Many years ago while visiting 98Rock In Sacramento, then-programmer Jim Fox asked me if I wanted to sit in on a session he had arranged for his airstaff.
The guest speaker? A promotions assistant tasked with introducing the station's on-air talent to MySpace. I had not dipped in my consulting toe to social media, so I joined the group. And what an eye-opening experience. She put up her MySpace page on the big screen, and walked us through how she used the platform, and how it allowed her to connect with friends, family, and co-workers.
At the time, I remembered how amazed I was at her willingness to reveal her personality – her nerdiness, her insecurities, and vivid details of her social life – dating and parties. As a member of a very different generation and a guy, I found myself surprised at how this website could change the way we interact with others. And I immediately started realizing how a radio station might make use of this tool.
Fast-forward to today. And please pardon the apparent click-bait headline.
Here we are in the middle of yet another impeachment trial, and I have the nerve to get all political on you in this blog. But before you “X” this post out or cancel your subscription, walk with me for a bit.
Yes, this post is about a true political lightning rod – Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez. But I'm not talking about her views, the Green New Deal, or anything she stands for or against, the people who adore and laud her, or those who vilify and despise her.
No, this post is about her “superpower” – she is a stone cold pro with social media. And most members of Congress are anything but.
Recently, AOC did something for her fellow Democratic members of the House that was truly unique;
She gave them social media lessons.
Suspend your feelings about Ocasio-Cortez – good, bad, or indifferent (really?) – and check out her rabid and impressive followings on multiple platforms:
Facebook – 233,830 “likes” (or “followers”)
Twitter – 12.3 million followers
Instagram – 8.8 million followers
YouTube – 75,000+ subscribers
Twitch – 1 million followers
She owns social media in the political world. And she knows how to use it to her benefit. In contrast, Democratic Senate leader Chuck Schumer has 3 million Twitter followers, Nancy Pelosi has 1.4 million Instagram followers, and Elizabeth Warren isn't on Twitch – yet.
AOC isn't just pulling in strong numbers on several platforms socially; she uses them especially well. The photo at the top of this post is a recent session with constituents and guests – talking what happened with GameStop on Wall Street. The banner above tops her YouTube page.
In December at the conclusion of her first term, Ocasio-Cortez recorded a fast-moving video summing up her first two years in Congress. Branded as “2 Years in 2-ish minutes,” the video runs longer, but provides a great example of effectively communicating her agenda and accomplishments to her constituents.
It's a statement of her ROI – underscoring how she earned 72% of New York's 14th district for her re-election this past November. Clearly, her commitment to creating interesting and relevant content and distributing it to her homies – and the world – has becomes an effective way to get her messaging across. And other members of Congress are paying attention.
Last January I was sworn in for my first term in Congress.
So, what have we accomplished since then?
Let’s take 2(ish) minutes to review. pic.twitter.com/Q2Xgp48rTN
— Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (@AOC) December 11, 2020
But it's not just about campaigning or raising money. AOC's knowledge of social media – how it works, where it goes wrong, and how it can be abused by users and CEOs – goes to the heart of what America is dealing with in 2021. Technology is light years ahead of policy makers in the U.S., and around the world. How can lawmakers and leaders do their jobs if they don't understand the DNA of how communications work in 2021 – and beyond?
AOC's laser-focused grilling of Facebook's Mark Zuckerberg in 2019 went viral – racking up tens of millions of views all over the web. It was the first time anyone had seen a tech mogul like Zuck back on his heels, trying to justify his company's questionable policies.
As we look ahead and realize just how important a handful of companies are to America and the world, someone with knowledge and perspective has to ask Tim Cook, Elon Musk, Jeff Bezos (now Andy Jassy), Jack Dorsey, and yes, Mark Zuckerberg those tough, probing questions – and hold them accountable.
And that's why it was noteworthy last week when AOC shared her social media prowess and experience with her fellow Congressmen and women in a Zoom meeting. Axios referred to it as a “master class” – a chance for her peers to better understand how the social tool kit can be used to disseminate their messages and agendas as they try to pass legislation and connect with their communities.
In a story titled “AOC tutors Dems on mastering social media,” Axios reporter Alexi McCammond described how this tutorial “signals a shift within the party.” Clearly, some of the younger members in the House are social media “natives.” First elected to Congress in her twenties, Ocasio-Cortez is just 31 years-old, and cut from a very different cloth than many of her colleagues. Many of the “old guard” have fundamental questions about how these platforms work, and how they can best be utilized. And they're leveraging her experience and expertise in the space.
While many of you are doing your jobs with fewer co-workers these days, the fact is that each and every one of them has their own “superpower” – something they do or know better than most of us. We're talking about the boss in the corner office, the traffic manager, or that summer intern.
Who on the staff is that social media pro?
That podcasting expert?
A skilled website designer?
An expert on gaming?
A video producer or editor?
A community organizer or fundraiser?
Now, not all of these skills are going to be covered by fellow staffers in your building. But I'll bet there are many of your co-workers who have knowledge about key areas of expertise your entire group could benefit from. How can you learn from those on your staff, in your building, or around your company?
Most companies do scant training of their employees, whether they're in programming, sales, marketing, or digital. And thanks to COVID, it has become even more challenging to share knowledge and expertise.
What are their “superpowers?”
In radio, we have many of the same goals and challenges facing politicians – clearly communicating what we do and explaining why it matters to large numbers of fickle fans – in other words, our constituents. How can we find and tap into that small group of über P1s who will campaign for us – whether that means sharing our content, telling our story, or carrying around a meter or a diary?
And how can we do it in a way that's cost-effective, entertaining, and attention-getting?
What “superpowers” do your fellow staffers possess?
Find out and tap into them.
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