The Washington Post

How can you reach government officials over social media?

On Small Business has a new feature in which young entrepreneurs will answer common questions about small business owners’ social media needs. The following answers are provided by the Young Entrepreneur Council (YEC), an invite-only nonprofit organization comprised of young entrepreneurs.

What social media strategies would you recommend for reaching professionals in government and other public offices?

Demonstrators thank media and social-media outlets. (Carol Guzy/THE WASHINGTON POST)

Dave Kerpen, CEO of Likeable Media in New York:

Because their job is to serve the public, professionals in government and public office have a greater obligation to be responsive on social media. Some politicians have embraced the obligation: Newark Mayor Cory Booker uses Twitter to engage with his constituents, and President Obama’s 2008 presidential campaign relied heavily on social media.

When professionals in government office don’t respond, it appears that they don’t care about their constituents. However, keep in mind that these individuals receive many messages each day. The more influence you have, the faster these professionals will want to respond to you. A high Klout score or follower count can make the difference between being replied to and being ignored. Don’t be afraid to directly reach out and introduce yourself. You’ll never get a response if you don’t try!

Heather Huhman, founder and president of Come Recommended in Derwood, Md.:

There are many ways to reach folks who work in public offices nowadays. First, I’d recommend finding the official government Web site to see if their “About Us” page has any information, such as the person’s e-mail address, Twitter handle, Facebook page, etc. If it doesn’t, a simple Google search could yield the results you’re looking for by simply typing in the person’s name and the type of information you’re looking for. Finding their e-mail address could be a little tougher; I always recommend Googling their first and last name in quotation marks along with their Web site — for example, searching for “John Smith” “” LinkedIn is also a great resource — some people share their e-mail address publicly, or you could opt to send an InMail instead.

Laura Calandrella, founder and CEO of Laura Calandrella, LLC: in Atlanta:

As someone who worked for seven years in various roles within the federal government, I know the difficulties of using social media to connect with government. There are many restrictions placed on employees regarding the use of social media in an official capacity, and many agencies are still learning how to use social media to engage effectively with the public. State government and public officials seem to experience fewer obstacles.

The best advice I can give is to do your research. There are thought leaders and innovators within the public sector that are redefining how social media can provide effective outreach and education. Twitter seems to be the social media tool of choice for organizations and campaigns, but oftentimes these accounts are used to share information, not create conversation. A more effective strategy would be to identify the Gen Y leaders that are working for these organizations, and connect with them via Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn. They are using social media for both personal and professional purposes, are often well-connected within the organization, and are motivated to build relationship outside of their immediate network.”

The YEC recently published #FixYoungAmerica: How to Rebuild Our Economy and Put Young Americans Back to Work (for Good).



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