Ever see the protectionist maritime lobby mocked with photos from Spongebob Squarepants? If you’ve been following Shoshana Weissmann on X, formerly known as Twitter, you may have. Weissmann is the director of digital media for the R Street Institute, a free market think tank. I speak with her about advocating for policy through social media for the Overton Window podcast.

“I never thought that being so clearly who I am would work in politics. I want regulations to work better. I love working at the R Street Institute. Most of our stuff is free markets and regulatory reform, so that’s what we want. And it turns out you can use Spongbob memes to get you there,” Weissmann says.

“I just tried seeing if people liked who I was over time and that included a lot of humor,” she says,” Weissmann says. “I got into digital media in high school. I ran social media for campaigns when I was 19. I learned I hated traditional communications, but I loved using social media to reach people.”

She writes editorials and studies her issues, and she also promotes her work through social media. “I’m digital first and I think that really helps. Not a lot of people bridge between digital and scholarship and a lot of those who do struggle to do it right because it’s a hard thing to do.”

Weissmann gives an example about occupational licenses. The requirement to get a license is often used as a barrier to entry rather than a public protection. The State of Louisiana prohibited a woman from selling flowers for lacking the required license.

“That was nuts to me,” Weissmann says, “finding out that this woman died in poverty because the government wouldn’t let an elderly widow work to do the things she knew how to do. It still puts fire in my veins.”

Sharing her views, tastes and advocacy on social media has led to some small and large changes.

Regulators in Alabama were going to ban margarita pitchers, and she noticed. “I shamed them so much that they called us out and said, ‘Oh, this wasn’t a final rule. We were just considering it.’ So I stopped a regulation just making fun of someone really hard,” Weissmann says.

“I met the mayor of Oklahoma City through Twitter,” Weissmann says. “And within a couple of years he asked me to review all the licenses the city had and tell him what he should remove and keep.”

Former Arizona governor Doug Ducey is a fan of hers and has engaged with her on some issues. “He always says that one reason he loves working with me is because I’m fun.” Weissmann says.

Elected officials get a lot of hate through their social media channels, so she tries to be positive to switch it up. “If someone’s doing great work, I want to get them to do more of it,” Weissmann says. “And if they have the positive association with someone praising them, they can build on that.”

She also provides criticism when elected officials do bad things on her issues. She will also try to encourage them to respond. Part of this is because she wants a place where lawmakers address critics. “John Cornyn’s amazing that way. So I try to raise him up as a guy who will listen. Which is really nice, you know?” Weissmann says.

“It doesn’t always have to be us yelling at each other or being mean to each other or being insane online,” she says.

“You can share information now that people couldn’t have found before. Now they just search for licensing reform if they’re interested in that,” Weissmann says. “Or marmots. I love marmots.”

Social media gives her an avenue to persuade people, even if many others use the medium for other purposes. “The monetary incentives are definitely for preaching to the choir. But if you work at a think tank and you don’t have to worry about making money off your audience, then you can do it,” Weissmann says.

“It’s not going to get you endless followers. It’s not going to make you the biggest account, but it’ll make you an important account that can do good stuff.”

Check out our conversation at the Overton Window podcast.