A movement can’t be sustained without effective communication, and the Democratic Whip Steny Hoyer’s office is challenging constituents and representatives alike to engage in digital political discourse. There’s nothing like friendly competition to break the ice, and the recently concluded three-week 2014 House Democrats’ Online All-Star Competition resulted in 213,000 more citizens connected to their Member of Congress through social media.
Amassing 213,000 new followers over the competition’s 3-week window was no small feat, and the 3 MVPs of the competition pulled in an impressive share of new followers. Rep. John Lewis of Georgia’s 5th District was the MVP of the competition, with 17,495 new followers. Other MVPs include Freshman MVP Rep. Joaquin Castro (TX-20) and Election Blackout MVP Rep. Dan Kildee (MI-05) with 6,051 and 2,873 followers, respectively. Other notable efforts from House leadership include the Democratic Caucus’ nearly 27,000 new followers and House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi’s addition of 15,000 newly engaged constituents (note: while members of Leadership were on the board, they were ineligible for the awards). The number of new followers in 2014 is up 50,000 from the 2013 competition’s 163,000 new followers.
The House Democratic Whip’s office has hosted the Online All-Star Competition for the last 5 years using a dynamic scoreboard that Jackson River helped develop. The scoreboard utilizes the public APIs from Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube to automatically pull the number of followers for each House Democrat each night. This year, in addition to giving the scoreboard an updated design with racing donkeys and different icons to indicate categories, the Democratic Whip’s office made the top of the scoreboard public at DemocraticWhip.gov/AllStar so the press and the public could follow along. Also new this year was the addition of Instagram, which now has more than 200 million active users. Instagram accounted for 6,500 new followers this year, and 40 House Democrats created Instagram accounts for the first time during the competition.
The Democratic Whip’s office has worked closely with a team of Jackson River developers since the first competition in 2010, and they continue to build on the results by iterating on the experience each year. Jackson River’s work for the office also includes building and maintaining their primary website, DemocraticWhip.gov, as well as DemCom, the official intranet for House Democratic staff that the Whip’s office manages. DemCom, which hosts the full All-Star scoreboard, is always evolving and innovating to meet the internal communication and collaboration needs of House Democrats, and the Whip’s Office works closely with its Jackson River team to lead that development.
Nathan Eanes, Manager of Website Development, assisted with a handful of small but important improvements to the competition’s infrastructure specific to this year’s competition. These included design tweaks and a logarithmic scale of the competitors’ data to represent the results in an accurate, visually appealing manner. “I really hope that these kinds of contacts can help improve relationships between the people who work on the Hill and their constituents, to develop higher awareness of how social media can be used to communicate,” Nathan said of the work his team has done on the project.
Ben Clark, Manager of Development Operations, has hopes that this year’s competition will continue to drive more traffic and do more good for the Whip’s office and efforts. “From here forward this can become a real tool for what they’re trying to accomplish with their social media strategy.”
The competition scoreboard will continue to update internally on DemCom to encourage growth and engagement with citizens throughout the year.