Monday, December 31, 2007

New Channels = New Targeting Opportunities

Another interesting tidbit in the article mentioned in my previous post discusses Hillary's outreach to women. Her polling has obviously found an opportunity to target this demographic. My thesis is that these new communication channels offer a new way to target - target based upon communication channel not by demographic. Persons on Facebook show that they are willing and interested in communicating a different way. Speak to them in that way. Social media creates more of a conversational, many-to-many dynamic. Yet have the candidates created forums for a conversation? They are still stuck in a one-to-many rut.

Many folks are just getting in to email. I still get chain emails from my mother-in-law. We all remember the adoption cycle of email - chain emails and forwarded jokes were the norm wen we first got connected. So in that vein, campaigns should create similar such emails, with their own twist.

Texting is taking is another new channel available. I am certainly a newby to this one - my wife and I just started using it in excess within the past year. Maybe a game / contest? I am sure there are others more adept at this medium with a better understanding of how it is typically used. The premise, though, remains the same: mimic the manner in which the medium is already being used.

New? Really?

Obama gets the "technology" moniker this cycle! In this Washington Post story, reporters Peter Selvin and Jose Antonio Vargas dissect what's new in how campaigns are reaching out to Iowa voters. But is the investment enough?

They discuss how each campaign has radically expanded the channels with which they attempt to communicate with likely voters - all good things from email to Facebook to traditional house visits. Given the significant increase in money to be spent this cycle, the dollars are there to make these investments productive. We shall see where it goes...

Thursday, December 27, 2007

The Art of Conversation

I am reading Garrett Graff's "The First Campaign", an interesting look at the history of American leadership and politics, and a thought occurred to me. The media strategist as we have known them are dead; the art of conversation is now paramount, not the 30-second sound-bite. Campaigns have relied on the media strategist since the days of JFK - smart, savvy people that understand the television medium. Sure, resources have gone in to other communication channels in recent years, but television continues to reign supreme. No other channel has proven as effective at moving voter behavior as the tv commercial. As such, the art of one-to-many communication through short, 30-second bites has been the root of any successful campaign.

The rise of the internet, coupled with the recent social media phenomena, is changing that dynamic. Traditional advertising does not work in an online world. Users are impatient. They no longer "have" to sit through the 30-second rifts. They simply click on to the next. The traditional media's attempts at advertising (banner ads, even Google ads) are better, especially given the opportunity to target like never before. However, they are not nearly as effective as tv advertising, nor do they reach such a wide audience. Traditional online advertising will never become what tv has been - a single, powerful channel with which to communicate a message.

Assuming existing trends continue, people are spending more and more time online (and less and less in front of a tv). Of course, there is and will continue to be a population steadfast in their tv viewing, but that population is in decline. Unfortunately, however, those in the driver's seat (i.e. the media strategists) are still beholden to the tried and true of tv advertising. Their knowledge base rests within this one-to-many medium. Converting to the tactics that this new age requires breeds opportunity for new strategists, savvy in the art of conversation.

Instead of focusing on one-to-many opportunities such as tv and traditional online advertising, campaigns must shift focus towards community building. Tap the existing networks of people where they already live online - within blogs, social networks, etc. And therefore, the media strategist must evolve as well. The art moves from creating short, 30-second bytes to engaging in the conversation.

Saturday, December 22, 2007

Facebook and Politics

Facebook has an obvious vested interest in supporting politicians within its ecosystem. Chris Kelly, Chief Privacy Officer, and several others have been in DC several times this fall to encourage the use of Facebook in political activity. They tout their successes during the 2006 cycle, and expect great things to come during this, the most expensive and rancorous of all presidential cycles. However, their outreach to date does not yet align with the traditional needs of politicking.

Two things matter in politics: fundraising and organizing. If it doesn't help advance one or the other, then its of no use. Social media in general is an obvious asset in organization, as the "network" is at the heart. However, from a campaign's perspective, unless they know who is in their network and, more importantly, what they can offer the campaign (i.e. fundraising dollars, time to lick envelopes, etc.), then they are of no use.

Originally built within the US Politics application, Facebook's Pages tool now houses politician supporter pages. But, this tool does not allow page owners enough insight into who has "become a fan". In fact, Facebook has precluded (through this tool) the extraction of any information on these individuals from Facebook.

To be valuable to a campaign, they must have the ability to match the network collected within one channel to their other sources of information collected through other channels, such as previous donors, volunteers, email lists, etc. The Facebook Pages structure, therefore, leaves hundreds of thousands of self-identified supporters dangling outside the traditional campaign machine, unable to be harvested. Not effective.

Though difficult, the best option within Facebook is the application platform. There, data can be extracted. Unfortunately, however, generating a sizable network is difficult, as evidenced by the Obama app. Unless or until Facebook enables functionality to support these needs, campaigns must work to uncover the right combination to drive a network from an application.

Friday, December 21, 2007

Politics is Behind the Curve

Here is another example of how the political campaigns have missed the shift going on within online communities / social media. Why aren’t they responding to such requests? The whole idea of political campaigning is to build your network of supporters, get and keep them engaged to fundraise and, ultimately, vote. Why are campaigns so intent on creating their own walled networks that they are missing the opportunity of existing networks?

Peter, Joe, Aaron, wake up. Engaging these existing online communities is your goal. Pretty pages and fun uses for flash are not. Get in the game.

TechCrunch and Politics

So, does TechCrunch matter in the world of politics? The participation in Arrington’s drive to consolidate technology policy among the presidential candidates is abysmal. Only Barack Obama, John McCain, John Edwards, Mitt Romney and Mike Gravel participated. No Hillary. No Guiliani. Not even Kucinich or Paul.

What is the problem? Do the campaigns not think the vast tech-savvy user base is worthy of their time? Craziness…

Check it out for mre…