Social media is a driving force behind the 24/7 news cycle, and one Texas congressman has — much to his own surprise — become a social media superstar.
Bill Flores, a first-term Republican from Bryan, topped the Texas delegation and placed the 11th nationally in MTV’s “Fantasy Election ’12” series, which evaluates politicians by constituent engagement, honesty, transparency, civility and public opinion.
The contest is similar to the fantasy sports leagues that engage millions of America during football and baseball seasons. MTV says its political fantasy series allows users to “draft a team of candidates pursuing the presidency or congress, earning and losing points based on how their players behave in the real world.”
Flores, the only Texan on the top 20 list, ranks just three spots behind Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney. Flores’ score is a combination of high marks for engaging with his community and for transparency – OpenSecrets.org gave him a 91.1 percent disclosure rate. He gained additional points for his frequent posts to Facebook and Twitter.
When asked about his social media standings, Flores he was surprised yet thrilled about his achievement, because his team really hasn’t spent much time worrying about numbers.
“We’ve just been doing what we normally do with our social strategy,” he said in an interview with Texas on the Potomac.
Flores has five different social sites for personal, official, and campaign usage, including three Facebook pages and two Twitter accounts.
“I think you’ve got to use every form of media that you can that has some traction with your constituents,” Flores said. “Some like the newspaper, some watch traditional broadcast TV and radio, and social media is just another element.”
On Thursday, when the Department of Commerce revised its second quarter GDP down to 1.3 percent, Flores posted about the economy and sparked a conversation about Barack Obama’s policies, an issue that Republicans hype as a weakness for the incumbent commander in chief.
Flores said that social media allows him to reach out to people of varying age groups and even differing social opinions to get a better idea of what his constituents are looking for.
With two major universities in his district, online engagement may be especially useful for his upcoming race against Libertarian Ben Easton. (No Democrat ran against him this year.)
Not only have students from both Baylor and Texas A&M interacted with Flores’ pages, he notes that he gets responses from both sides of the political debate.
“It gives me an idea, I can look at all the statistics in the world, but you don’t really know what the real world is thinking,” Flores said. “Social media gives me another feedback mechanism.”
Facebook has even acted as channel for constituent services for Flores, with followers of his official page using the messaging feature to ask him for help.
Obama is the highest scoring candidate to date, but challenger Romney came out on top in terms of constituent engagement. As of MTV’s press release, 14 of the top 20 highest scorers are Republican.
Flores said his party’s lead comes from an understanding of “the power of social media” and using it to effectively communicate with the public.
“In terms of house freshman colleagues in the GOP side, we have embraced social media,” Flores said.