By Jared Whitley, Washington correspondent
Chris Stewart slid into Congress quietly last year. With Utah media more focused on the Republican Senate Primary, Romney campaign, and Mia Love-Matheson race, the former Air Force pilot flew across the finish line without drawing too much attention.
Now well into his first term, Rep. Stewart faces the challenge of transitioning from a quiet candidate to a voice in the choir of Congress – a choir known for its volume, which can make performing solo a challenge.
Helping to lead the music is communications director Allison Barker.
“One of the top priorities in our office is to communicate well with our Constituents,” Barker said. “Specifically, we want to set up a two-way communications channel. We want to update our constituents about Representative Stewart’s work in Congress, but it is also very important for us to hear the opinions and concerns of Utahans in the second congressional district.”
Social media is, of course, a way to make sure politicians connect with stakeholders. Twitter and Facebook users are accustomed to absorbing information quickly, Barker explained, which can make managing a social media portfolio challenging. But with clever use of infographics, Stewart is proving that a picture can be worth far more than 1,000 words: it can be worth a message.
“Facebook has been a great platform for sharing photos, press releases, information about legislation and videos of speeches,” Barker continued. “We’ve found that Utahans are most interested in graphics and pictures, so we try to make our content unique and interesting.”
Infographics can tell a cogent, effective story quickly and are easy to share across platforms, including social media newcomer Instagram.
“While we are still new to Instagram, we’ve found is a really fun way for us to updated Constituents on some of the behind the scenes work of Congress,” Barker said.
Some of the more interesting graphics that Stewart has wuphf’d include a report of his Easter trip to Utah and an indictment of Obama’s record on jobs.
“With more and more Utahans using social media to read the news and get information, it’s important for our office to use social media to help inform constituents,” Barker said. “We want to make it easier and faster for them to learn about the work of Congress and express their opinions.”
And with social media becoming increasingly more important in the lives of Americans, it’s increasingly more time consuming for busy Hill staffers.
“It can be very time consuming and tough to respond to questions as quickly as would like to, and as quickly as social media users are accustomed to,” Barker said, who estimates the Stewart office spends a couple hours each day on social-media related work in addition to the Congressman’s personal tweeting.
Stewart social media followers (as of 7/25/2013):
Twitter – 1,085
Facebook – 2,203
Instagram – 35
YouTube – 32