1 Congress + Social Media
2 Congress + Social Media October 22, 2012 Sherri R. Greenberg Lyndon B. Johnson School of Public Affairs The University of Texas at Austin
3 2012 by The University of Texas at Austin. All rights reserved.
4 Research Team Project Director: Sherri R. Greenberg Students: Bryce Bencivengo Lyndon B. Johnson School of Public Affairs, 2013 Matthew T. Cornelius Lyndon B. Johnson School of Public Affairs, 2013 Daniel Dillon Lyndon B. Johnson School of Public Affairs, 2013 Noelle Gaughen Lyndon B. Johnson School of Public Affairs, 2013 Rhiannon Goad Lyndon B. Johnson School of Public Affairs, 2013 Center for Women s and Gender Studies, 2013 Elizabeth Joseph Lyndon B. Johnson School of Public Affairs, 2013 Racheal Kane Lyndon B. Johnson School of Public Affairs, 2013 Tara Kavaler Lyndon B. Johnson School of Public Affairs, 2013 Alyssa Legler Lyndon B. Johnson School of Public Affairs, 2013 Jessica Conway Lyndon B. Johnson School of Public Affairs, 2013 Charles Maddox Lyndon B. Johnson School of Public Affairs, 2013 Linnea Nasman Lyndon B. Johnson School of Public Affairs, 2013 Andrew Phifer Lyndon B. Johnson School of Public Affairs, 2013 Reid Porter Lyndon B. Johnson School of Public Affairs, 2013 Brooke Russell Lyndon B. Johnson School of Public Affairs, 2013 Phil Ulloa Lyndon B. Johnson School of Public Affairs, 2012 Courtney Weaver Lyndon B. Johnson School of Public Affairs, 2013 School of Social Work, 2013
6 Table of Contents Executive Summary vii Introduction 1 Overview 1 Platforms 1 Current Research 3 Methodology 5 Background 5 Post Dataset Collection 5 Coding for Post Dataset 6 Member Dataset Collection 8 Data Analysis 9 Congressional Use of Social Media 9 The Geography of Congressional Usage 10 Usage Variation Across Congress 11 Profile Data 15 Correlations 16 Discussion of Results 17 Context: Limitations of Current Policy and Considerations for the Future 19 Rapid Changes in Current and Future Technology 19 Legislating Use, Not Intent 19 Privacy and Security 19 Accuracy 19 Public Participation Does Social Media Count? 19 Expectations for Communication and Response Time 20 To Regulate or Not To Regulate 20 Application of the Franking Privilege 20 Policy Options 21 Training and Education 21 Best Practices 22 Regulation and Legislation 24 Future Research 29 Conclusion 31 Bibliography 33 Appendix A: Glossary of Terms 35 Appendix B: Sources for Existing Social Media Policies 37
8 Executive Summary As social media popularity has increased in the United States, so has the use of social media by Members of Congress. Communication technology developments of the 20th century, such as , changed the way Members interact with their constituents, the media, and other interested parties. Common social media platforms including Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube are now routine communication tools for Members and their staffs, and the rapid pace of development in social media will continue to shape interactions between Members of Congress and the public. This report explores the official use of social media by current Members of Congress, including the history of adoption, analysis of current social media behavior, best practices, and policy options for future use. To understand how and why Members use social media, researchers collected data from official congressional social media accounts on Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube. The research team collected approximately 47,000 messages posted by Members on Facebook and Twitter from 59 consecutive days between August and October Researchers coded, individual messages as one or more of eight categories: Campaign, Official Congressional Action, Position-Taking, Policy Statement, District or State, Media or Public Relations, Personal, and Other. We collected profile information from Facebook and YouTube during a single week in February The data that we collected reveals that a large majority of Members have adopted social media as part of their communication strategy, and that Members are devoting time and resources to their digital presence. Currently, 72 percent of Members have accounts on all three platforms, while only 2 percent have no current social media presence. Senators are more frequent users than Representatives, and Republicans are more frequent users than Democrats. Both Democrats and Republicans primarily posted Position-Taking messages. Additionally, Democrats posted more messages than Republicans on District and State Affairs. Republican messages focused more on Official Congressional Action, Media, and Policy Statements than Democrats messages. Some of these differences between parties and chambers may be attributable to differences in leadership, organization, and status as minority or majority party. An analysis of social media use by several Congresses over time would enhance the understanding of these differences. While social media allows Members to interact with followers, current usage is largely one-sided. Feedback mechanisms integrated into social media platforms including view counters and comments show no correlation with a Member s social media output. External factors such as committee appointments, prominence in the media, and leadership positions may be a better determinant of social media popularity than any controllable patterns of use. Current congressional policies for social media stem from the tradition of franking regulations, and rapid adoption of new social media technologies has outpaced official recognition and regulation. Franking regulations, originally designed for stamped mail, have proven to be difficult to apply to electronic communications. Future policies must reconcile the tension between the informal, interactive communication allowed by social media and the need to maintain official process, protect privacy and security, and adhere to ethics rules. Policies should take into account the rapid pace of change of social media, and the instantaneous communication that it offers. Policies should seek to guide the best use of social media and to prevent any abuses of privilege or taxpayer dollars.
10 Just as social media and just-in-time applications have changed the way Americans get information about current events or health information, they are now changing how citizens interact with elected officials and government agencies. People are not only getting involved with government in new and interesting ways, they are also using these tools to share their views with others and contribute to the broader debate around government policies. Aaron Smith, Research Specialist at the Pew Research Center s Internet & American Life Project 1 Introduction Overview Since Congress began using in the 1990s, internet-based constituent communication consistently has increased. From fax, to , to interactive web pages, today, Members of Congress widely have adopted social media. In fact, 98 percent of Congress has adopted at least one social media platform as a communication and outreach tool. 2 These technologies enable Members to communicate with more constituents in direct and, often, innovative ways. Existing social media platforms continue to evolve even as developers create new platforms. The constantly changing technology poses questions regarding the appropriate use of social media by Members of Congress. The focus of this project is to provide an overview and analysis of the use of social media by Members of Congress based on data collected by the project team from social media s most popular platforms: Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube. To understand how, why, and for what purposes Members of Congress use social media, researchers compiled two datasets. One dataset contains messages posted by Members on both Facebook and Twitter and documents the frequency with which Members post to their accounts, as well as the types of messages they send. A second dataset analyzes trends apparent on Members Facebook and YouTube profile pages, specifically examining how Members present themselves on these platforms. This report examines Congress Members use of social media, provides an analysis of the potential policy implications, and outlines various policy options and social media best practices. 1. Government Online. Pew Research Center, Internet and American Life Project. org/reports/2010/government-online.aspx (accessed April 17, 2012). 2. Use of Social Media by Members of Congress. LBJ School of Public Affairs. August 25, 2011 to October 25, Platforms The social media platforms that we analyzed in this project share several characteristics. All are free, accessible with mobile devices, often integrated with one another, and popular worldwide; but the usage, ownership, and rules of each platform differ. Facebook Launched in February 2004, Facebook is now the world s largest social networking service and website. 3 As of February 2012, Facebook had more than 845 million active users. 4 Facebook provides two categories of membership for users: profiles 5 and pages 6. Profiles are personalized websites within Facebook belonging to individual Facebook users. 7 The profile pages of Members of Congress, however, are simply referred to as pages rather than profiles. 8 Members of Congress create pages under Facebook s Government Official category, which is reserved for elected officials to use for their official government duties Emil Protalinski. Facebook has over 845 million users. Technology News, Analysis, Comments and Product Reviews for IT Professionals. zdnet.com/blog/facebook/facebook-has-over-845- million-users/8332 (accessed March 21, 2012). 4. Ibid. 5. Facebook Glossary. Facebook. com/help/glossary. (accessed April 29, 2012). 6. Pages Overview. Facebook. ads.ak.facebook.com/ads/ FacebookAds/Pages_Overview.pdf (accessed March 21, 2012). 7. Ibid. 8. Facebook Pages: Mission control for your business on Facebook, Facebook. ads/facebookads/pages_product_guide_ pdf (accessed March 21, 2012). 9. Ibid.
11 Congress + SOCIAL MEDIA A Facebook user becomes a fan of a page by clicking like on the Facebook page of interest. 10 Then, the activity of the liked page appears on the user s newsfeed. 11 A newsfeed contains activities by a user s friends, along with content generated by the pages of which the user is a fan. 12 Members of Congress communicate with users on Facebook primarily through the newsfeed, posting updates that are then read by those who opt-in for updates. 13 Thus, each Facebook user s newsfeed is personalized. 14 Newsfeed content can include links to news stories, personal updates, videos, comments, and photographs. In addition to adding content to a user s newsfeed, Members of Congress may send private messages to their fans. 15 Twitter Created in 2006, Twitter is a social networking, microblogging service based in San Francisco, with additional servers and offices in New York City. 16 Twitter users communicate via tweets and private direct messages. 17 Communication on Twitter is purposely short limited to 140 characters per tweet allowing users to highlight specific information. 18 Similar to the Facebook newsfeed, each Twitter account generates a personalized subscription page of tweets posted by other Twitter users that an individual elects to follow. 19 All tweets are publicly visible unless specifically restricted. 20 Unlike tweets, direct messages to other users are private and not restricted to the 140-character limit Facebook Glossary. Facebook. com/help/glossary. (accessed April 29, 2012). 11. Ibid. 12. Ibid. 13. Ibid. 14. Ibid. 15. Facebook Pages: Mission control for your business on Facebook, Facebook. ads/facebookads/pages_product_guide_ pdf (accessed March 21, 2012). 16. Chris Taylor. Social Networking Utopia isn t Coming. Featured Articles. 27/tech/limits.social.networking.taylor_1_twitterusers-facebook-friends-connections?_s=PM:TECH (accessed March 21, 2012). 17. Ibid. 18. Twitter 101: How should I get started using Twitter?. Twitter. articles/ twitter-101-how-should-i-get-started-using-twitter (accessed March 21, 2012). 19. Ibid. 20. Ibid. 21. Ibid. Twitter allows Members of Congress to open official congressional Twitter accounts. Official accounts enable Twitter to ensure its users that a given person is a verified Member of Congress. 22 Therefore, users can distinguish Members official accounts from Members private accounts or Twitter users posing as a Member of Congress. 23 Ensuring authenticity is important because, unlike Facebook, pretending to be someone else is not against Twitter s terms of service. 24 Therefore, a given Member of Congress may have a Twitter account associated with his or her name that is unofficial and/ or unauthentic. 25 YouTube Created by three former PayPal employees in 2005, YouTube is the world s most popular video-sharing website. 26 YouTube allows users to upload, view, and share videos. 27 Today, Google owns YouTube. 28 As with Twitter and Facebook, YouTube allows Members of Congress to register under an official congressional account. 29 Like Twitter users, YouTube users are not required to register under a real name. 30 Therefore, official accounts allow viewers to distinguish between official, authentic channels and unofficial, potentially inauthentic channels. 31 A Congress Member s channel serves as a hub for his or her YouTube videos FAQs about Verified Accounts. Twitter Help Center. topics/111-features/articles/ about-verifiedaccounts (accessed March 21, 2012). 23. Ibid. 24. Ibid. 25. Ibid. 26. Jim Hopkins. Surprise! There s a third YouTube cofounder USATODAY.com. News, Travel, Weather, Entertainment, Sports, Technology, U.S. & World. (accessed March 21, 2012). 27. Ibid. 28. Associated Press. Google buys YouTube for $1.65 billion Business US business msnbc.com. U.S. Business. ns/business-us_business/t/google-buys-youtubebillion/#.t3ihp79bx7a (accessed March 21, 2012). 29. Jill Lawrence. Congress Launches Official Channels on YouTube. On Politics. communities/onpolitics/post/2009/01/ /1 (accessed March 21, 2012). 30. Terms of Service. YouTube. com/t/terms (accessed March 21, 2012). 31. Ibid. 32. Ibid. 2
12 Congress + SOCIAL MEDIA With a Google account, users can choose to subscribe to a Congress Member s channel, and generate videos from that channel on the user s video feed. 33 Subscribers also may elect to receive alerts when a Member of Congress uploads a video. 34 Members of Congress can post comments on videos and channels, send direct private messages, and post text message alerts through their official accounts. Users can view a Congress Member s videos without subscribing to the Member s channel and without having a Google account. 35 Users also can view videos without going to the YouTube website, because YouTube videos frequently are posted on and viewed through other websites (e.g., the Congress Member s official website, Twitter, or Facebook.) 36 Current Research Several studies by the Congressional Research Service (CRS), the Congressional Management Foundation (CMF), and Harvard s Kennedy School of Government have sought to understand the implications for Congress and government of the growth of the internet and social media. The 2008 CMF report, Communicating with Congress: How the Internet Has Changed Citizen Engagement, found that the internet has become a primary source for constituents to learn about and communicate with Members of Congress. Surveys showed that people want to hear from Congress and, increasingly, prefer to communicate with Members online. Yet, Members of Congress also feel a sense of mistrust. The CMF study found that Members and their staff are distrustful of interest groups and internet-generated advocacy campaigns. Members and their staff have doubts about the accuracy of the information presented in online advocacy campaigns and question how well these groups actually reflect their constituents. The Communicating with Congress: How the Internet Has Changed Citizen Engagement study is part of an ongoing working paper series by CMF that seeks to help Members of Congress and constituents communicate better. The CMF researchers propose that if Members of Congress have an increased knowledge and understanding of social media and the role this kind of com- 33. YouTube Essentials. YouTube. com/t/about_essentials (accessed March 21, 2012). 34. Ibid. 35. Ibid. 36. Ibid. munication plays in political conversations, trust could be fostered among all parties. 37 In a similar vein, Harvard s Kennedy School of Government conducted a study of online town hall meetings. In 2006, such meetings were relatively new, so the researchers facilitated 20 online town hall meetings with U.S. Representatives, and one online town hall in 2008 with a U.S. Senator. They found that online town halls increased constituents approval of the Member, and also increased their approval of the Member s position on the issue being discussed. Additionally, the study found that town halls attracted diverse groups of attendees, and overall, increased those attendees engagement in politics. Furthermore, participation in the online town hall meetings increased an attendee s probability of voting for the Member. The researchers noted that the town halls were popular among constituents, and the discussions were of high quality. 38 The CMF also recently surveyed congressional staffers senior managers and others who handle their offices social media efforts. Though many staffers reported that they still rely on traditional communications (events, personal messages from constituents, and town halls), they see social media as an important tool for Members of Congress to adopt. Nearly two-thirds of managers use social media to inform constituents of their Senators and Representatives views and activities. Three-fourths of managers think that social media enables their offices to reach people they were not reaching before. Of those surveyed, younger staffs (under the age of 30) are more likely to think the benefits of social media outweigh the risks. Based on responses, researchers concluded that offices that adopted social media early on are more likely to think that social media is worth the time and effort for Members and their staffs Kathy Goldschmidt and Leslie Ochreiter, Communicating with Congress: How the Internet Has Changed Citizen Engagement Congressional Management Foundation. org/projects/communicating-with-congress/how-theinternet-has-changed-citizen-engagement. 38. David Lazer, et. al., Online Town Hall Meetings: Exploring Democracy in the 21st Century Congressional Management Foundation. congressfoundation.org/index.php?option=com_ content&task=view&id= #Social Congress: Perceptions and Use of Social Media on Capitol Hill Congressional Management Foundation. documents/cmf_pubs/cmf-social-congress.pdf. 3
13 Congress + SOCIAL MEDIA In Social Networking and Constituent Communications, CRS researchers studied how Members of Congress adopted Twitter and used the platform as a tool to communicate with constituents. They noted, like others, that technology has changed constituent communications significantly since the mid-1990s, with widespread adoption of by Members of Congress. The last decade has seen exponential growth in internet and social media use. While almost no traffic between Members and constituents existed before 1995, constituent communications have proliferated to nearly 200 million s sent to House Members and almost as many messages sent out by Members offices in The CRS study collected all 7,078 Member-generated tweets during the months of August and September in Members combined issued an average of 116 tweets per day during the collection period. As of September 30, 2009, a total of 205 Representatives and Senators were registered with Twitter 38 percent of the House and 39 percent of the Senate. 40. Matthew Glassman, Jacob Straus, and Colleen Shogan, Social Networking and Constituent Communications: Member Use of Twitter During a Two-Month Period in Congress. February 3, Congressional Research Service, R
14 Methodology Background Collecting, standardizing, and coding social media information is a central part of analyzing Congress Members usage of social media. Hence, this research project developed two main datasets. The first dataset, the Post Dataset, consists of individual posts and tweets from Facebook and Twitter, respectively. We used this dataset to analyze how frequently Members posted on the two social media sites, what types of messages they shared, and any innovative uses by individual members. As shown in the table below, we coded 16,239 Facebook posts and 30,765 Twitter posts for a total number of 47,004 coded posts. Table 1 Total Number of Posts on Facebook and Twitter Facebook Twitter Total Number of Member Accounts Total Number of Posts 16,239 30,765 47,004 The second dataset (called the Member Dataset) consists of information on each Member of Congress including whether the Member uses specific social media platforms, general Member demographic data, and qualitative information on how the Member presents himself or herself to the public on social media sites. We used this dataset to identify general trends among Members of Congress and how they use social media. Researchers compiled the Member Dataset from 512 YouTube accounts and 472 Facebook accounts. Post Dataset Collection The data collection process included pulling information directly from social media sites, coding qualitative information, and gathering other pertinent variables such as demographic information. The core of the Post Dataset consists of individual entries that Members posted on either official Facebook or Twitter accounts. We chose these social media platforms based on their wide usage among Members and the public. To compile a complete list of official accounts, we used the list of current Members generated by the clerks of the House and Senate, and we gathered the individual social media URLs for these Members through official congressional websites and internet research. We made every effort only to include official accounts, and we did not include in this dataset any accounts that Members used primarily or exclusively for campaign purposes. For both Facebook and Twitter, researchers collected the entries using the respective site s API and a custom programming script. For Facebook, the API allows users to systematically collect information and posts on public Facebook accounts or pages; therefore, the dataset only includes publicly available information. Additionally, the Post Dataset includes any entry that a Member posted on his or her own account wall, but posts without text (such as sharing a link) or posts from other Facebook users on a Member s wall are not included. Researchers collected Facebook posts from 12:01 a.m. on August 25, 2011, through midnight October 25, Only accounts that were created and active prior to October 25, 2011, were included in this study. We pulled data from all existing Members Facebook accounts where possible. However, there were a total of forty-eight accounts that could not be accessed using Facebook s API. The largest problem that we encountered when pulling information from Facebook s API is that several Members (a total of 29) have a special type of account that requires a user to log into Facebook before viewing the Member s page. Consequently, these pages are not considered public information; therefore, the API would not allow us to pull these Members data. Additionally, there were eleven other accounts from which we could not collect data due to problems with Facebook s API tool. While the limits on these accounts are unfortunate, we strove to systematically collect as much information as possible. Lastly, there were nine Members with social media accounts who did not post anything during the study period; thus, their accounts do not show up in the Post Dataset. The information that we collected from Twitter s API includes any tweet coming from the Member s official account from 12:01 a.m. on August 25, 2011, and through midnight October 24, In this study, we only included accounts that were created and were active prior to October 25, Twitter designates official, verified Member of Congress accounts with a check mark logo. Researchers pulled data from all ex- 41. The Twitter data therefore has one fewer day of entries. This should not present a methodological problem to data analysis, since the additional data is systematic, and the additional data compared to the rest of the dataset is only about 0.6%.
15 Congress + SOCIAL MEDIA isting Member accounts, except for 19 Twitter accounts where we encountered collection problems. Not included in the dataset were Members who did not tweet during the study period (a total of 12 accounts). The other seven accounts could not be collected because of API problems when our collection script queried Twitter s API, the API did not send back any information. In addition to collecting information on Representatives from the 50 states, we also collected data from Representatives of United States territories who had existing accounts and posted on Facebook or Twitter during the data collection period. All maps, graphs, and charts reflect this aggregate data. For data analysis purposes, the in-session versus outof-session dates for the House came from the Library of Congress. 42 Similarly, the dates for the Senate, which are unique from the House, came from the Library of Congress. 43 During the time period examined by this research project, both chambers were in and out-ofsession for numerous days. 44 Coding for Post Dataset For the Post Dataset, we coded posts and tweets for purpose, voice, and reference to other Members. To code for purpose, researchers placed each post into one or more categories since many posts often covered multiple topics. As an example, a post that said Will be later to discuss my support of #dadt repeal. Please watch was coded as both Position Taking and Media. Coding a post into multiple categories allowed us to capture all of the information in the entry and gave a stronger understanding of the Member s communication strategy. Explanations of these categories and common examples include the following 45 : 42. Days in Session Calendars 112th Congress 2nd Session, THOMAS, Library of Congress, loc.gov/home/ds/h1122.html, (accessed April 2, 2012). 43. Days in Session Calendars U.S. Senate 112th Congress 2nd Session, THOMAS, Library of Congress, (accessed April 2, 2012). 44. Days in and out-of-session during our collection period were as follows: Facebook: House (31 in-session, 31 out-of-session), Senate (32 in-session, 30 out-ofsession); Twitter: House (30 in-session, 31 out-ofsession), Senate (32 in-session, 29 out-of-session). 45. The following Facebook and Twitter postings were observed during 2011 and used to code the posts in our dataset that were compiled from August 25, 2011, to October Campaign This is an entry in which a Member of Congress includes campaign-related material. These include calls for fundraising support, or mentions of campaign-related events. Sign up to join our grassroots campaign & help send a progressive fighter to the U.S. Senate! Official Congressional Action This is an entry in which a Member of Congress mentions an official congressional action by himself or herself. Most of these relate to activities based in Washington, D.C., or official trips abroad. Official Congressional Action includes reporting on official votes, letters to the President, committee hearings, roll calls, introducing bills, etc. Also, virtual town hall meetings (such as Twitter Town Halls) are classified in this category, as well as meetings with important or high-profile people (politician or person otherwise associated with a policy issue or agenda). Just voted yes on ordering the previous question (closing debate) on H Res 269, the rule defining the process for.... I just introduced a bill to protect food assistance for families struggling during this recession. Gov. Snyder shouldn t make families choose between food or finding a job. Today we created the Senate Oceans Caucus to address the challenges and opportunities of our oceans. Position Taking This is an entry in which a Member of Congress takes a stance on a policy, issue, or debate. Taking a position can come in the form of a straightforward statement as well as partisan comments, words with strong associations, or hashtags with strong negative or positive associations. We can elim many govt regs that constrict business growth & attractiveness of the U.S. for investment in job creating enterprises #Insen. Its time to get Americans back to work. After hearing the POTUS, I look fwd to working together to get jobs to WPA. The President is right-we need a balanced plan for short-term job creation & long-term deficit reduction. #NASCAR Sprint Cup race in N. Ky all about efficiency in the pit, unlike in DC! Policy Statement This is an entry where a Member of Congress references a public policy without taking a position. 6
16 Congress + SOCIAL MEDIA Public policy in this context means any topic that would be of interest to Congress. No individual entry should receive both Position Taking and Policy Statement these categories are mutually exclusive. S&P cut the long-term U.S. credit rating by one notch to AA-plus on concerns about growing budget deficits. Reports say the President is offering significant spending cuts, he should share the plan w/ the American people. Overheard re means-testing on Social Security: Do we really want Bill Gates to have Social Security? The Washington Post has a chart illustrating how President Obama proposes to pay for the American Jobs Act. District or State This is an entry in which a Member of Congress describes an event, visit, or issue particular to his or her home district or state. Yesterday I joined Ferndale residents to celebrate the opening of a 52 unit housing facility for senior and low-income residents so they can live in a comfortable and safe home with dignity. I am proud to have secured this surplus Navy Housing for Ferndal. Our Judiciary Committee hearing on federal-local law enforcement is underway here in Wilmington. PIC Rep. Conaway speaking w/ students in their American Government class at Howard Payne University. Don t forget, I m hosting a town hall mtg tomorrow night at the Milford Town Hall. Media or Public Relations This is an entry where a Member announces his or her own media appearance or provides information on a media-specific event. Entries that fall under this category include references to press conferences, editorial articles, or other media outlets. Bernie will be talking on The Ed Show in just a few minutes. About to be on Listen online: In case you missed it: Senator Ayotte discussed POTUS #speech, GOP #debate this AM. VIDEO: Personal This is an entry in which a Member of Congress mentions events, issues, or people from his or her personal life. Anything explicitly unrelated to the Member s work in Congress fits in this category, including references to family, pets, eating out, birthday wishes, holiday greetings, and so forth. Happy Birthday to #CT delegation RepJohnLarsonOther. Senator Inouye is enjoying the beef Kapolei. Teri and I will be attending the 10 AM service at Rock Church this morning. If you re there as well, please say hello! Other These are entries that do not adequately fit in the other seven categories. Welcome to So who wants to be a yes Sir! Ramadan Mubarak. Coding for Multiple Categories Some social media entries serve multiple purposes under these categories. To fully capture that information, each entry could be assigned to multiple categories. For example, a post could be categorized as both Official Congressional Action and Position-Taking if the post mentioned a vote and a position on the bill. In addition to coding for message purpose, this project examined two additional layers: Voice and Reference to Other Members. Voice indicates whether individual members refer to themselves in the First or Third-Person. Reference to Other Members indicates whether a post mentions another member in a Negative, Positive, or Neutral/No Reference manner. Below are a few examples that received multiple category codes: Last week, I spoke on the floor in support of HR 2218, #edreform bill to improve #ESEA #NCLB. WATCH This entry should be categorized as both Official Congressional Action and Position Taking because it mentions both a vote and gives a position on the bill. Tennessee Delegation Sends Letter to President Supporting Gov. Haslam s Disaster Declaration Request: Qualifies as Official Action Taking (sending letter to President), Position Taking (supporting request), and District or State (local disaster request) 7
17 Congress + SOCIAL MEDIA I ll be on #msnbc 6pm to discuss #jobs, POTUS speech, and need to invest in infrastructure. Hope u can tune in! Fits under Position Taking (partisan reference #he is making it worse) and Media (reference to link on CBS News) Continue to push Obama Administration on Arctic energy projects. Good talk today with EPA R-10 on OCS and NPR-A. Qualifies as Media (NPR-A), Position Taking (push administration), and District or State (Artic energy projects). Member Dataset Collection In addition to utilizing Facebook s Graph API to collect entry information, the team analyzed and recorded individual social media account information from each Member of Congress. This dataset identifies any official account that a Member has on Facebook, Twitter, or YouTube and whether that account information is included in the Post Dataset. Members of our team analyzed this information to capture how the Member was choosing to craft his or her own image using social media and to identify any innovative uses of social media platforms. For consistency, researchers pulled the information during a one-week period from January 18, 2012, to January 24, For the Facebook profile information, the categories that we used included: Member Name, Landing Page, Number of Friends or Number of Page Likes, Characteristics of Member s Profile Picture, Number of Photos, Categories Under Information Section, and any Other unique features. Landing page is defined as the page content that appears when first visiting the Member s page (i.e., Wall, Welcome Page, Info, etc.). Characteristics of a Member s Profile Picture include designations based on the following categories: Member is only person in picture; Multiple people in profile picture; Action shot; Professional portrait; Military (member with military personnel); Flag; President (posing with current or former presidents); Politician (posing with other politicians); Constituent (posing with members of the public); Casual clothing; Business clothing; No profile picture loaded. There was also a section where we noted any innovative uses of a Member s Facebook page. For the YouTube account collection, the categories that we used included: Member name; Number of total videos; Number of channel views; Total upload views; Number of subscribers; Number of channel comments; Date joined; Date of last activity; Number of Favorited videos. There was also a section where we noted any innovative uses of a Member s YouTube channel. 8
18 Data Analysis Congressional Use of Social Media Almost all of the 541 Members of Congress 46 have a social media presence. As of January 24th, 2012, the number of official congressional accounts totaled 512 on YouTube, 472 on Facebook, and 426 on Twitter. Seventy-two percent of members were on all three platforms, and 2 percent (11 members) were on none of the platforms. As a group, Members interacted with the platforms to varying degrees. During our two-month observation, from August 25, 2011, to October , Members of Congress tweeted over 30,000 times and logged over 16,000 Facebook posts. While we did not monitor the number of YouTube videos uploaded during the study, Members had about 55,000 total videos dating from when Members opened their accounts to when we collected this data Senators, 441 Representatives (voting and nonvoting). We divided Congress Members activities on Facebook and Twitter into eight categories: Campaign, District/ State, Media, Official Congressional Action, Personal, Policy Statement, Position Taking, and Other. Roughly two-fifths of all tweets and Facebook posts were Position-Taking, 40.5 percent and 38.8 percent respectively, making it the most popular purpose of posts on both platforms. District/State issues ranked second among both tweets (25.6%) and posts (32.2%). The parallels in rank of purpose extend to the remaining six categories for both platforms, with Official Action third, Policy Statement fourth, Media fifth, Personal sixth, Other seventh, and Campaign eighth. Collectively, Congress Members used the Twitter and Facebook platforms almost identically. Peaks and valleys showing the frequency of tweets and posts on particular days of the week rose and fell in tandem. The platforms also were used similarly throughout the day; both Twitter and Facebook hit peak use at 9 a.m. and 3 p.m., with a slight dip at noon. Congressional use in and out-of-session was nearly identical across both plat- Graph 1: Purpose of Tweet or Facebook Post All of Congress Position 40.5% 38.8% District or State 25.6% 32.2% Official Action Policy 16.5% 16.2% 15.9% 21.2% Media Personal Other 6.9% 5.2% 8.0% 7.8% 9.1% 11.0% Campaign 0.2% 0.3% 0% 5% 10% 15% 20% 25% 30% 35% 40% 45% Percentage of Posts Twitter Facebook
19 Congress + SOCIAL MEDIA forms. Over a collection period with an almost equal number of days in and out-of-session, Members made 71 percent of their total tweets and 70 percent of their total Facebook posts while in-session. 47 The similarities continue even to the use of language, as Members referred to themselves in the First-Person or Third-Person in practically the same percentage ratios, 87/13 for Twitter and 88/12 for Facebook. Congress Members differed slightly more when referencing their colleagues, however, with just fewer than 9 percent of tweets and almost 5 percent of Facebook posts mentioning another Member. For both social media platforms, less than one percent of the posts contained negative references. Graph 2 Distribution of Total Posts by Quintiles of Users 100% 90% 80% Heavy Users On both Facebook and Twitter, we found the volume of tweets and posts were not evenly distributed among Members. On Twitter, 86 Members who comprise the top 20 percent of the most frequently tweeting Members of Congress accounted for 56.3 percent of all tweets. Of those Members, the top 10 individuals tweeted over 15 percent of all Member content. The results were similar on Facebook, where 87 Members who comprise the top 20 percent of most frequently posting Members, could be credited for almost 53 percent of posts. More than 14 percent of posts were produced by the 10 most active individual Members. On both platforms, the top 1 percent of users generated more content than the bottom third. The top 20 percent of users did not vary substantially from other users in terms of post and tweet purpose; though when compared with the bottom 80 percent, heavy users tended to make fewer posts relating to Official Action and District or State Affairs. This held true across both platforms. Nearly every other post type was made in similar proportions for the top 20 percent and bottom 80 percent of users. Percentage of Total Posts 70% 60% 50% 40% 30% 20% 10% 56% 22% 13% 53% 23% 14% The Geography of Congressional Usage Researchers created maps using ArcGeographic Information Systems (ArcGIS) with data obtained from the 2010 U.S. Census. Shapefiles of congressional districts and states were joined with counts of tweets, Facebook posts, and the sum of both platforms. These maps display the various ways that Senators and Representatives digitally represent their constituents. There do 0% 7% 2% Twitter Top 20% Upper 20% Middle 20% 8% 3% Facebook Lower 20% Bottom 20% 47. Days in and out-of-session during our collection period were as follows: Facebook: House (31 in-session, 31 out-of-session), Senate (32 in-session, 30 out-ofsession); Twitter: House (30 in-session, 31 out-ofsession), Senate (32 in-session, 29 out-of-session). not appear to be any strong geographical trends; social media use seems to depend more on the individual preferences of Members and other factors discussed elsewhere in this analysis. 10
20 Congress + SOCIAL MEDIA Usage Variation Across Congress Usage We found that there was some variation in frequency of usage between parties and between chambers. Overall, Republicans used social media more than Democrats, and Senators were more frequent users than House Members. Likewise, the highest frequency user group was the Senate Republicans. Senate and House Republicans tweeted and posted the most, followed by Senate Democrats and then House Democrats. On both Facebook and Twitter, Senate Republicans posted 0.4 more messages a day each than their lowest using counterparts, the House Democrats. Analysis of Members usage from August 25, 2011, to October 25, 2011, indicates a general decline in usage over the weekends, with Senate Republicans continuing to tweet and post the most. Generally, Republicans post more in the morning, peaking at 8:00 a.m. 48 The Table 2 Average Posts per Day per Member Facebook Twitter Congress Republicans Democrats House Senate House R House D Senate R Senate D Reported times are standardized to Central Standard Time (CST) and are generated using the time zone of the sender s Internet Protocol (IP) address. Graph 3 Average Number of Facebook Posts per Member Over Time /25/2011 9/1/2011 9/8/2011 9/15/2011 9/22/2011 9/29/ /6/ /13/ /20/2011 Date of Post House D House R Senate D Senate R Graph 4 Average Number of Twitter Posts per Member Over Time /25/2011 9/1/2011 9/8/2011 9/15/2011 9/22/2011 9/29/ /6/ /13/ /20/2011 Date of Post House D House R Senate D Senate R 11
21 Congress + SOCIAL MEDIA Democrats post more in the afternoon, peaking around 3:00 p.m. Peaks in usage occur during heightened legislative activity (for example, the Fast and Furious investigation or DADT Repeal). Certain legislative developments or news events tended to affect usage differently in various groups of members. For example, our data shows a decline in usage by Senators on both Facebook and Twitter on September 15, According to the Senate calendar for September 15, 2011, the Senate only passed two referenda on that day. Meanwhile, on the same date, the House of Representatives passed legislation to curb the powers of the National Labor Relations Board. Peaks in usage also occurred following messages by the President of the United States and in reference to the anniversary of September 11, During our collection period, 9/11 anniversary posts generated the largest spike in usage, which occurred on September 8, 2011, as September 11 fell on a Sunday. Age of Member Younger Members, on average, use social media more than Members who belong to older generations. This trend holds across both platforms, but the usage differential is stronger with Facebook. Gender We did not find a significant difference in usage among male and female Members. Platform Use There were some small differences in choice of platform between parties and chambers. While both parties use Twitter significantly more than Facebook, Democrats use Twitter for a greater share of their messages than Republicans (70 percent for Democrats versus 64 percent for Republicans). Between the two social media platforms, Senate Democrats tended to use Twitter for the largest share of their social media use (only 27 percent of their posts were on Facebook). House Republicans were the heaviest users of Facebook, as 37 percent of their messages were posted on the Facebook platform. Purpose Both parties use Facebook significantly more than Twitter when posting messages concerning District and State Affairs. Additionally, both parties tend to use Facebook more frequently when discussing Official Action and Media Appearances. Republicans tend to use Twitter more often than Facebook when taking a Position, making Policy Statements or talking about their Personal lives. Differences also emerged between the parties. Republicans take more Positions on Twitter while Democrats take more Positions on Facebook. On the whole, Democrats reference District or State Affairs in their social media messages significantly more than Republicans (approximately 10 percent more of their messages). Republicans mention Media Appearances, Official Actions, and Policy Statements more often than Democrats. These trends underscore differences noted during the coding process concerning the tendency for Republican Members to echo messages from party leadership more than Democrats. Given that leadership messages usually involve national topics rather than District or State topics, the tendency for Republicans to underutilize District or State posts in comparison to their Democratic counterparts makes sense in the context of their greater message uniformity. Presentation of Self The vast majority of social media posts were written in the First-Person, a trend that held across party and platform. There was a difference in chamber; approximately 80 percent of posts from Senate Members were written in the First-Person, versus almost 90 percent of House Member posts Graph 5 Average Daily Posts by Member Age 30s 40s 50s 60s 70s 80s Member Age by Decade Twitter Facebook House R Senate R House D Senate D Graph 6 Social Media Use by Platform Facebook 37.0% Twitter 63% Facebook 36.4% Twitter 63.6% Facebook 32.3% Twitter 67.7% Facebook 26.7% Twitter 73.3% 0% 20% 40% 60% 80% 100% Percentage of Posts 12
22 Congress + SOCIAL MEDIA Graph 7 Democrats Purpose by Platform Position District or State Official Action Policy Media Personal Other Campaign 0% 5% 10% 15% 20% 25% 30% 35% 40% 45% Percentage of Total Posts per Platform Twitter Facebook Graph 8 Republican Purpose by Platform Position District or State Official Action Policy Media Personal Other Campaign 0% 5% 10% 15% 20% 25% 30% 35% 40% 45% Percentage of Total Posts per Platform Twitter Facebook 13
23 Congress + SOCIAL MEDIA Graph 9 Twitter Purpose by Party Position District or State Policy Official Action Media Personal Other Campaign 0% 5% 10% 15% 20% 25% 30% 35% 40% 45% Percentage of Total Party Posts R D Graph 10 Facebook Purpose by Party Position District or State Official Action Policy Media Personal Other Campaign 0% 5% 10% 15% 20% 25% 30% 35% 40% 45% Percentage of Total Party Posts R D Table 3 Reference to Other Members No Reference Positive/Neutral Reference Negative Reference Facebook Twitter Facebook Twitter Facebook Twitter Republicans 94.8% 90.5% 4.5% 8.6% 0.7% 0.8% Democrats 95.9% 92.5% 3.7% 6.7% 0.3% 0.8% 14
24 Congress + SOCIAL MEDIA Reference to Other Members The vast majority of social media posts (more than 90 percent) did not reference another Member. Less than one percent of all posts from the dataset contained a negative reference to another Member. (If other high profile officials had been included in the coding as subjects of negative posts, e.g. the President, this number would be higher.) While positive or neutral references to other Members were infrequent (approximately 4 9 percent of all posts), these references were present approximately twice as often on Twitter as Facebook posts. The majority of positive or neutral references in Twitter posts included a link to the referenced Member s Twitter account. Republicans had more positive and neutral references to other Members than Democrats. Profile Data Facebook Photos Photos give Members an opportunity to present themselves in a personal way to constituents. Of those who post photos, the average number of photos posted per Member was 160, but the median Member only posted 92. This variation indicates that a few Members post a much larger number of photos, thus skewing the distribution. Facebook Likes Member profile pages on Facebook can be liked by visitors, giving a rough indication of the Member s popularity and presence on Facebook. In the House, Members averaged 4,793 likes with a median of 1,973. In the Senate, where Members have much larger constituencies, the average was 18,178 with a median of 3,931. Our research showed that most Members enjoy a relatively small amount of popularity compared to a handful of Members who have large national followings due to previous campaigns for President, leadership positions, or other external factors. House Member page likes ranged from 29 to 270,739. The trend in the Senate was much the same, with John McCain receiving nearly nine times as many likes as his nearest competitor, Bernie Sanders, and 221 times the median number of likes for Senators. Senators Facebook pages ranged between 415 and 869,888 likes. Facebook Profile Photos The Facebook profile photo gives Members an opportunity to present themselves personally to their audience. Only one profile photo can be featured on the profile page at a time; therefore, most Members choose to present themselves in a formal, professional manner rather than dressing casually. While 91 percent are shown wearing business clothing such as a suit, only 9 percent appear in casual clothes. Most 79 percent appear alone. Just over a quarter chose to display themselves in action shots rather than in posed photos. Landing page While several Members have selected alternate landing pages (custom welcome page or Member s info page), three-quarters choose the default option of letting visitors land on their wall. Facebook Info Section On the info pages, Members chose several combinations of personal attributes to highlight. The five attributes most commonly indicated were Members website address (93%), their current office (92%), their country (79%), their hometown (73%), and a general about section that allows for a short personal description (70%). YouTube Of the 541 total Members of Congress, 512 Members had a YouTube page. As with most statistics describing Facebook and Twitter use, a few YouTube users significantly skewed the data with high numbers of videos, views, and subscribers. Using median statistics as a gauge, Senators had more than twice as many videos, more than five times as many upload views, and three times the number of subscribers as their colleagues in the House. YouTube Channel Comments YouTube channel comments are not frequently utilized by Members or visitors. The average number of comments per channel was 6.6, with the median being 1. A total of 175 Members do not have comments enabled on their channel page; 158 Members have the feature enabled but have not received any comments. Table 4 YouTube Page Data # of Videos # of Channel Views # of Upload Views # of Subscribers All House Senate All House Senate All House Senate All House Senate Average ,735 12,409 14, , , , Median ,081 5,242 9,543 17,510 12,750 66, Minimum , , Maximum 2,064 2, , ,459 65,899 8,591,177 8,591,177 1,704,885 21,987 21,987 10,053 15