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Winning Online in 2012 – Weekly #11

April 27, 2010

Social Media in the 2012 Election

For our final Georgetown blog post, we were asked to predict what we think will be key to winning the 2012 election online.

I think that winning in online in 2012 will mean incorporating new technologies into the lessons learned from the Obama campaign.

Social media lessons from the Obama campaign (from Edemlan):

• Start early
• Build to scale
• Innovate where necessary; do everything else incrementally better
• Make it easy to find, forward and act
• Pick where you want to play
• Channel online enthusiasm into specific, targeted activities that further the campaign’s goals
• Integrate online advocacy into every element of the campaign

It is important to remember with all these factors, part of winning online is giving up some control. Markets are conversations, after all, and you have to let the conversation flourish. As discussed in Barack, Inc. using multimedia is not the same as using multimedia effectively.  A campaign may have many social media outlets, but if it relies on intense top-down control, this leaves no room for local community organizers to speak out and organize within their networks, or to establish a new local network that will affect people where they live, work and vote.

The New Importance of Mobile

One of the big elements for 2012 will be mobilizing supporters through mobile devices. Ninety percent of Americans are within three feet of their cell phones 24 hours a day. Mobile phones are a great way to reach voters, especially the newly active youth vote. As stated in the Edelman report, people still read more than 90 percent of their text messages, while pages of e-mails sit unopened in in-boxes. Text messaging and the mobile Web offers an opportunity to reach supporters directly anywhere they are, any time of the day.

During the Barack Obama campaign, 3 million people signed up for the text messaging program. Each supporter received 5 to 20 messages per month – more than 1 per week.

The social aspect of the texting that candidates must use in 2012 is to make it interactive: not a one way dissemination of information.  Barack Obama’s campaign did this well, making texting a way to interact with the campaign rather than just a way to receive updates. For instance, supporters could text questions about polling places and receive quick responses from the campaign.

The upgrade for 2012 will be incorporating geolocation to the mobile scenario.

Before this year’s SXSW event kicked off, a number of bloggers suggested that this year’s breakout hit might be foursquare, a new location-based social application that incorporates gaming elements.

foursquare’s primary function is to help you figure out where your friends are. Users frequently ‘check-in’ with the app to update their current location, which is then broadcast to their friends. At this point the service primarily operates from its recently released iPhone application,

Aside from a basic ‘friend’ system, foursquare’s social features are pretty limited compared to services like Loopt and Brightkite.

In lieu of a full-fledged social network, foursquare incorporates a gaming element, awarding users with points and merit badges for ‘checking in’ at a variety of locations. These rewards give users an incentive to check-in often.

Badges are awarded for completing specific activities, like venturing outside of the city limits, or visiting a historic site.

Foursqure has the opportunity to create “political” badges that can be obtained by users who “check in” as having participated in a political event, fundraiser, and finally, giving a special nod to those users who vote.

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