Votes, Photos, and Book Recommendations: How Politicians Use Facebook

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Politicians are using Facebook to reach constituents in innovative ways, not just to advertise their policy views, but also for everything from finding new staffers to giving their constituents a look at their personal lives.

For constituents, Facebook offers the impression of direct contact with the lawmaker, even if there's really a junior staffer sitting at the keyboard.

For some politicians, social media sites like Facebook offer the ability to tell constituents exactly what they're doing on a policy issue and why.

Before his election to Congress in November, Republican Justin Amash brought his laptop with him to the Michigan State House, where he was a legislator, to post how he voted on each bill. He plans on posting his votes once he is sworn in to the U.S. House of Representatives.

"Yeah, absolutely. Some modifications with House rules and schedule, but I will make the effort," Amash said, when asked if he will continue.

While many politicians rely on staffers to update their Facebook pages, Amash updates his Facebook page and responds to comments himself. He said, "It helps develop a personal connection."

Like Amash, many politicians are using Facebook to interact with their constituents.

"I think they're starting to realize it's where people are spending a lot of their time. It's where people go to get news and information," said Shana Glickfield, communications analyst and partner at the Beekeeper Group, a consultancy that focuses on the Internet and social media.

Facebook has become a virtual town hall; politicians are asking the people who "like" them on Facebook their stances on everything from tax cuts to North Korea.

Congressman Randy Forbes (R-Va.) posted, "Your thoughts: Is the release of classified cables threatening American foreign policy?" on Nov. 29.

Other Politicians are using Facebook to recruit staff members.

"Are you interested in being part of Colleen's team as she serves the people of Hawaii in Congress? We are looking for smart, dedicated people. Apply today," was posted to the Facebook page of Colleen Hanabusa, Democrat of Hawaii.

Politicians Recruiting Staff, Showing Personal Side on Facebook

"I discovered the opening through Facebook," said Sam Puletasi of Hawaii, who applied for a job with Hanabusa.

"Everyone had been so supportive during the campaign, so we wanted to give them the opportunity to apply and join our staff," said Annastasia Lee, Hanabusa's social media director.

Sen. Mike Enzi, R-Wyo., and Rep. Lynn Jenkins, R-Kan., have both used Facebook to recruit interns.

"I think it's a new way for candidates to connect with the community -- a phenomenal opportunity," said Jake Bradshaw of Hawaii, who considered applying for a job with Hanabusa.

Enzi's Facebook page hosted a photo contest, in which users were asked to submit photographs of Wyoming. The entries were posted on Facebook for voting and the winner's photograph was posted on Enzi's website, said Elly Pickett, Enzi's Press Secretary, who is among the staff members who update his Facebook page.

Facebook has started a page, called Congress on Facebook, where it posts updates on how Congress members use the sit.

Politicians are using videos and photographs to showcase their viewpoints and show constituents their personal side.

Sen. Mike Johanns, R-Neb., posted a video of himself urging others to join the Holiday Mail for Heroes program.

Enzi has posted videos wishing his constituents happy holidays.

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