This report provides an overview of social media usage among government officials, entities, policymakers, and community-based organizations. Part (A) outlines popular platforms and their usages. Part (B) suggests methods of achieving a viral spread on social media. Part (C) provides examples of popular political blogs.
Part (A): This section provides insights on popular social media platforms among government officials, entities, policymakers, and community-based organizations.
Twitter has become often used by policymakers to communicate policy. Evidence promotes the interactive use of Twitter by political figures (making it a best practice), but the amount that policymakers are receptive to information coming from Twitter is not clear.
- In the U.S., 22 percent of all adults use Twitter, as of 2019.
- "Nearly all" health policymakers had Twitter accounts as of 2016 and it was thus determined to be an effective means of strategically reaching policymakers with information on research.
- Twitter is referred to as President Trump's "favorite form of communication."
- The Trump presidency represents an era of "rule by tweet" as other politicians follow in his footsteps of issuing public decrees through Twitter.
- Trump has engaged in Twitter wars with North Korean president Kim Jong Un, French President Emmanual Macron and Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, indicating that other world leaders are accessing and utilizing the platform.
- Twitter is used by politicians to start a discussion or get onto mainstream media news.
- Individual policymakers like Cory Booker have used Twitter to actively engage with the citizens of his district to respond to requests.
- A study from 2014 found that political figures that use Twitter interactively (instead of just using a top-down method of communicating their stances) had more positive reception.
- Not all tweets come from the politicians themselves. In Trump's case, Dan Scavino Jr. (White House director of social media) often writes the tweets posted by the @realDonaldTrump account.
Facebook continues to have the largest user base, and thus the largest potential audience for making a post or issue go viral.
- According to Facebook's report in 2018, more than 60 percent of all internet users use Facebook. As the wide majority of policymakers, entities, officials, and community groups are internet users for personal or work purposes, an equivalent percentage can be assumed.
- Because of its large user base, Facebook should be "always" used to achieve social media outreach.
- In the U.S., Facebook's popularity is decreasing. In 2016, it was used by 79 percent; in 2019, it was used by 69 percent of all adults.
- While dated, a 2012 survey of government officials found that 4 out of 5 used Facebook at home.
- As with Twitter, research indicates that politicians tend to use Facebook to make top-down statements rather than to engage actively with their base.
- Taking a photo with a policymaker and tagging them or tagging an entity or community organization with a relevant image on Facebook along with shared gratitude is an effective means of reaching and engaging those parties.
Instagram is becoming increasingly important for connecting with younger adults, including policymakers that are adopting the platform.
- Image-based Instagram is the most rapidly growing platforms for overall users and thus capacity for reach. In 2016, 32 percent of U.S. adults used it, increasing to 37 percent in 2019.
- Younger policymakers such as Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez use Instagram to communicate and engage with their followers.
- 67 percent of adults ages 18-29 are on Instagram, making it the largest age group using it, while 47 percent of adults 30-49 are using the platform.
- The most effective means of successfully reaching policymakers through social media is to use the platform they are on. While Facebook and Twitter have the greatest number of policymakers on their platforms, this may change in the future as younger officials are elected.
- Nonprofit organizations are using Instagram to showcase powerful images related to their subject of interest for greater viral traction. Similar techniques can thus be used for similar effect in reaching members of those organizations with a post that goes viral.
Part (B): This section provides insights on making a topic go viral on social media.
Usage of Hashtags
- Several popular social media platforms enable the use of hashtags, including Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram. Using the same hashtag across platforms enables greater reach and potential spread through different audiences.
- It helps if a major public figure is involved. The #MeToo terminology and hashtag only gained popularity when actress Alyssa Milano shared her story and encouraged others to respond with #metoo. Within 24 hours, 4.7 million people on Facebook and 1 million people on Twitter had used the hashtag.
- Knowing your audience and your platform is important. Keep a Breast Foundation successfully developed and harnessed the #CheckYourSelfie campaign on Instagram. It was successful because most Instagram users are young adults, which is the campaign's target audience.
- Once a custom hashtag is created to advance your cause, use it often and in various channels.
- Pair custom hashtags with well-known hashtags (such as #RareDisease) in the same post to enable the custom hashtag to spread to relevant audiences.
Add Controversy for Viral Spread
- Social media campaigns that include posts that have added controversy or outright falsehoods are more likely to spread faster than posts that do not elicit an emotional response.
- After studying 126,000 stories spread through 4.5 million tweets, an MIT team concluded that "falsehood diffused significantly farther, faster, deeper and more broadly than truth in all categories of information."
- Posts that prompt at least one of the following emotional reactions are more likely to be spread (and thus achieve greater attention), per MIT's study: anger, fear, anticipation, trust, surprise, sadness, joy or disgust.
- Posts that prompt sadness, fear, and disgust spread fastest of those provoking emotional responses.
- As an example of how controversy causes tweets to spread, IHOP created a social media flurry when it announced (falsely) that it was changing its name to "IHOB", with the "b" standing for burgers. 1.2 million Twitter users tweeted about the campaign in the following 10 days.
- Even though IHOP was never going to change its name, announcing that it did still result in a quadrupling of its burger sales. In other words, IHOP used fake news to spread real awareness of its product, a technique that can reasonably be used to spread awareness of issues with adequate strategic planning.
Part (C): This section details political blogs that are popular with government officials, entities, policymakers, and community-based organizations.
- Politico is a blog and opinion news site based in Virginia.
- Politico has been accused of leaning to the left in its posts.
- Politico is rated as "least biased" by Media Bias/Fact Check with a "high" rate of factual reporting.
- Politico is said to the political blog that "actual politicians read" by DailyU news site.
- Politico's Playbook is rated as the number one political newsletter by politicians.
- Newsmax is a political blog operating from Florida.
- In a 2016 study, the blog site that Donald Trump had articles printed from the most was Newsmax.
- Newsmax has a "right bias" and offers a mixed factual reporting according to Media Bias/Fact Check.
- Newsmax posts deceptive advertising and promotes pseudo-scientific information.
- Newsmax was ranked at #1060 globally for traffic to it in the category of news and information sites.
- 8.51 million visitors came to Newsmax from September 2019 to March 2020.
- The Hill is a website, blog source, and opinion site based in Washington, D.C.
- The Hill is considered to be a "must-read" for politicians and policymakers.
- The Hill is rated as the 5th-best political website for overall usage by Propellant Media.
- The Hill is considered to be non-partisan and centrist.
- The Hill ranks #186 for news and information sites around the world.
- The Hill had more than 62 million visitors from September 2019 to March 2020.
- DailyKos is a political blog based in the United States.
- DailyKos is one of the oldest running political blogs on the web.
- DailyKos has attracted the attention of many liberal politicians, some of whom use it to post their own content.
- DailyKos has a left bias and posts mixed facts at times.
- DailyKos ranks #661 for news and information site traffic with 13.57 million visitors from September 2019 to March 2020.