Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez may be a rookie congressional representative, but she is quickly proving she is a master of social media.
According to the blog Boing Boing, "Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez reaches more people on Twitter than the press and establishment Democrats." According to the Guardian, Ocasio-Cortez has seen a 600 percent increase in Twitter followers since June of last year and already has more Twitter followers than Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (3.1 million to Pelosi's 2.2 million). Even Jack Dorsey, Twitter's founder, says the representative from New York is "mastering the medium."
So what is the key to Ocasio-Cortez's social media success? Three words: digital emotional intelligence. By now you have heard of emotional intelligence, but digital emotional intelligence is the capacity to be aware of, control, and express one's emotions, and to handle interpersonal relationships judiciously and empathetically over digital channels including email and social media.
I reviewed Ocasio-Cortez's online activity to identifty some impactful social media techniques, particularly self-defense, and other examples of digital emotional intelligence.
1. Be authentic.
One of the keys to online success is authenticity. Sharing one's true feelings publicly and properly can be a sure sign of emotional intelligence online. Here is a great example of Ocasio-Cortez doing just that:
Shock doesn't begin to cover it. Today I left a hearing on homelessness & saw tons of people camped outside committee. I turned to my staff and asked if it was a demonstration.-- Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (@AOC) February 13, 2019
"No," they said. "Lobbyists pay the homeless + others to hold their place so they can get in 1st." pic.twitter.com/mXbgqkKp4P
Don't be afraid to share how you feel online, so long as you do genuinely and your expressions match your goal. The internet hates people who fake it or who are hypocritical.
2. Use the "180-Degree Rule."
I have written about how internet trolls can trigger an amygdala hijack: an immediate, overwhelming emotional response that can be inappropriately strong. The best response to an amygdala hijack is often to do the exact opposite of your first reaction, which I dubbed the 180-Degree Rule.
Recently, Ocasio-Cortez was attacked online over a video of her dancing as a college student. Critics implied that the video made her look immature. Instead of attacking back, Ocasio-Cortez used the 180-Degree Rule and embraced the criticism, posting a video of herself dancing in her office.
3. Own your narrative.
Ocasio-Cortez doesn't let her detractors control her narrative. By owning the narrative, she shapes the conversation. This is similar to how car companies sell their wares: Porsche focuses on performance, Volvo focuses on safety, and Tesla focuses on environmental impact. Here is a prime example of Ocasio-Cortez using Twitter to direct the conversation.
Some folks are saying I won for "demographic" reasons.-- Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (@AOC) June 29, 2018
1st of all, that's false. We won w/voters of all kinds.
2nd, here's my 1st pair of campaign shoes. I knocked doors until rainwater came through my soles.
Respect the hustle. We won bc we out-worked the competition. Period. pic.twitter.com/RbpQMYTiWY
This response refocuses the online conversation, shifting the narrative to better sync with her perspective.
4. Empty the cart.
"Measure twice, cut once" is a saying that reminds us to think twice before taking decisive, irreversible action (like cutting fabric). Ocasio-Cortez has talked about how she not only writes her own tweets, but also self-polices them. The Millennial politician told Business Insider in an interview:
"There are so many tweets that do not see the light of day -- there are so many. In my house we joke: We call it 'emptying the cart.' It's like when you go online shopping and then you're, like, 'Oh no, never mind,' and you leave the website."
Taking a pause before tweeting is a key underused skill. We all have knee-jerk reactions, but the smart and savvy social media user pauses before reacting. Only after a second review does Ocasio-Cortez decide what to post and what to bin.
5. Support others on social media.
One way to demonstrate emotional intelligence on social media is to support others, especially when they screw up. Ocasio-Cortez did this recently as she helped one of her Democratic colleagues learn from a significant social media blunder.
Unlike this President, Rep. @IlhanMN demonstrated a capacity to acknowledge pain & apologize, use the opportunity to learn abt history of antisemitism,+grow from it while clarifying her stance.-- Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (@AOC) February 12, 2019
I'm also inspired by Jewish leadership who brought her in, not push her out, to heal. https://t.co/ONRegDJK2S
In politics, as in business, you can't ignore social media. But both arenas can be fraught with negativity and criticism. Learn from Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and master the medium.