Van Hollen seeks striking Facebook photo, voter interaction

WASHINGTON — Maryland Congressman Chris Van Hollen (D-Md) is offering some of his prime Facebook real estate to the person who captures a striking photograph of his Eighth Congressional District.

“We’ve launched a Facebook cover photo contest, to ask our constituents to send us the photos they think best capture the spirit of the Eighth Congressional District,” says Van Hollen.

The photo that receives the most “Likes” will become the page’s cover photo. Photos must be submitted by close of business, Wednesday, July 16.

Van Hollen’s district begins in Montgomery County at the northern tip of Washington, D.C., and cuts a wide swath through Frederick County, toward the Pennsylvania line.

The representative won’t offer any suggestions on what he thinks might make a good submission.

“I don’t want to skew the results,” says Van Hollen. “I don’t want to say anything here that might suggest any sort of preference from our end. — the whole idea is people decide for themselves what best captures the essence of the 8th congressional district.”

Photos can be submitted as a high-resolution attachment, or as a link to the photo online.

The images should be submitted by the photographer, along with the artist’s full name, and the location where the photo was taken.

Finalists will be uploaded to Van Hollen’s Facebook page, and the photo with the most “Likes” by July 20, 2014 will win.

Widening reach through social media

Van Hollen says he personally realized the power of social media when a Sept. 30, 2013 exchange over Rules of the House garnered more than 3 million YouTube hits.

Using YouTube, Facebook, and Twitter “allows us to get messages out directly to constituents.”

While voters have always been able to communicate through letters, phone calls, and personal visits, “social media has accelerated and expanded the ability of citizens to engage in the process,” says Van Hollen.

Some politicians have attempted to minimize the role of the media, by primarily communicating through social media.

“I don’t see social media as a replacement for the press — I see it more as a supplement,” says Van Hollen.

“It’s a bit more of a two-way street,” says Van Hollen. “We can talk to the press about issues of concern to us, and the press with their interpretation can present those stories to the public, but social media is more of a two-way street between elected officials and their constituents.”

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