Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Political Campaigning Methods within Social Media (so far)

Below is a running list of political actions that can be pushed through the social graph. With the right focus and effort, campaigns can use these actions to further their traditional goals of identifying, organizing and motivating their base of supporters. The idea here is to drive engagement from the electorate, so that the campaign message conveys, more supporters are identified, and ultimately more votes are generated.
  1. Discussion boards - we have seen tremendous engagement in conversations within Facebook, the blogsphere, and other social media channels. Employ the controversy of politics to your advantage by posing the hard questions for discussion. Don't stifle the discussion by closing the loop or heavily moderating the conversation. Be open to on-topic dissension. Discussion boards and blogs on the campaign website are fine, but within an existing online social networking system, a multitude of benefits are available to help stoke the discussion, such as passive notifications when replies or other comments are left, notification of friends when you post, etc.

    Example: No campaign seems to be willing to open themselves up to an actual conversation yet. Hillary moved closer in NH, but not near enough to produce value for the campaign.

  2. Publicize events - employ the existing Events tool within Facebook and other social networks to publicize events. Also use the other features of this tool (i.e. discussion board, photo / video posting, etc.) to further engagement pre and post event.

    Example: Barack Obama has put the most resources behind this idea. However, this effort is directly related to the manpower put forth, as events systems are not yet open enough to be integrated to a central system. So, campaign staffers / interns / volunteers must enter and re-enter event information into multiple social networking systems. Campaigns must look at the value of each existing network (including that of their own website) to determine where to direct their limited manpower. My thesis is that updating event information on their own website is not the most effective use of resources (or, at the least it is closely followed by other existing social networking systems) - use the existing networks!

  3. Phone banking - Richardson, Obama, and Clinton have all played with this one (I assume Edwards has as well?). The pages for Richardson and Obama are very similar, leading me to believe they share(d) the same vendor. All three work in a similar manner. Once you login and are given access to the system (there appears to be a vetting process for the Obama system), you are given a name, a phone number, a script, and a form to complete as you make the call. Very easy stuff. The technology is certainly not built by the campaign - anyone know who is providing it? Activate is one vendor providing a similar service...

    Unfortunately, activity is isolated within the system. The first campaign to unleash this tool within an existing social network will see exponential growth in usage. As friends of activists see its availability, they will undoubtedly become curious and explore the opportunity for themselves.

  4. Fundraising - There is a common perception that those active within online social networking systems do not spend money. That's bullshit - everyone spends money. We are a consumption society. The problem? The right formula to fundraise has yet to be found. Unfortunately, the idea of fundraising within American politics leaves a bad taste in most people's mouth. Therefore, campaigns are reluctant to experiment with this one. However, just as online fundraising has taken off, so too will social media fundraising. Going after the "low dollar bundler" within a social networking system is a healthy opportunity that shouldn't be discounted.
There are certainly more to come - this is just what I see at the moment...

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