Facebook newest features want to help local politicians connect with their constituents
Facebook is turning into more and more of a Town Hall.
The social network introduced three features Wednesday that are meant to help elected officials better connect with their constituents and vice-versa. The products provide a way for politicians to identify local constituents and help identify the news stories affecting their district.
It’s just the latest round of civic engagement features Facebook has added over the last few months. Facebook introduced Town Hall in March to help people discover their local politicians and contacting them privately. Another feature last month added a button to contact local representatives within Facebook posts.
These products are squarely in line with CEO Mark Zuckerberg’s big mission for his company this year. No longer is Facebook’s tagline just about “connecting the world.” Facebook is now about building community. Indeed, Zuckerberg’s 6,000-world “manifesto” released earlier this year centered on community, as did his speech at Harvard’s commencement in May.
“Our goal is to help people build the communities they want by making it easier for them to engage and have a voice in government – on a daily basis, not just Election Day,” a Facebook spokesperson said in a statement about the updates.
One of the new features is constituent badges. Facebook users can now opt-in to a tag that will identify themselves as living in an elected official’s district if they interact with anything shared by that local official.
Facebook users will be prompted to turn it on if they like, comment, or share a post from their elected official, as long as they identified those officials within Town Hall. Users can also turn it on within the Town Hall page.
When this option is on, all future comments on an identified representatives’ posts will show this constituent badge.
Beyond badges, Facebook is adding constituent insights, where people can more easily discover news stories that affect their district. This feature is available to constituents as well as elected officials so that these officials can see what stories are buzzing in their district.
These insights are all automated, so there are no humans curating what news stories to show.
For elected officials, this feature is available in the Page Insights section of their Facebook Page. Page administrations will see a horizontal scroll of popular stories shared in their district.
For constituents, they can see the trending stories in a Community Tab on the elected official’s Facebook Page.
Facebook is also introducing district targeting, where elected officials can choose for their posts to only appear in the News Feeds of people who are likely to be their constituents. They can also run polls to this same group of people.
When it comes to connecting with local politicians, Zuckerberg is doing his fair share. His New Years Resolution is to visit every state in America, where he is also connecting with politicians IRL. For example, he met Pete Buttigieg, the mayor of South Bend, Indiana and live-streamed their conversation with Facebook Live.
Zuckerberg is also hosting Facebook’s first-ever Communities Summit later this month, where hundreds of administrators of Facebook Groups are invited.
“For the past decade, Facebook has been focused on making the world more open and connected — and we’re always going to keep doing that. But now it’s clear we have to do more. We also need to bring people closer together and build common understanding,” Zuckerberg wrote Tuesday in a Facebook post about the Communities Summit.