Monday, December 15, 2008

NYT Misses the Ball: Brand Advertising in SocNets

In yesterday's NYTimes, an article was published specifically about Procter & Gamble's use of Facebook advertising, but more generally about how traditional brand advertising is failing within social networking. Duh.

P & G is arguably one of the most sophisticated marketing operations out there, and yet their attempts thus far to advertise their brands within social networks are still rooted in traditional impression-based brand advertising.
And when they try to take advantage of new “social advertising,” extending their commercial message to a member’s friends, their ads will be noticed, all right, but not necessarily favorably. Members are understandably reluctant to become shills. IDC, the technology research firm, published a study last month that reported that just 3 percent of Internet users in the United States would willingly let publishers use their friends for advertising. The report described social advertising as “stillborn.”
The opportunity is not about "shilling", its about creating a relationship with the customer. In the previous world, attention could be attained by simply getting your logo in front of the user. Over the years, more channels were offered, but the strategy was still the same - the more impressions the more attention. However, as attention continues to fragment and channels proliferate, this "impression-based" approach is losing its effectiveness, especially within a social networking environment.

The opportunity of cultivating a brand within social networking lies in fostering an emotional relationship with your customer. This has long been a powerful yet overlooked strategy available to the average marketer. Creating an emotional bond is difficult, and can be costly given the few tactics available to drive such a strategy (prior to social networks). The power and effectiveness of impression-based advertising coupled with the high cost of generating this emotional bond pushed a relationship-based strategy off the budget. However, with the connected nature of social networks, such a strategy has become much less costly, once a chord is struck. Given the diminishing power of impression-based advertising, striving for an emotional relationship with the customer is how brands of the future must connect.

To illustrate this point, let's look at a couple brands that arguably have done a great job of creating an emotional bond with their customer, and what has happened specifically within their Facebook Page presence.
  • Apple has roughly 180,000+ fans throughout various Pages within Facebook, most of which appear to be fan-created (i.e. free to Apple, or rather a result of their other relationship-driven marketing tactics).
  • Five Guys Burgers, a Mid-Atlantic "fast casual" burger joint, the 300-location chain, garnered over 16,000 fans to date, presumably at no cost to the company.
Don't just show yourself to your customer, connect with them...

Update: It appears the Wall Street Journal made my argument in today's paper, albeit in a much more eloquent, in-depth manner...

Friday, December 05, 2008

What If...

What if the conversation among the Pakistani people turned in support of a thorough investigation and strong government response to the Mumbai attacks?

What if Pakistani Americans urged their friends and family still living in Pakistan to enter the conversation?

What if the Obama folks cut a list of Pakistani-Americans from their 11 million-strong supporter list, and asked them to reach out to their friends and family, and provided them a few resources to pass along to help seed the conversation?

New media can drive more than just a money and vote machine....

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

The New CTO: Fostering Innovation

One of the many discussions going on about President-Elect Obama's transition is that of his promise to designate a new cabinet-level CTO. While the "beltway" is focused on Secretary of State and the like, Silicon Valley and the rest of the internet / technology crowd is curious to see if Obama makes good on his promise, and what the agenda of this new entity might develop. My hope is that this new era of unconstrained innovation (led by Facebook's application platform, Apples iPhone Application environment, among others) is brought to government.

President Obama has a tremendous opportunity to tap the grassroots energy developed throughout his campaign to foster innovation within government by leveraging technology. Activate the community to innovate. Provide APIs to government data and information to enable interested parties to create applications, gadgets, etc., that improve transparency and enhance the citizens' experience with government.

If you wonder what could happen with such openness, so do I. But recent examples prove such a model unleashes a cornucopia of innovation that is beyond what a single mind can fathom. Just take the new iPhone application, Ocarina. Launched just over a week ago, the application allows you to create a flute-like melody by blowing into the iPhone microphone. You can also listen to the melodies created by others. Silly, yes. Valuable? Maybe not. But already, users have listened to over 3 million melodies.

An open innovation platform provides the opportunity for the people to go beyond their vote, in influencing government. They can have a direct hand in precisely how government executes its mision and services.

Monday, October 27, 2008

Obselete Advance Tactics

I did advance for President Clinton (event logistics management). One of the first keys you learn is to make sure the space was smaller than your crowd. If it wasn't smaller, make it at least look smaller by funneling the crowd to where the press is aiming their cameras.

All sorts of tactics can be used to help "shrink" a room, from riser placement to blocking empty areas with large flags, etc. Unfortunately, now that every attendee has a camera and the ability to post their photo on Flickr or worse, many of those tactics are not quite as effective.

Case in point: Marc Ambinder just posted this photo from a McCain rally today:


Sunday, October 26, 2008

Social Media and the Butterfly Effect

I came across this article in the New York Times - another example of the paradigm shift in the fundamentals of communication. Johnny Lee posted a video on YouTube of his ideas on how to bring a virtual reality feel to consumers, using existing technology available via Nintendo's Wii console.
That video, together with others that Mr. Lee, now 28, posted on YouTube, have drawn people to the innovator as well as his innovations. Video game companies have contacted him and, in September, M.I.T.’s Technology Review named him as one of its top innovators under 35...

Contrast this with what might have followed from other options Mr. Lee considered for communicating his ideas. He might have published a paper that only a few dozen specialists would have read. A talk at a conference would have brought a slightly larger audience. In either case, it would have taken months for his ideas to reach others.
We are just now seeing few, isolated examples of how social media is radically changing the manner in which communication is conducted. Bring to this the Butterfly Effect, and just think how such a paradigm shift is radically changing our world...

Friday, October 10, 2008


So, I have not posted my ideas here in a while. Truth be told, people have started paying me for them, so sharing them here might diffuse their price / effectiveness.

Nonetheless, I do have a few in production now that are kind of interesting. The first is the Rock the Vote Action Center. Readers may recognize a few theories I have thrown about on this blog. The idea with this one is to allow users to make phone calls on the campaign's behalf, from within Facebook. Of course, all activity is communicated to your friends... Things have been going great with this one - Marc Ambinder of The Atlantic wrote a piece on it.

Another interesting app is our Voter Registration tool. The idea here is to check whether or not you (and your Facebook friends) are registered to vote without having to enter your information (it all comes via Facebook). In the background we run a match of the user and their friend's to a national voter file. If the user is not found, we guide them through the voter registration process. We also display the user's friends into three groups - registered, not registered (i.e. found on the voter file but not registered to vote) and missing info.

I like this one a lot, but it did nothing like what Facebook's own campaign produced... We shall see what a few tweaks for next cycle might bring!

More to come (I hope)...

Tuesday, July 08, 2008

Sides of the House: Understanding the Change

Have you seen this or this or this? It is bubbling in to something big and nasty, and "we" are on the wrong side (assuming this letter truly reflects toe Democratic position)...

The following chart compares the adoption rates of the internet from 1995 - 97 versus the recent rise of MySpace and Facebook. The starting point for both was around 2 million users.
Social media is bringing upon the constituency a rapid evolution. Understanding of where it is heading and what it means is lagging. Few understand the opportunity, let alone the consequences. And even fewer of those folks are in decision-making roles, whether it be government, corporate or otherwise.

Issues such as this are going to bubble up fast and furious over the next few months and years. Societal change is so fun to watch!

Monday, July 07, 2008

Social Media as a Fractal

I have been thinking about this social media phenomena, as it matures and crosses the chasm from the early-adopter / tech geek crowd to mainstream. The idea that I am wrestling with is that the primary behaviors being exhibited thus far are just the top layer of a much more deep and complex evolution currently underway.

I have written before about Charlene Li and Josh Bernoff's social technolgraphics ladder. Many others are trying to define frameworks to explain what we are seeing. However, my theory is that these frameworks are too simple to explain what is happening, especially as such behaviors expand into the mainstream. And, in order to meet the needs of the ever-expanding social media user base requires a more complex model. And yet, such complex models already exist - in nature.

My thesis is that, as these tools proliferate and organization forms on its own, social media mimics more existing biological structures (i.e. fractals) than such simple structures as a ladder or even a pyramid. Just with biology, such self-organizing structures allow the sum to be better / smarter / stronger than the parts. This framework association is not limited to a particular part or behavior of social media. It reflects the entire social media landscape currently emerging.

This premise is supported by the success thus far of recent API's, such as Facebook and (dare I say) Twitter. Build the core infrastructure of your idea, and then offer integration points for others to permeate from your original idea, making the sum much more valuable than the part.

Wikipedia's strength also supports this idea. The sum of thousands of wonks / writers / editers / and even readers has self-organized in a manner that the sum of all the artciles created is much more valuable than the individual writings.

Obama is another loose example, as he attempts to cede control to his supporters, allowing them to self-organize.

So, as entrepreneurs, investors, corporate decision-makers, political strategists etc., evaluate opportunities within this space, ask this one fundamental question: "Does it enable the sum to be more valuable than the parts."

I am not the first to discuss this (for others, go here or here), nor do I claim to have a strong understanding of bio-structures. I just sense a connection here...

Monday, June 09, 2008

Upon the Shoulders of Giants

Nick Carr asks in the most recent Atlantic, "Is Google making us stupid?" (not yet available on the web). Carr writes:
The Internet promises to have particularly far-reaching effects on cognition...The Internet, an immeasurably powerful computing system, is subsuming most of our other intellectual technologies. It's becoming our map and our clock, our printing press and our typewriter, our calculator and our telephone, and our radio and TV.
It is a brave new world as the singularity nears. Matt Asay over at CNET thinks this is not a good thing. My take? Bring it on. Using the same tenants of Anderson's "Free" argument, offloading aspects of our brain processes to technology allows us to focus on other activities, still uniquely accomplished by the human brain. Just as when something becomes free, such a newfound freedom opens up a whole host of yet unforeseen opportunities. We won't know what it means until it happens, as our ability to predict and comprehend beyond is limited.

Thus, upon the shoulders of giants we again will stand...

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Anderson's "FREE" & Social Media

Chris Anderson is right. Again. The Long Tail author is publishing another seminal tome on the theory that costs are dramatically reduced given the efficiencies of the websphere, promulgating a whole new economy of "free". From Wired in February:
Once a marketing gimmick, free has emerged as a full-fledged economy. Offering free music proved successful for Radiohead, Trent Reznor of Nine Inch Nails, and a swarm of other bands on MySpace that grasped the audience-building merits of zero. The fastest-growing parts of the gaming industry are ad-supported casual games online and free-to-try massively multiplayer online games. Virtually everything Google does is free to consumers, from Gmail to Picasa to GOOG-411.
Another example: Social Media integration. A year ago this month, Facebook launched its API platform, allowing third-party developers to create applications that can easily be integrated into existing tools and features of the Facebook community. This opportunity has spawned over 26 thousand applications, generating over 1 billion downloads by Facebook users. It is free to use. However, the API is a "walled garden", providing no interoperability with other social media networks, creating a cost to the developer (e.g. their time).

This idea of providing an API to enable interoperability between your website / web service and others is taking off. Even the New York Times is jumping on the band wagon - they are working on an API to allow developers to import NYT content into new and yet-to-be-thought-of applications for disseminating content.

Earlier this year Google launched its Open Social product, with MySpace, LinkedIn and most others (except Facebook) on board. Their intent is to provide the infrastructure to allow developers to code their applications once, and then provide the tools and resources necessary to support the interoperability among the various social networks, websites, etc., current and future.

Facebook had attempted to license (i.e. charge) other social networks to take advantage of their platform. Bebo bit, licensing the platform last December. However, given Google's move, Facebook has been forced to go a step further, "open sourcing" their platform for anyone to use. Thus, like Google's Open Social, use of Facebook's API platform is now free for other social networks to integrate. The only cost is their time.

Facebook's obvious expectation is that other social networks will take the time to integrate, therefore offering Facebook's growing developer community more value for time spent developing within the their API platform.

The efficiencies of the internet continue to shrink even non-monetary costs (in this case, a developer's time). Interesting times...

Friday, May 23, 2008

Beyond Blogs

In an effort to keep up on what is going on in the social media space, I read. Lots sometimes, less others. There are a couple articles I found interesting recently.

First, this one by Heather Green and Stephen Baker. The key point I take from it is that social media has crossed over to the mainstream. Though only a quarter of the US online population reads blogs once a month or more, the continued proliferation of tools and services to connect are dominating attention and dramatically evolving online behavior.
While only a small slice of the population wants to blog, a far larger swath of humanity is eager to make friends and contacts, to exchange pictures and music, to share activities and ideas.
And this shift in online behavior is overflowing into the off-line. I am a neophyte within this space, as compared to my younger colleagues, and yet even I do not walk in to a meeting without first looking attendees up on LinkedIn and/or Facebook. It is a rare event where the guest list isn't published online beforehand. I have been in a bank a handful of times, only to cash the random check that was not direct deposited. And, I have not bough a newspaper in years.

This article by Jackie Peters, further summarizes the impact of these behavior changes on marketing and communications:
Our job now is two-fold: make sure the fakers who claim they get it, but really don’t, don’t screw things up, and educate clients, potential clients and our peers so they are able to make intelligent decisions in selecting an agency and implementing a social media strategy.
The fundamentals of this space are crystallizing, separating the effective from the ineffective. More is certainly to come. So now what?

Friday, May 16, 2008

August 29, 1936

In another installment of how control is lost in American politics, we have this gem:

I am curious has to how the McCain camp will defend against a birthday. John McCain turns 72 on August 29th - less than 10 weeks before election day.

Tuesday, May 06, 2008

Facebook is Dead? Long Live Facebook! (in Politics)

I commented on Colin Delaney's post about the failure of Facebook to deliver on its value to political organizations & campaigns, but I wanted to elaborate.

As I wrote, no one has yet really invested in a well-thought-out strategy. The features of Facebook are limited. By features, I am referring to Groups, Pages, Events and even Profiles. Active communication tools such as email messaging are hamstrung on each of these, to suppress spam. Interactive features do not go beyond basic discussion boards and comment threads. These tools become no more than glorified blogs. Thus, maintenance of these has been left to lower-level staffers and often interns within the campaign's internet team.

But the application platform is much less inhibited. You are able to do whatever your creative mind can think of within the canvas page. And then you are able to connect your application to the existing features of Facebook and, more importantly, adapt your application to the behaviors of the existing Facebook community. Is Facebook's discussion board infrastructure too limiting? Build your own. Is your application constrained by Facebook's strict emailing policies? Figure out a way to motivate users of your app to provide you their email address. The opportunity to connect with the 25+ million US Facebook users is limited only by creativity.

And yet, Obama and Clinton have made minimal investments of time and energy in their applications, and McCain's is nowhere to be found. Non-presidential apps have been few and far between.

To consider the value of political activism via Facebook a dead end at this point is premature. Many people (and development firms) have tried to take advantage of the application platform. But the folks that "know" politics, know what works and what does not in the offline world, have yet to commit investment dollars to the space. The people that get the opportunity (and get politics) are most often on the internet team, buried within communications. Those that control the purse strings don't yet understand the opportunity of Facebook and the greater social media space, and therefore are reluctant to invest when tactical opportunities are presented...

Full disclosure: I helped produce Clinton's Hillary Gifts - what I expect(ed?) to be the beginning of a longer-term investment...

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Obama, Abercrombie and the Social Web

My how even the smallest blunders get noticed. Obama's advance team missed a small little nuance this evening, but the social web was watching. The three most visible people directly behind Obama were all wearing Abercrombie & Fitch t-shirts. A&F couldn't have paid for better placement.

During the latter part of the Clinton administration, I traveled the country doing advance, essentially event management. The primary focus of advance (other than a happy president) is a good picture (tertiary was a happy press corps). Much of the effort and discussion leading up to an event surrounds the image that cameras will capture.

During Obama's speech this evening, a traditional "crowd" backdrop was used - fill the area behind the speaker with enthusiastic supporters. Great care is often taken in selecting those folks. You have to be sure the right mix of folks is represented. You have to make sure no one is sleepy or yawning. And you even have to pay attention to their clothes, to make sure the colors work. Obama's advance team missed the A&F logos...

Prior to this election cycle, such a gaffe would barely have been noticed. A few political pundits may make a remark or two, but barring any other direction to the story, such an error would be a non-issue. Not this cycle...

As this search of Tweetscan shows, many folks are talking about it. This guy took a screenshot and posted it on Facebook. Patrick Ruffini sent out a tweet. I Twittered about it as well. Even though I mispelled Abercrombie, I was part of the cacophony. Rather than sulking away, this gaffe reverberated throughout the social web, going far beyond the few picky folks like me that notice such things.

What does this mean? In this instance, probably not much, other than a nice brand hit for A&F and further visual support to reiterate the idea that Obama = young college supporters. But it is yet another example of how the communications dynamic is changing...

Sunday, April 20, 2008

Fred is Dead

Fred Thompson's presidential site is dead. Nothing there. Given the negligible cost of a redirect, why not push the occasional user somewhere, the RNC perhaps? I know there isn't much traffic, but isn't it worth a little effort to direct the user to something more useful than an error page?

This makes me wonder what is going to happen to the hundreds of thousands of connected supporters that exist among the various groups for each of the major candidates? Campaigns are known for leaving nothing behind - everything is spent by election day. However, these communities will still exist. What should be done with these assets?

Voter data (aka, the voter file) is another similar asset that at one time never lived beyond election day. Then, first by the Republicans and now slowly by the Democrats, the data each election cycle is being collected and stored for use next cycle. This data has become a powerful tool, as it has grown far beyond a simple list of those registered to vote. The data set now supports everything from ad buying to fundraising, and more innovations are on the horizon.

Given that most of these networked communities are locked within their respective social network, this data cannot be appended to the voter file. How can additional value be extracted after the balloons fall?

Traffic may not be enough to invest resources or thought, but Obama's 780,000 Facebook supporters, or McCain's 49,000 MySpace friends warrants at least some thought... What are your ideas?

Saturday, April 19, 2008

Freak Show Update

I just caught this in yesterday's Politico:
...(I)t has only been in this campaign cycle that we have seen the liberal echo chamber — from websites like The Huffington Post and cable commentators like Keith Olbermann — be able consistently to drive a campaign story line. In the past, it was only the conservative echo chamber — Matt Drudge, Rush Limbaugh — who regularly drove stories in new media and old media alike. This is a huge shift.
In my initial post about the Freak Show, I referenced another article by Vanderhei and Harris. It appears as though they are coming to the same conclusion as I have: social media is an opportunity for progressives to (finally) contest the conservative supremacy of talk radio...

Agree or disagree?

Thursday, April 17, 2008

Groundswell: The Engagement Ladder

Within politics, the idea of an engagement ladder has been around for decades. You begin to engage a potential supporter through a small, low-hurdle action, such as a short, ID survey (who do you support, etc.) or nowadays an email sign-up. The idea is that you then harvest those that filter through this initial hurdle with a larger ask, such as posting a yard sign. Eventually, you grow the supporter's engagement to volunteering their time and, ultimately, giving money.

Notice any parallels from this figure from Groundswell?
The social web allows the political engagement ladder to elongate in both directions. The gamut of actions from which you can choose to employ to grow your pool of supporters becomes vastly larger. The low-hurdle asks no longer have to be as active as a phone survey or even an email sign-up - now you can ask them to download a virtual gift within a social network (see Hillary Gifts).

Once engaged, the actions available can be much more broad than in the offline world. Campaigns are already allowing supporters to make phone calls from home. May more opportunities exist to activate and engage the supporter through social media (well beyond my ideas or existing examples).

How can the ladder be expanded?

Groundswell: Dems Dominate

I added another book to my list - Groundswell. Each of my clients is getting a copy - it's a great discussion of the social media opportunity. Most important, it looks at the phenomena not from the technical perspective, but from the direction of how social media is changing the relationships people have with their friends, colleagues, family, etc. Ultimately, these changes will also impact a brand, presidential campaign, or any other organization that relies on marketing and public relations to get its message out.

Li and Bernoff discuss their Social Technographic Profile, a breakdown of the various behaviors exhibited by users within the social web. Marketers (and campaigns) can use this breakdown to focus their social media efforts, as each tool and technique provides value to a different type of social media user. From a political perspective, the breakdown is:

The data suggests Democrats have a healthy advantage over their Republican counterparts in the areas of Spectators (those that primarily consume the content) and Critics (those that enjoy opportunities to react). Thus, providing opportunities for your community to view and digest new and interesting content will feed the Spectator (i.e. content aggregation). Ensuring your efforts provide ample opportunity to comment and discuss is necessary to feed the Critic's needs (i.e. comment tools, discussion boards, etc.). I am just scratching the service here of what this data means, but you get the idea...

I have long had the sense that Democrats & Progressives dominate the social web, as the Republican & Conservative movement has long dominated talk radio. This, in conjunction with the tremendous opportunity brewing on the business & marketing front, has driven me to help major Democratic political organizations realize and seize this growing opportunity. It's always nice to find empirical data to support your gut.

There is a ton of great information in this book, for anyone curious about the social web and how it will impact your organization, if it hasn't already. More to come on this one...

Monday, April 14, 2008

Freak Show

Interesting article in yesterday's Politico, laying out a few rational reasons as to why the Clinton machine continues to churn, despite calls to end it. Democrats in the last two cycles have been obliterated on the ground, given the hardened GOP "freak show," as Vanderhei and Harris refer to it, that has been developed and cultivated over the years. From the article:
The last two Democratic nominees, Al Gore and John F. Kerry, were both military veterans, and both had been familiar, highly successful figures in national politics for more than two decades by the time they ran.

Both men lost control of their public images to the right-wing freak show — that network of operatives and commentators working mostly outside of the mainstream media — and ultimately lost their elections as many voters came to see them as elitist, out-of-touch, phony, and even unpatriotic.
Can the freak show continue to dominate the conversation, given the power of social media? Does new media make such underhanded efforts more or less effective?

Friday, April 11, 2008

Cheney's Sunglasses

Heh, here is another example of the dramatic loss of control over the message. The White House published this photo:

Look closer. See anything amiss?

Thousands within the blogsphere did - data minus control. And the buzz is loud...

Update: CNN dug in to it as well. Ouch.

Thursday, April 10, 2008

Social Media Middleware

In reading Fred Wilson's recent post about liquidity, a thought came to mind, less from the financial perspective and more from the consumer's. Is there an opportunity for a social media middleware?

He is right that the internet is "decomposing into a vast array of micro-services". I am finding my attention further fragmented as I explore the latest tool - LinkedIn to Facebook, and now to Twitter.

Value is derived when these services are consolidated / integrated respective of how the users could / should / are using them - certainly an unlikely scenario exploited by an M&A play such as Yahoo / Microsoft, or any of the other potentials. I and many others have discovered tools to allow me to compound my activity from one source to another - Twitterfeed pushes my blog posts to Twitter, and Twitter's Facebook application pushes my tweets to my Facebook status. His point that M&A cannot work in this context is evident.

My thought is that opportunity exists to develop a middleware separate from all of these various sources, with the user in mind. This middleware will allow the user to access the various resources as they need to, all from a central platform - i.e. an RSS reader for the social web.

Such a service will not provide the liquidity Wilson advocates, as an M&A or IPO event may. However, if this nut can be cracked, such a service will allow these micro-services to evolve and continue delivering on the value proposition that first grabbed the attention of the early adopter. Surely that can be monetized?

Wednesday, April 09, 2008

Crowdsourcing: Radiohead's Latest Experiment

Crowdsourcing is an idea that has been gaining momentum as a key component of the evolving social web. (I previously wrote about it here.) Various attempts have been made within the political world, but none that execute on both sides of the coin.

Side #1 - User-generated Content: The most notable example of this is the YouTube debates last Fall. Users from around the country were encouraged to upload their questions for the candidates to YouTube. This was an interesting endeavor that has been mimiced in various ways since, such as Clinton's AskHillary project, among others. But, when it came to selecting questions, users were left out in the cold, which leads us to side #2...

Side #2 - Rank by Community: Users of the community review submissions and vote on them, Digg-style. The more votes a particular entry gets, the higher it appears in the rankings - i.e., the crowd decides what is emphasized.

A great example of both sides of the coin is Radiohead's latest Nude Re /Mix experiment. The band has made 4 different tracks available via iTunes - a voice track, guitar, strings and drums. Fans are encouraged to download the tracks via iTunes, and create their own mix of the song, and upload their versions to On the site, fans are also encouraged to vote on their favorite mix.

Thanks to Matt Dickman for the original thought. More from Matt:
This is a fantastic idea as a way to allow fans to get involved with the Radiohead brand, create something that is their own and join in a community of other, like minded fans. More companies, bands, products, teams, etc. need to look at this model as a way to create deeper engagement. Providing raw assets that can be used to create original, personal by-products could be powerful.
This is an interesting opportunity for Radiohead fans to participate in the music process, rather than just listen. Kinda has a democratic (note the small "d") ring to it, doesn't it...

Monday, April 07, 2008

Twitter Tools

From a political perspective, microblogging is barely even on the radar. However, campaigns and marketers can find value with this new tool, given its growing popularity.

Twitter is considered to be the first-mover in this space, and I am just beginning to play around with it. For those of you unaware of or new to the Twitter thing, check out this post by Tibi Bpuiu. It's a great overview of what it is, and more importantly how to generate personal value out of it. Or, if you prefer video...

Twitter is still a niche tool, as it is just reaching ~1 million users. Starting with SXSW a year ago, it has slowly been creeping its way around the tech community, and the buzz is getting louder. The next question is, how do politicians, companies and others find value in this idea? Here are my thoughts:
  1. Brand Tracking - Comcast has already discovered this method. My sense is that they had some help. If you don't have the resources to hire your own tracking consultant, TweetScan is a decent (and free) alternative to monitor your brand within the TwitterSphere. Every communications director and corporate marketer should at least create an auto-scan of their boss and/or company name. TweetScan allows the adding of a particular scan to your RSS reader, but unfortunately they do not offer email updates yet.

  2. Feed Your Supporters - I know many will not be interested in Hillary Clinton's thoughts just before she makes the same speech for the millionth time, or what goes through Steve Jobs' head as he puts on yet another black mock turtleneck shirt. But there are thousands of folks that are interested. On the political front, these are the zealots that drive your fundraising and staff your phone bank. On the corporate front, these are the folks that wear your logos, and preach the greatness that is your corporate brand. You need these folks, and Twitter offers a great method to interact with them (if done well). Good examples are not @hillaryclinton or @barackobama. I have yet to find a decent political Twitterer that offers anything more than a reading of their public schedule, but I digress... The key here is authenticity!

  3. Earned Media Hit - this Twitter thing is growing, but it is still a small player on the overall conversation landscape. Thus, using this tool to break news or otherwise push forward the frontier of what is possible can lead to a nice earned media hit, especially on the political technology front. Beyond just breaking news, Twitter offers an API to integrate its features into other aspects of your online strategy. Spending significant resources is not ideal, but if you can throw a developer on a little something for an afternoon, the earned media payoff offers a healthy return on investment.
Twitter is certainly not a critical tool for the interactive marketer's toolbox - yet. But, value exists within its growing audience...

To get started, follow me! Also, for more, check out Jeremiah Owyang's thoughts.

The Age of Conversation and the Integration of Data

This site got me thinking about the power of data as we enter the age of the conversation. Each of us now has a much larger megaphone than we ever did before, when it comes to shining a light on what interests us. Blogs are free, posting to YouTube is free. Certainly some are louder than others, but anyone can join the discussion.

Then comes data. There have been projects for years that have attempted to take advantage of the power of many. The idea of distributive computing has purveyed computer science courses for decades, and the SETI@Home project has engaged many a tech geek.

I have spoken a few times about the idea that privacy is truly a myth. There is more data out there on each of us than we could ever imagine. And yet, our visibility into this data is murky to non-existent, for the most part. Couple that dataset with the power of distributive computing and you get this:

And this:

And this:

The clash of the ubiquitous megaphone and public data begins! The power of many is able to comb through datasets like never before. Individuals are able to be places most are not, and then share what is relevant with the world. We are just seeing the beginning of a groundbreaking age of new insights, information, and discussion of our political landscape and beyond.

The political world is consistently being altered by this integration of data and the tools of the conversation. And the data brought to light thus far is minuscule compared to what is available. What does this mean to the marketing / public relations / branding world in the coming months and years? How will the idea of privacy and data ownership evolve? Should be fascinating to watch...

Wednesday, April 02, 2008

Al Gore's We Campaign: Online Marketing that Misses the Opportunity

I wanted to build upon Allison Fine's laments about former Vice President Al Gore's We campaign online strategy. My focus here is on opportunities for improvement, given the changes in the social web over the past 12 - 24 months.

There are plenty of opportunities throughout the site to submit your email address - very traditional online marketing. However, email is becoming a less relevant tool in daily communication, especially as spam continues to grow. Such a one-to-many medium allows you to disseminate your message, but does little to develop a relationship with your constituency. Newer, more effective tools are available today, often for free, and many more are on the horizon.

Once you submit your email address, they ask you for more information - physical address (for direct mail), cell phone number (for text alerts), etc. They have added numerous links to invite your friends, again only via email. They even included a tool to share aspects of the site on popular sites such as Digg, Facebook and Each of these is an essential tactic for any sort of online advocacy. However, each of these tools and techniques has been in the mainstream for a while now, and none go far enough towards where we are heading - to the social web.

On the video front, they have a few clips available, including their latest ads. Again, examples of traditional online strategy. However:
  • They did not cross-post their clips on YouTube.
  • They do not have a Facebook Page or Group
  • They do not have a MySpace Page
I do not mean to assume that every organization must behold all of these platforms. However, an advocacy initiative must be where their audience is - that is the whole idea of advocacy. And today's passionate audience is most certainly on one or all of these platforms, among many others.

In addition to message placement, the campaign's action center is also quite limiting, given the current online environment. Again, each action begins and ends with one-to-may forms of communication - send an email to your friends, write a letter to the editor or to your Congressman, etc. There are no opportunities for the engaged audience of the campaign to interact among themselves.
  • No opportunities to share their thoughts and ideas
  • No opportunities to collaborate and provide feedback
  • No opportunities to share success stories or other pertinent information valuable to the overall audience
They don't even have a blog, let alone a comments tool and/or message board. Again, I do not begin to preach that any organization must have all of the above. But for an advocacy initiative in this day and age, some of the above tools must be employed. At least, the free ones...

These tools allow your message to grow beyond you. Yes, you cede control, but the power that is unleashed far surmounts whatever costs are incurred. For an advocacy initiative, especially one that already enjoys a large and passionate constituency, equipping the audience to evangelize your message far beyond the confines of your organization is essential - an opportunity the We campaign appears to be missing so far...

More on Control

From Yesterday's Washington Post:

"What we're watching is an evolution away from Washington's control, away from the power that big money and big donors used to have a monopoly on," says Tom Daschle, a South Dakota Democrat and former Senate majority leader.

Adds Richard Viguerie, often called the "funding father" of the modern conservative movement for his effective use of direct mail: "The establishment, the power structure, the Karl Roves, are losing control of the process. There's a new center of power developing."

What I find fascinating is the latency in understanding this diminishing control. By continuing to retain control, campaigns stifle what energy exists...

Tuesday, April 01, 2008


If the campaigns thought they had control over their message, here is proof that they most certainly do not:

Here is the original, with over 10 million full-length views (its over 5 minutes long):

Times are a changin'...

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

McCainBlogette Redux & The Campaign Strategist of '12

I wrote previously about the McCainBlogette site, where I questioned how it could be considered separate from the campaign. I still have reservations, especially since Meghan McCain is not answering the question of how the site is funded (see the end of today's article on the operation from the Washington Post).

Such legality and minutiae aside, this is a fascinating example of how the dynamic is changing. McCain offers a different perspective as a fly on the campaign wall, as her father travels the country. Some certainly find her thoughts improper, especially from the daughter of a candidate. However, she is providing a unique angle to the conversation, one that cannot be replicated by another candidate or even within another time.

Did the idea come about from campaign strategists? I doubt not. Is it an effective channel to offer a different dimension to the overall message and idea of the McCain candidacy? Absolutely. She is reaching folks that her father never could...

I don't think the current lottery of campaign strategists could conceive of something like this, much less support such a separate, uncontrolled channel. However, this will be more the norm next cycle than the exception. At least, it will be for the winning candidate. Who will fill these roles in 2012?

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Viral v. Retention

I just came across Andrew Chen's blog - interesting stuff. I am pondering this post where he digs in to the lifecycle of a Facebook application. The prevailing idea is that many successful apps fall just as fast as they rise. The essential idea is that that viral elements feed the rise, but retention elements are needed to stave off decline. Applications that are deep on retention elements miss the rise all together. It is a rare app that provides a healthy balance.

The process of evolving an app from viral to retention follows a similar path found in traditional grassroots politicking. The goal is to first identify the supporter with very low-hurdle asks - sign a petition, pledge your support, provide an email address. Once snared, you then bring the user along the ladder of engagement, from these low-hurdle asks to such things as displaying a yard sign, volunteering, and ultimately donating.

Social media offers the opportunity to drive supporter engagement in a very similar manner, albeit with a plethora of new tools and opportunities. First, on the viral front, the initial hurdle for identification can be much lower (i.e. add an application, join a group). And the bar for engagement actions are much lower as well - make a call from your home, send an email, etc.

We have made our first successful stab on the viral front, with Hillary Gifts. Stay tuned as we support the Clinton campaign's move up the engagement ladder...

Thursday, February 28, 2008

Comb Overs

This. Is. Awesome. You gotta watch it all the way through. Here's a hint: comb over at 22?

Things haven't changed much, aside from the clothes and hair styles. That is, until this cycle...

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Paradigm Shift

Patrick Ruffini offers a similar message that you have heard here, that there is a fundamental shift in the manner with which political campaigning is conducted.
All of this — the massive resource advantage Obama now enjoys — is the result of a decision to trust in a fundamentally more deeper and more resilient medium for building support for his campaign: a word of mouth network that can only be corralled online. Hillary Clinton trusted the establishment and is on the brink of losing. The GOP candidates who leaned on the party’s Wise Old Men lost.
We saw the first concrete results of adaptation in 2004 with Dean's prowess in online fundraising. Adapting to, rather than fighting the new paradigm of political campaigning with the social web has enabled Obama to out-raise everyone. More importantly, he has taken the opportunity a step further, out-mobilizing everyone through the use of technology to boot.
The political web is now reaching the vast majority of the primary electorate with dozens of touchpoints throughout the cycle — few of them controlled by the campaigns themselves — and is reaching all the people who will do anything beyond vote in a general election.
The impact goes beyond just politics. A new channel for communication is maturing, with a power to persuade unlike any other. And, the right message radiates with an ease never before seen. The social web exponentially changes the balance between effort in and effort out. The message has even more paramount than ever.

The ramifications of the success of political web strategy this cycle will be felt for years to come outside this space. There are certainly areas where politics follows distantly behind traditional marketing. Even some of the techniques finally being employed with much success this cycle have been around for years. However, there are few events as public and as closely watched as the US presidential election. Just as the message radiates, so too will the methods...

Nader Analysis

Yes I am bitter. Not only did he let George Bush into the White House in 2000, he cost me a job (I was working for Al Gore at the time). But, rather than write my own diatrbe on the lunacy of his persistence, I defer to Micah Siftry's in-depth look of the Nader candidacy given the power of today's political web.

My favorite quote:
Nader is at most a Web 1.0 candidate in a 2.0 era, seeing the web as a cheap tool for broadcasting ("transmitting") his views to others and missing entirely the power of the network. He may argue that all sorts of issues are being ignored by the major party candidates, but the tools for mobilizing people around neglected issues have never been more potent--if you are willing to work in concert with others, give up some control of your message and embrace the democratic public sphere that we are all collectively building.

Monday, February 25, 2008

The Media as We Knew It Is Dead!

Every day, the chorus of the blogsphere grows. The media as we knew it is dead. Long live the conversation!

With the rise of the media machine in the mid twentieth century, certain techniques, methods, etc., were developed to manage the news. When information was doled out, what manner, and by whom became carefully choreographed. On the presidential stage, Kennedy brought it to television, and Reagan perfected it.

As we evolved to a 24-hour news cycle, the rule book was re-written, major edicts deleted and whole new sections created. President Clinton lived much of his term under the scrutiny of this new and seemingly unmanageable beast. His actions certainly helped fuel the fire, but the fire was burning just the same.

And now we come to 2008, the cycle that will belong to the user-generated media. Most of the mainstream publications have added comments, discussion boards and other tools of the user-generated media. But even they must bow to the power of the blogsphere. The major media outlets still have a role, albeit a diminished one.

The first presidential election since Time's now infamous naming of YOU as the person of the year will require a whole new set of methods and strategies, with which to manage. Social media is certainly a new tool at the marketing manager's disposal. Others are certain to come about. Should be fun!

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Focused actions

Jeremiah Owyang has yet another great post on how to effectively take advantage of social media from a marketing perspective. As I look at his thoughts through a political lense, I believe he / we should go further with business objectives bullet. From his post:
Meets a business objective: First and foremost, any marketing campaign or activity should match with a business objective, regardless of the tools being used.
As I mentioned in the comments, I think this idea can be taken further, to ensure the success (especially within the political world). I believe that, for a social media campaign to be effective, it must also drive a focused, specific action of the community. For some campaigns, that may be as vague as “engagement”; for others it may be “visit our store” or “donate”. The more focused the action, the easier it is to measure and (I argue) the more likely it is to be accomplished.

Just more of my 2 cents...

Saturday, February 16, 2008

Technology vs. Machines 2008

Is it me or is our electoral process getting tighter and tighter as technology continues to imbue the process? First, we had 2000 - the first online presidential election, and that went down to Florida. Next, we had 2004, with the Dean phenomena and a result that went down to Ohio. And now we have Clinton v. Obama.

Obama's candidacy is nothing if not unique. Have we had a candidate with less federal or executive experience be the nominee of a major party? Even Kennedy had 6 years in the House, and 8 in the Senate before 1960. Yet, Obama continues to succeed, much in part to his innovative use of technology.

I don't necessarily see this as a counterpoint to his candidacy. I am a big believer that direct experience is NOT necessarily a predictor of future success. It comes down to how successful is the candidate in the environments they have been in before. Context can be learned.

What I do see is that technology is enabling a new kind of politics, one where the traditional political machine is no longer as powerful. Issues, ideas and vision are rising to the top, past the traditional trajectory the hierarchical machine spews out.

In the 2000 and 2004 elections, the machine won. The Republican army was amazing if not exquisite in their execution. Despite some of the worst approval ratings in modern times, the Bush machine was able to secure re-election.

Are we at the tipping point, where technology propels the non-traditional past the machine? We shall see...

Thursday, February 14, 2008

You Too Can Play at Home...

Rick Klau and friends put together a wiki to monitor the DNC's super delegates. It offers a rundown of who is committed to whom, as well as a decent integration with Google Maps & Earth, enabling users to see exactly where these delegates reside. (Rick works at Google.)

CNN recently used it:

Assuming Clinton survives her current slide, this could become a very useful site to explore how things may play out come August (and a bit freaky for the delegates themselves).

Wednesday, February 13, 2008 Not Affiliated?

McCain's daughter Meghan has been blogging since October. There are a few things about this that peaked my interest. First, the blog is interesting - professionally done with a very casual feel. Meghan and team do a great job of weaving behind-the-scenes tidbits with song lists, video vignettes, etc. - hitting the armchair politico, the fashinista, and the iPod DJ in one swing.

What I find interesting is that they claim not to be affiliated with the campaign, yet they are on the campaign plane with unparalleled access to the Senator. Who is paying for this? There is no advertising on the site, nor any other means for revenue that I can see. Was this separated in order to shield the campaign if things go awry?

And why shouldn't they be affiliated with the campaign? In the age of the social web, it is this kind of unique perspective that engages and entertains.

The prevailing opinion of the coverage at launch was that this would be "a farce". Given what I see thus far, this is an excellent step forward (by the McCain campaign?).

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Mitt's Video Post-Mortem: No Wonder...

Michael Kolowich, one of the folks involved in Mitt Romney's video operation offers this dissection of what happened on the web video front. What struck me is how his language continues to be about quick returns on investment, versus seeding the conversation as required by the social web:
If part of the idea is not just to inform but also to inspire people to act (give money, sign up, give us their email, etc.) then YouTube was weak at the “call to action” part.
Politics has never been an A = B environment - you never get your return on investment at first blush. There are tools at the politico's disposal that do drive specific action, but there are just as many that are about laying groundwork. I argue YouTube is a channel for laying groundwork towards the masses.

Providing rich video content on YouTube enables the campaign to reach a large, mass audience. Given the cacophony of content available (opposition clips, foibles, etc.), it is critical that the campaign be loud and proud within this channel, to ensure their message is heard.

He continues:
The most remarkable statistic of all is that more people watched the Romney campaign’s clips on Mitt TV than on our YouTube channel.
Sorry, Michael, but the reason your channel was more popular was not because your video was better, more tailored, etc. It's because you spoke to your zealots rather than the masses. In politics, the zealots get you close, but in the end it is all about reaching the masses. The fact that your YouTube channel was less popular was more a symptom of a more pressing problem - that your campaign's message was not inspiring the masses.

Was your Mitt TV content also published on YouTube? Assuming all content is cross-published, YouTube views should exceed your internal video site. You should be reaching folks that don't necessarily engage in your campaign, but at least hear your message. Focusing on such "seed" channels is just as necessary as focusing on those channels that drive action, in the age of the social web...

Monday, February 11, 2008

TSA Gets in the Game

Interesting - the TSA now has a blog. From the New York Times:
The T.S.A. blog has links to independent bloggers and real news reports, including negative ones. It also has personal blogs by five employees of the agency. But its most notable feature is the lively give-and-take, without refereeing, except for monitoring for obscene language and egregious crack-pottery.
This is an impressive foray into the conversation. It is already helping improve things, particulary around consistency as to how various airports implement regulations. What a great way for the government to use its constituency to help get the job done. Crazy how the TSA can launch a blog that is more open than most campaign blogs...

Friday, February 08, 2008

Its the Economy, Stupid!

A little off topic, but I had to share this article from the Politico. My favorite point:
As the economy was rising late last year as a major issue for voters, McCain in New Hampshire delivered this grenade, with its pin still in it: "The issue of economics is not something I've understood as well as I should," he said. "I've got Greenspan's book."
Let's hope this gets the attention it deserves.

Thursday, February 07, 2008

Red Trucks & Explosions & Money, Oh My!

Online fundraising has been explosive, yet hesitancy abounds as to what is "appropriate" in today's political climate. Michael Turk discussed a few weeks ago how the Thompson campaign waited to deploy their successful Red Truck idea, out of fear of appearing too focused on raising money. From his comments (emphasis added):

In October, we began discussions of an end of quarter fundraising drive featuring a real-time disclosure of our success. The concept was shot down over concerns that it would place too much emphasis on money. As we moved through November, we began to hear rumblings of Fredsgiving Day - a third party money bomb effort scheduled the day before Thanksgiving.

It was unclear whether the campaign would support the effort. There were concerns (voiced by many online) that the timing was off - nobody would pay attention the day before the holiday. In the event the campaign decided to jump in, we went ahead and built the little red truck to track contributions that day. It was never deployed.

It was late in December when the little red truck finally saw the sunlight. Over the next three weeks, that little red pickup helped the campaign raise 1.25 million dollars. Had it been unveiled sooner, who knows what might have happened.

I have a few ideas on this front that have been met with this same fear. Campaigns have yet to come close to pushing the envelope of what is accepted. They continue to try new things, yet they can do more. Does anyone have an example of a campaign that pushed the online envelope too far? Where does this fear come from?

Wednesday, February 06, 2008

Election Night Tools: Cover It Live + Mashups

Last night was an interesting prep for November. In fact, given the complexity and differences of each party's nominating process, you could argue last night was more difficult to cover than even a tight race in November. I dug around to see what new tools were in play, and came up with two interesting examples.

If you are not using Cover It Live, you are smoking crack. It's free so far, and a great way to live blog. The idea of live blogging is to cover an event as it happens, with blog entries in real-time. Many bloggers have begun doing this for major events, such as Apple keynotes. As the blogsphere audience continues to grow, so too will the audience for a live blog. Last night's election coverage was a ripe opportunity to test the idea out. Many blogs updated consistently throughout the night as results became evident, including The New York Times and The Washington Post. But only a few used this free technology.

The Cover It Live system refreshes itself as comments are made, negating the need for the constant page refresh. They also have a voting tool included as well. Very slick... I came across it last night while watching the results with the TechPresident crowd. It sure beat the experience I had with the New York Times liveblog, or even Obama's consistent blog updates...

Another cool tool was the Google + Twitter mashup. Unfortunately, I think this was cool in a geeky, tech-is-fun sort of way, and not very useful. The twitters were flying at me so fast it was difficult to understand what was going on. Maybe next time they can add a Digg-style component to the mix, to help filter and prioritize the information?

Did anyone come across other new and interesting tools?

Tuesday, February 05, 2008

Mindset of Michael and McEnroe

I recently read the book Mindset - an excellent read for anyone with the slightest ambition or interest in psychology. The core idea is that those that seek growth and learning are more successful at accomplishing their goals in the long run than those that do not, despite short run pitfalls and mistakes. Seeking growth trumps natural talent, limited or non-existing resources, etc. The book is full of great anecdotes to drive home the point, from Michael Jordan being cut from his high school varsity team to John McEnroe's limited career, despite his obvious talent.

I can't help but overlay this idea upon the evolution of web strategy within politics. I am learning every day that the evolution within American politics will not include a silver bullet - that one tool that produces so much value for the campaign that its use becomes obvious and ubiquitous at the same time. Though I continue to believe focus on the goal is vitally important to any web operation, campaigns must continue to deploy diverse resources to explore this vast and ever-changing idea of web strategy. Just as important, they must measure these investments in terms of their overall goals, learn from them, refine and repeat.

Like Dean in 2004, Obama now carries the mantle of online guru. All presidential campaigns are doing something new in this space. However, Obama's effort appears the most adept at building upon what has worked elsewhere, inside and outside politics. Even among his own internal efforts, the campaign continues to try, measure, refine and repeat to grow beyond current successes. They are not always successful and they certainly could go further, yet it is clear they have the mindset of a champion, with regard to web strategy. This is certainly not the only reason Obama has been successful thus far, but it most definitely is aiding his ascendancy.

Will Obama be cut from the team like Dean in 2004, or will he be given the chance to lead the Dems into November? We will see soon (today?) if there is payoff in the long run...

Monday, February 04, 2008

Online vs. Offline: The Feb 5th Fight

Tomorrow's gonna be fun. Obama's digitally-driven grassroots rise versus Clinton's decades-in-the-making offline organizing machine. Colin Delaney offers what will undoubtedly be the first of many articulations of what exactly the Obama campaign has done right with online politics, should he do well tomorrow.

Clinton continues to use what has worked in the past. Her campaign is conducting an interactive town hall this evening - something that has been done as far back as 1992. Sure, it's being streamed via the web, but the base idea is nothing new. And, her offline field operations will undoubtedly far exceed Obama's efforts, as Karen Hicks et al coupled with decades of political organizing makes for a formidable operation.

Whereas, the Obama folks continue to employ the digital channels at their disposal, raising $28 million online in January alone. I have spoken a few times about the need to experiment (here and here). However, my ideas have often focused (incorrectly?) on larger projects. Jose Antonio Vargas' story this weekend indicates Obama has been pouring resources into the small things, like communicating with prospective and committed voters through their channel of choice.

Just like with Clinton's offline operation, its the small things that may add up for Obama. We shall see what tomorrow brings!

Saturday, February 02, 2008

Barenaked Ladies and Crowd Sourcing

Barenaked Ladies are no longer signed with a record label. As of 2003, they own all of their intellectual property going forward, and also are able to re-record older music to use as they wish. Given such a position, they are wisely exploring the digital age, to discover tools and resources to better develop and engage their fan base.

One recently discovered tool is crowdsourcing. They have begun using their fan base choose a few logos. Fans are asked to submit designs, as well as vote on which ones they like best. The theory is that the best will rise to the top. In their tests, they have also gone the traditional route of working with a professional designer. Each time, however, the crowdsourced design has been favored by both the band and the fans. They hope to use this idea to choose the cover art for their next album, due next year.

Clinton used half of this idea to a limited extent, with her choice of theme song over the summer. However, the content was preselected. The YouTube debates CNN produced used the other half of the idea, by allowing users provide content, but not the opportunity to help select it.

Who will be the first to put the two halves together? Though control over the outcome is ceded to the "fans", the engagement driven will provide significantly more value to the campaign than a controlled outcome would ever provide...

Thursday, January 31, 2008

Example: Driving the Zealots

From The Nation:

The speech has now drawn over 268,000 views, after about 36 hours online. By contrast, a shorter, spicier clip of Clinton and Obama's debate clash currently has under 50,000 views, (after half a day). About 43 percent of viewers have come from links on Obama's social networking page, MyBO, which encourages supporters to share videos and information with their friends...

These are impressive numbers, especially given the closed, proprietary nature of MyBO. This is a great example of directing your army of zealots to take action and drive the conversation. Imagine what could be done with an integrated approach within an existing social network...

Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Is the Discourse Improving?

From The Nation:
Barack Obama delivered a riveting speech about America's moral crisis this weekend, calling for a united movement to overcome the nation's moral deficit and mounting economic inequality. Political observers praised the address and reporters covered it -- 53 mentions in major papers -- yet it's been largely overshadowed by the escalating fight between Obama and The Clintons, which still dominates this week's media narrative..

While cable news shows gorge on campaign sparring, Obama's uplifting speech is absolutely dominating YouTube. The 34-minute address from Ebenezer Baptist Church is currently the fourth most viewed video in the world on YouTube, trailing two Britney Spears clips. Not only is that unusual traffic for a long political address – people also like it. On Tuesday, viewers voted it the second most "favorited" video in the world. It also drew the second highest number of incoming links, a key indicator of web interest that drives Google page rankings...

At SomethingAwful, a popular general interest site that proclaims the "Internet makes you stupid," one user wrote that the speech was so good it was worth posting in a non-political forum, attaching the video and text. The single post drew more than 3,000 new viewers in a day.

The speech has now drawn over 268,000 views, after about 36 hours online. By contrast, a shorter, spicier clip of Clinton and Obama's debate clash currently has under 50,000 views, (after half a day)...

This kind of YouTube speech is also distinct because it enables voters to appraise a candidate directly, without any filters. News coverage is larded with polls and meta-analysis, while top bloggers increasingly talk strategy. Even the debates are often clogged with moderator framing and false premises. So despite our proliferating media, it's hard for most voters to hear directly from the candidates who would be president, unless you move to Iowa. (Or make C-SPAN your new appointment television.) But it looks like when the speech is available and the candidate is inspiring, people still want to listen.

Interesting example of how the social web can be used to manage the conversation. Is this just the first of many examples of how the social web is improving the political discourse? I hope so...

Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Army of Zealots

More on the article by Mark Walsh of MediaPost:
Fervent online support doesn't necessarily translate into votes, however. The campaign site of Internet favorite Ron Paul drew by far the largest share of traffic among 15 presidential candidates, at 37.9%. The next closest was Huckabee, with 16.4% as of December, according to Hitwise data cited by Borrell. Paul hasn't come close to winning any primaries.
There is a different between the supporter and the zealot. Certain campaigns and certain messages connect with both, either or neither. Zealots are rabid fans. They latch on, believe every drip of rhetoric, and rarely let go. Supporters, however, vote. Unless the zealot army generates supporters, the campaign goes nowhere. Howard Dean had the zealots in 2004. Ron Paul has the zealots this cycle. Obama had them early on, and has done a decent job employing them to generate actual supporters.

There is another layer to the numbers presented above. We must not just look at traffic; we must also look at behavior of those that do engage in the conversation. How does a campaign employ the army of zealots to generate supporters? Are potential supporters turned off or engaged by the zealot conversation?

Sunday, January 27, 2008

Git-r-done and the Socal Web

Mark Zuckerberg, CEO of Facebook, has been championing a concept he calls the social graph. In it, he describes the various connections and interactions we have among our friends, family, co-workers, etc. Certain people we talk with often, via phone or email. Others we reach out to sporadically, or even rarely. All make up the idea of our social graph.

His vision for Facebook is to replicate this idea in an online environment, employing the benefits that technology offers. The database never forgets a phone number. Active as well as passive interactions are possible. It is now feasible to play a board game like Scrabble (aka Scrabulous within Facebook) with friends, but not have be in the same room, or even complete the game in one sitting.

I believe Zuckerberg's theory is actually representative of what is happening to the web in general. As the blogshpere grows, social media expands, and (hopefully) the idea of data portabilty becomes a reality, we will see a truly social web.

Given this theory, an idea I have loosely touched upon is to drive action through this social graph, using the tools and ideas from traditional campaigning. In Michael Turk's post-mortem on his work at the Thompson campaign, he touches on this idea as he describes the Bush-Cheney efforts of '04:
(Enabling volunteer action online) allowed people to participate on their own terms, rather than forcing them to attend a Saturday morning walk.

The Bush campaign was innovative in allowing people to participate in the mechanics of the campaign, but it never developed the community that could interact, inspire, and spur each other into action. I felt in 2004, and still feel today, that is the missing pieces required to fully realize the benefit of these applications.

Driving this activity through the social graph and connecting with the existing online community is the role of today's campaign web strategist.

Turks openly mentions opportunities missed, such as the delayed Red Truck campaign. This is not the role for the savvy web developer, nor is it the role of the accomplished blogger. The campaign web strategist must understand the technology and what makes up an online community, but more importantly, must have the skill and the experience to be among campaign senior leadership to acquire the resources necessary to drive decision-making and get things done.

Friday, January 25, 2008

Blogs and Turn-ons

The headline is a stretch, but it's the catchy ones drive the traffic...

Michael Turk, Fred Thompson's Internet Director offers a great post-mortem on their operation. Sure, he's helping shape the legacy of his efforts, but his points about blogging as an opportunity to open up the conversation are spot on.
Nobody accused us of endorsing the random beliefs espoused by the occasional nut, and nobody on the campaign had to answer a single press call (that I am aware of) about the blog or anything said on it.

Rudy's blog doesn't allow comments. Romney's gets a few per post. Ron Paul just recently launched a blog (despite the fact that blog software is largely free). He currently gets between a handful and a few dozen comments. ...There are just as many Democrats who need to learn this lesson (cough, cough, Hillary, cough, cough).

They need to build online operations so they invite people to the discussion rather than turning them off of it. [get it? turn-ons? I know, a stretch...] Get candidates to write, in their own words, frequent posts. Understand that a ground game is critical, but it must be viewed in terms of ROI. A thoughtful, honest post from a candidate may be discussed and passed around by thousands of people online. It takes little time to write if it's sincere and not obsessive studied and focus grouped.

I don't think this indicates a lack of supporter enthusiasm as much as it indicates that the campaigns have created a blog with nothing to say on sites that are so scrubbed of interesting content they're almost sterile. Most of the posts are rehashed press releases, rehashed campaign e-mails, or occasionally a video so overscripted it becomes almost completely unwatchable.

Couldn't have said it better myself. I do have one more angle to add, however. The role of the campaign web strategist is not just to manage and maintain internal operations. S/he must also be a two-headed manager, an internal advocate for both internal and external online activity. Given the limited reach of campaign sites, the external focus is what needs attention among today's presidential online efforts...