New group to give Facebook, Twitter lessons to House Dems

Top House Democrats launched a campaign this week to help members better use Facebook, Twitter and other social networks ahead of the 2010 midterms — a year after House Republicans unveiled a similar effort of their own.

At the forefront of House Democrats' new approach to outreach is the New Media Working Group, debuted by Reps. Mike Honda (D-Calif.) and Chellie Pingree (D-Maine) on Thursday. The working group, the two lawmakers wrote earlier this week, is meant to ensure the party remains "at the forefront of using new media in politics."

"The Working Group continues the proud Democratic tradition of using the Internet to include the voices of working and middle-class Americans," Honda and Pingree said. "In ensuring that Democrats are being innovative with their websites and with tools like Twitter, Facebook and YouTube, we hope to reach out to Americans who might not otherwise be heard."

In the coming weeks, the Working Group plans to hold "individual consultations for all Democratic Members of the House," Honda's office told Hillicon Valley this week, in order to help staff tailor their Facebook, Twitter and YouTube campaigns to their districts' compositions and voters' demographics.

The group will also train members "to establish and share new media best practices," while serving as a liaison between top social media companies and congressional Democrats, Honda's staff added.

"We have held briefings with industry leaders like Twitter, Facebook, YouTube, and Google to ensure that our members know the best ways to use these tools and the latest features they can take advantage of," both Honda and Pingree said Thursday. "Fostering partnerships with these companies will mean our members have a greater say and are having a more substantive and important dialogue online with their constituents, and it will open doors to innovation and creativity as new media evolves and changes."

But House Democrats' latest foray into new media arrives slightly more than a year after their Republican counterparts introduced their own New Media Caucus. That effort, led by Rep. Bob Latta (R-Ohio), also prides itself on teaching lawmakers how to best use social media tools.