged on Twitter. The opportunities to frame and shape debates, support or oppose legislation or to build awareness about issues has expanded beyond the Capitol, becoming a 24/7 perpetual arena of ideas and interests. Not being engaged on Twitter is equivalent to entering the battlefield unarmed and without vital intelligence.

Twitter offered users an inside, real-time look into the last-minute bargaining and deal making, previously only available to those in the back of the chambers.

But as with many things, there is a big difference between being active and being effective. Noise is not music and in the case of digital advocacy, how one uses the medium will make the ultimate difference in terms of success. There are many who are active, but few who take advantage of all the ways they can maximize their digital advocacy programs.

Randle’s Digital Influencer Report is the first-of-its-kind analysis detailing how the technology has become central to California public affairs and the best practices that are shaping the legislative process.

For example, during the final nights of session in September, as lawmakers were lobbied by their colleagues on the chamber floors, Twitter offered users an inside, real-time look into the last-minute bargaining and deal making, previously only available to those in the back of the chambers. The social media savvy members of the Capitol Press Corps, as well as lawmakers, offered their followers a play-by-play of the action, shedding light on key interactions. Beyond the drama and intrigue, Twitter offered insights into lawmaker priorities and alliances; helpful information to carry into 2018 debates.

As soon as the Legislature gaveled down to close out the 2017 session, Randle began reviewing data and analyzing campaigns to identify best practices: what worked and what didn’t. We worked closely with Zignal Labs data to identify the top influencers in the capitol community, including state lawmakers, media and top lobbyist employers. The results were informative and revealed the strategies that helped push legislation across the finish line.  

Take the case of Senate Bill (SB) 54—California’s “Sanctuary State” proposal. Senate President pro Tem Kevin De León’s priority legislation drew criticism from public safety organizations across the state, yet there was little to no opposition active on Twitter. The takeaway is that regardless of whether Capitol stakeholders are interested in public policy debates on Twitter, the discourse over key issues will happen in 280 characters or less with or without you.Would you ever refuse to attend an important public debate? Of course not, and you shouldn’t miss the debate on Twitter either.   

Digital advocacy is about more than sending out pithy comments and hoping lawmakers listen. It’s about maximizing digital channels to grow and leverage an audience to demonstrate authentic support or opposition for a position. SB 17 (Hernandez, D – West Covina) on pharmaceutical pricing was the perfect example. While paid strategies amplify an issue and signal political muscle, proponents of SB 17 energized their digital advocacy campaign through authentic and engaging content, videos and a steady drumbeat of messaging that helped continue momentum into the final stretch of session.

Finally, Randle examined SB 2 (Atkins, D – San Diego), the high-profile housing measure that Governor Brown signed in October. The SB 2 campaign demonstrated why localizing the debate is as important on Twitter as it is in the halls and offices of the state capitol. In the same way lobbyists are experts at narrowing in on the unique appeals to individual lawmakers, digital advocacy campaigns that work well, like SB 2, offer localized content by district. Everyone responds to direct attention, while a one-size-fits-all campaign appears insincere and will rarely garner the attention of decision makers.

From its listing of “Influencer Scores” for lawmakers and the media to its analysis of three of the most hotly contested issues in 2017, Randle Communications’ Digital Influencer report is required reading for anyone who plays in Sacramento. Twitter is not a fad, but rather part of the future of California policymaking. Those who use the medium best will have an incredible competitive advantage.

Ed’s Note: Julie Phillips is Vice President of Public Affairs at Randle Communications. The Digital Influencer report is available online at randlecommunications.com

 

 


Support for Capitol Weekly is Provided by: