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...

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