Sunday, January 20, 2008

Value Equation of Online Political Campaigning

There is a ton of buzz about what campaigns are doing online. Obama, Paul and the others are all playing with various tools out there. However, much of the effort is directed at initiatives that are not aligned with the value equation behind political campaigns. There are a lot of ideas and products out there that offer more gimmick than value. Sure, the gimmicks get you ink (see here), but do they actually drive value for the campaign?

I define campaign value as the acquisition of either money or time from an individual. The more of either you have, the more you are able to deploy. In the parlance of Karen Hicks, Clinton's field adviser, it is all about the capacity.

To various extents, the technologies employed today attempt to drive some level of engagement. Sites such as Eventful and Meetup help drive prospective supporters to events that will hopefully engage the individual enough to support the candidate. Sites such as Twitter and Facebook enable campaigns to interact with their constituents. Tools such as campaign video or blogs attempt to offer content to the supporter in the hopes of keeping them on the site and interested in the candidate. Even virtual phone banking has roots with engagement, giving active supporters the opportunity to identify other potential people to engage. The more engaged an individual is, the more likely they are to donate time or money.

I do not deny that all of the above is important. Engagement is critical to generating the capacity to campaign. However, my thesis is that many of the above tools and more that have yet to be uncovered can take online campaigning one step further, from engagement to action.

It is all about focus. Engagement must be the focus in the early stages. However, focus on action must take precedence, as the primary season wears on.

I define action in this context is defined as specific activities that help promote the campaign objectives. Building capacity is just one, fundraising is another. What other actions that align with campaign objectives are there, that can be enhanced / improved / refined with online technology?

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