If you use social media and live in North Carolina, you’ve probably seen Jeff Jackson’s posts. If you don’t live in North Carolina, we highly recommend following Jeff Jackson.
Jackson, a Democrat, is NC’s congressional representative in the 14th district (which covers parts of Mecklenburg and Gaston Counties) and he’s really, really good at social media.
On Reddit, where he uses the handle JeffJacksonNC, he routinely answers questions and posts videos about what’s happening in the news. (Here’s his overview of the UAVs that were shot down.) He’s briefed Redditors (and people on other social media networks) about what happens after you get elected to Congress, how he received his committee assignments, and what he saw after the Speaker was sworn in. (He’s also on the newsletter platform Substack, where he writes a first-person, weekly account of serving in Congress as a freshman member from North Carolina..)
We love that he understands these platforms and speaks their language. He isn’t just dropping in — Jackson has been doing this on Reddit for years, posting regularly when he served in NC’s State Senate.
We reached out to Jackson to ask him some questions about how he communicates with his constituents, because it’s something other local, state-level, and national politicians can learn from.
Triangle Blog Blog: You’re really, really good at Reddit — you respond to questions, you post updates that make people better understand the political process, and you hit all of the relevant NC channels. We’re curious how you decided to approach Reddit and what you’ve learned by your engagement on the platform.
Jeff Jackson (NC-14): Reddit is a tough crowd. If you gloss over an inconvenient fact, they’ll call you on it. Early on, I would just get shredded all the time. Then I realized I just had to up my game. During the pandemic, I used Reddit to push out as much good information as I could. I saw how much people appreciated that and it taught me that there’s a real demand for timely, unbiased information – so that’s how I try to use it.
Triangle Blog Blog: You recently launched a Substack to give a behind-the-scenes look at what Congress is like. How do you decide what to write about, and what has the reception been like?
Jackson: In general, I don’t post anything I wouldn’t want to read myself. And when it comes to newsletters, the bar for that is really high. I only subscribe to a few and they’re the ones that regularly have three or four interesting observations in each one. So that’s what I try to do: I hold off writing until I’ve got three or four interesting things to say.
That’s why I only do it once a week, because chances are I’m not going to have eight things worth writing about in one week that would justify sending two emails. The reception has been great. I got the best email the other day from a reader. She said her friend forwarded it to her and she was initially annoyed that she was being sent some random congressman’s newsletter but by the time she reached the bottom she had subscribed. That’s the ultimate compliment.
Triangle Blog Blog: How do you consume social media and new information? We imagine there’s quite a waterfall when getting to Congress — how are you able to do all of this so well? 😛
My social media consumption habits have changed a lot with the rise of Substack. I’m not on Twitter nearly as much now. I value hot takes less and analysis more. That’s also the kind of content I like to produce. People really don’t need hot takes from me.
There’s a huge supply of that and lots of people do it better than I do. As for regular news, having a few digital newspaper subscriptions is key. That’s where I go first in the morning. I can’t imagine getting all my news from social media. I wouldn’t recommend that to anyone.
Triangle Blog Blog: Do you have any advice for local town council members who want to start exploring a new platform? We recently saw one town council member in Raleigh start to post on Reddit, which seemed great. (TikTok? Insta?)
It’s fantastic that more elected officials are using more social media channels. It used to be all about Facebook and Twitter, but those days are gone. My advice for local officials is to let people see your excitement and your passion for your work. Talk about the issues that fascinate or challenge you and your energy will naturally attract an audience. And don’t worry if you’re the only one in your town council doing it. Just march on.
Anything else to add?
I checked out your website and saw the piece on Bolin Creek. I grew up next to Bolin Creek. It was a great bit of nostalgia to read about it. Looks like it’s doing well!