RI Senate Social Media RankingsSee which Senators put in the most effort to communicate and interact with Rhode Islanders online
It used to be the case where if you wanted to reach out to your state Senator, you picked up the phone and called them. After email became popular in the late 90s, it became easier to express your concerns at any hour of the day when it was convenient for you. Ultimately, though, these interactions were hidden from public view. In personal cases, this was preferred. But other times it was nice to learn that others in your area felt similarly about an issue.
The surging popularity of social media beginning in 2008 ushered in a new era of people being able to directly communicate online with friends, family, celebrities, and their government representatives, in a public setting. While usage among folks in government was rather slow, social media has fast become the standard for how constituents share their views with representatives in government. As we enter 2020, state representatives must meet voters where they are - and quite often that means on social media sites like Twitter and Facebook.
How We Tested Social Media Usage
We focused on the two most widely used social media platforms for information sharing: Facebook and Twitter. While Instagram has twice as many active users as Twitter, a Pew Research study found that as a primarily photo-driven website, it is used far less often than Twitter for news and information exchange. Beyond social media, we also checked whether each elected official had an active website, which in 2019 should be a no-brainer.
For the two social media platforms, we chose a specific day in October of 2019 as the end date and measured all applicable activity dating back six months and one year from that date. We chose October to encompass activity during and outside of the legislative session. Elected officials tend to be much more active on social media when the General Assembly is in session, but the job does not end on June 30th.
With this initial version of the Social Media Rankings, we erred on the side of being generous. For example, we gave credit for having a Twitter profile even if it hadn't been used in years, as was the case with several Senators. Similarly, we accepted a Senator "liking" a comment in lieu of a reply if the comment warranted an acknowledgement but not a detailed response. Generally, if the Senator showed a consistent effort to engage, we gave them credit for doing so. We were disheartened to find that some Senators use social media only for announcements and make no attempt to engage their audience. As a result, they receive no comments to respond to and fail the "Responds to Comments" (FR & TR) metric by default. We encourage lawmakers to use social media as the two-way street it is intended to be.
Lastly, we checked to see if each Senator had an active website, and required that an email address or working email form be found somewhere via a link from the homepage. If the website featured no method to contact the Senator via email or had a non-working email form, it was disqualified. As with social media, we were generous this time around, giving credit even if the website was severely outdated (some were focused primarily on getting the Senator elected...in 2016). Our next version of these ratings in mid-2020 will feature tighter guidelines for all metrics.
Top Senate Social Media Stars
Sam BellDistrict 5 (Elected 2018)
Engages Both Positive and Negative Comments
Dr. Bell was the only Senator in the inaugural Social Media Rankings to achieve a perfect score - and when we dug down, it wasn't particularly close. With very active profiles on Twitter and Facebook, Senator Bell not only responded to virtually every comment that warranted one, his responses were detailed, concise, and personable. His website was up to date and featured every element you would wish to see from an elected official, with Contact links front and center.
Multiple SenatorsArchambault, Coyne, Goldin, Murray, Valverde
Excellent Engagement on Facebook
Generally Fewer Posts, But Informative
No Engagement on Twitter
Lack of Twitter engagement kept this group of excellent performers from achieving a perfect score, but overall interaction with Rhode Islanders on Facebook was excellent. While there was noticeable variation in the length of responses and frequency of posts for each of the Senators in this group, all of these Senators met our requirements this go round to place them in the top 10% of RI State Senators.
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|de la Cruz||23||1.57||1||3||5||1||0||0||1||https://www.facebook.com/SenatorJessicadelaCruz/||https://twitter.com/jessicaforri||https://www.jessicaforri.com/|
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How We Rank
Score is the combined average of all rank factors. The maximum possible score in this version is 2.71. The lowest possible score is 0.00. Point values were assigned based on the effort and degree of difficulty involved for a member of the General Assembly to meet the requirements. Members receive 1 point for having a political profile on Facebook (FB) and 1 point for having a profile on Twitter (TW). On Facebook, it must be a page associated with their position in the General Assembly. Personal profiles do not qualify. Because Twitter does not offer separate "profiles" and "pages" and the process of managing two profiles is more tedious, Twitter personal profiles are acceptable. Protected profiles are not.
Members receive 3 points if they actively post to Facebook (FP) and 3 points if they actively do so to Twitter (TP). Actively posting is defined by a minimum of at least 12 unique (not shares/retweets) posts in a 1 year period, with at least 3 posts in the last 6 months.
Members receive 5 points if they have received and responded to applicable comments on their posts on Facebook (FR) and 5 points for accomplishing the same on Twitter (TR). To receive credit, members must have responded to at least 90% of post comments that warranted a response in the past 6 months, with a minimum of 3 responses.
Lastly, 1 point is awarded if the member has an active website (WS) with either proper email contact information shown or at minimum a working email form.
Scores above 1.75 are considered "Excellent", scores between 0.76 - 1.74 are "OK", and scores 0.75 and under are considered "Poor".