The word “lobbying” dredges up all kinds of unpleasant connotations, as people envision overpaid suits walking the halls of congress to further the agenda of some big, corporate conglomerate. In some instances, this is true, and corporations such as Monsanto have proven it. But, to be fair, nonprofit organizations lobby, too, and both do it with the same agenda—to bring in more funding, obtain the proper wording in new bills and receive the backing of key members of congress and the legislature.
Traditionally, lobbyists have spoken to congress and the legislators in an effort to keep the law on the side of corporate America, rather than leaning toward the people or smaller businesses. According to Food Safety News, Monsanto’s efforts to keep genetically-engineered foods and seeds legal while snuffing out all reports of their dangers has come from their heavy presence in Washington DC. But a new method of lobbying has come to town through the use of social media, bringing with it a few new ways in which corporations, small businesses and individuals can assert themselves on Capitol Hill, as outlined below.
- iPetition. When you combine the internet’s power to spread news with the sense of urgency held by lobbyists and activists, you’ve got one potent combination. Whether it’s used by an organization or started by an individual, iPetition helps local causes or nationwide efforts to reach people around the world. Once a petition is created on iPetition, it can be made available for anyone to sign.
- Lobbying Apps. Smartphones have revolutionized the way people get their message across. Anti-poverty group ONE, which was co-founded by U2’s lead singer Bono, created and launched their own app to help users reach out to their local lawmakers. According to Roll Call, a Capitol Hill newspaper, the ONE app helps users locate their local government representatives and even helps them communicate more effectively with ready-made scripts. An app such as this allows supporters to become lobbyists from the comfort of their own home, and it helps further the agenda of the organization.
- Reaching More with Video. Legislative strategist Sarah Hubbard relays that organizations are using video more frequently to reach social media users who aren’t reached through Twitter or other venues that rely primarily on text. Recently, MoveOn.org, a nonprofit organization working to give greater voice to the American people, made a video satire comparing the economy from the eyes of the rich to the eyes of the common American. Their efforts, with or without social media, help to give people across the country a louder voice in Washington DC.
Lobbyists and activists will continue to use social media to further the agenda of the company or organization they’re representing, but now individuals can lobby, too. Social media venues like the ones above can help create a bit more balance between the agendas of corporate conglomerates and those of the common man. Now, instead of lobbying purely for funding or government backing, social media provides the opportunity for greater awareness by helping to give back some of the power to the people.