Who Tweets on Behalf of Members of Congress?

It’s 2014 and we’re well aware that Members of Congress rarely compose their own tweets and Facebook posts. There are, of course, a few exceptions: Senator Cory Booker (D-NJ) famously helms his own Twitter account and has recently received media attention for his habit of posting selfies.

Perhaps we have the vague sense that a communications director, or even an intern, is the one who hits “post” on behalf of their lawmaker boss. But more often than not, social media posting in a House or Senate office is more of a collaborative process. In the July 26, 2014 edition of National Journal magazine, NJ’s strategic research team conducted a study in which they asked 125 Hill staffers if they post to Twitter and Facebook on behalf of their lawmakers. The results?

29% of Hill staffers post to social media on their boss’s behalf. Of those individuals, a whopping 28% are press secretaries; 22% are communications directors; 8% are chiefs of staff; 8% are legislative assistants; 8% are legislative correspondents; 6% are staff assistants; 6% are legislative directors; and 14% represent “other staff.”

Lawmakers typically request oversight on social media posting. “Often the communications team is in charge of the drafting and the posting, usually with input and oversight from policy staff,” writes National Journal‘s Stacy Kaper. “Lawmakers are commonly asked to sign off on posts, frequently making edits before they do.”

The lesson for advocacy professionals? Social media posting – be it for your organization, or perhaps one of your senior leaders – can and should be a group effort. We’ve all witnessed the PR crises that have ensued when high-profile social media accounts are accidentally hijacked for personal use by an employee (who remembers the Red Cross Twitter blunder of 2011)? But there are also plenty of examples of mistakes that could have been avoided if the right people were involved and processes were in place to position, word and/or censor each message that is disseminated.

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