Lawmakers are coming to grips with how "essential" social media tools like Facebook and Twitter are to spreading their message and connecting with constituents, Sen. John Cornyn (R-Texas) said Tuesday.

Cornyn, a top GOP senator who actively uses Twitter and Facebook, acknowledged that not all of his colleagues were comfortable with engaging social media, but they're coming around.

"I think a number of our senators are not comfortable with it, but they're having to learn," Cornyn said in a webcast hosted by Facebook at its Washington, D.C. office.  "In politics today, it is absolutely essential. If you're not conversant with the social media ... you're really going to be hurting yourself."

Cornyn leads the National Republican Senatorial Committee (NRSC), the committee leading Senate Republicans' campaign efforts. He said that one of the biggest pieces of advice he offers to recruits is to be sure to engage with social media and blogs and to actively pounce on stories that could spin out of control otherwise.

He also acknowledged that President Obama's campaign in 2008 was especially skillful in using online resources to help win the election. Republicans, Cornyn said, are working on building their own infrastructure.

"Frankly, Republicans have kind of come to it a little slower than others," he said.

The Texas senator is one of the rare members of Congress to personally engage the social media services on a regular basis. While many lawmakers have their staff assemble tweets or Facebook postings, Cornyn more often posts his own content -- to the dismay, sometimes, of his staff.

"I will say that one of the things that strikes fear in the heart of my press shop is that I'll send out some unfiltered thought," he said. "I find it kind of exhilarating."