Politics Online (our yearly gathering of the online political tribe) is next week, and you’d sure as hell better be there or you’re going to miss out on good schmoozing and a chance to learn from real pros. Move fast, though: since online registration closes Friday, February 29th, you have only one more day to use your super-secret e.politics discount code (MINUS50) to save $50, which you can then use to buy me beer (a subtle hint). If you’re on the fence, go to the conference site to check out the agenda — I’m psyched about a bunch of the panels and discussions.
On a related note, the members of my panel entitled “Does Good Design Matter?” chatted this morning to work out our final plans, and I was blown away by how good the discussion was — and you guys weren’t even in the room yet. I’m afraid none of us could even HANDLE that conversation if it involved an entire audience of discerning participants, so we might have to lock the door and keep everyone out. For now, we’ll take the chance and let you in — though I can’t be held responsible for the consequences.
Marketer Brent Rosengren has embarked on a journey through the wilds of presidential email campaigns, using commercial email marketing standards and practices as a standard, and guess what: ALL of the top-level campaigns fail the test. Each of them makes critical mistakes that limit the effectiveness of their mass emails, their primary means of communicating with steady supporters and converting them into donors and activists.
Email is a behind-the-scenes medium, so political marketers may not be aware of how much effort goes into testing and measuring email marketing techniques in the commercial world. Businesspeople pay attention to email for the simple reason that it works: as Rosengren notes, “When compared to the ROI of mass media advertising, email continues to dominate; for every dollar spent on email marketing, marketers can expect an estimated $48.29 return.” From the signup process to subject lines to message content and landing pages, political email marketers can and should learn from the tools and tactics of our colleagues in the business world.
So what mistakes are Obama, McCain, Clinton, Huckabee and friends making? Some are ludicrous — most campaigns didn’t even include forward-to-a-friend link in their messages, something that comes standard on most email marketing software packages. Other campaigns had cumbersome sign-up processes, weak subject lines and overly long messages that buried the ask, problems that user-testing and statistical analysis should be able to correct (i.e., segment your list, run several different subject lines and see which ones work best, something that nonprofit fundraisers and advocacy experts have been doing for years). What’s sobering about Rosengren’s analysis is how elemental many of the mistakes are, but that also means that they should be relatively easy to correct. If his piece only whets your appetite for good mass mail practices, check out the Online Politics 101 chapter on managing email advocacy.
Update: according to An Experienced Political Mass-mailer I chatted with last night, leaving off the forward-to-a-friend link may have been intentional, since every extra link in an email will pull some people away from the action you really want them to take. So, if you’re solely trying to raise money, that forward-to-a-friend link may be counterproductive.
Newt Gingrich is moving to Silicon Valley! At least, part of his American Solutions organization is: the nonprofit is setting up a “technology headquarters” near the Stanford Linear Accelerator (e.politics is jealous — we want a death ray in our backyard, too). An American Solutions blogger touts the value of being so close to the perpetual nursery of new technology:
“We’ve established an office in Silicon Valley because we want to be in the middle of innovation and entrepreneurship and gain firsthand knowledge of the latest technological developments that will continue to change online politics. In short, we want to utilize new technologies that will help us communicate and organize more effectively — before it becomes a trend.”
Um, yeah. Newt, let’s you and me go grab a drink sometime and chat about the distributed nature of online communications.
I now know more about the career of a certain WWE wrestler than I ever expected. You see, we (almost) share a name, since I am Colin Delany and he is Colin Delaney, and our lives are fundamentally intertwined online.
To keep track of what you kids are saying behind my back, I have a Google Alert set up on my name and its most common misspelling (along with alerts on “online politics,” “epolitics” and the names of reporters who frequently write about this stuff). For the first year or so, no problem at all — “Colin Delany” is not exactly a common name, so almost all of the alert messages were on-target. But sometime in the past year, young “Colin Delaney” has become a rising star in the WWE universe, and the high volume of writing about him online is filling my inbox with quotes like this: “Colin Delaney is the epitome of a man with a dream who will stop at nothing to achieve it.”
Like its Will.i.am music video counterpart, Lissig’s video reflects its creator’s medium of choice: it’s essentially the YouTube version of a Lessig stage presentation, a quick-cutting PowerPoint with a voiceover. And though it’s been viewed many fewer times than Yes We Can, in this case it was particularly well targeted, since the voter in question is my sister-in-law, a Linux expert at IBM in Austin. Why did it work? First, she respects Lessig and has read his columns and articles and seen him speak. Second, in the video, he lays out what he sees as clear, logical grounds to support Obama over Hillary Clinton, and I suspect that Emily responded to such a reasoned approach. Since Lessig was speaking, copyright of course came up, but the vast majority of the video covered other issues, and soon after she watched it, Emily told my brother that she’d not only switched support to Obama but donated to him online.
To put this in context, let’s go all the way back to April of ’07 and something Michael Connery said:
“…viral video, which will rise from within and appeal to certain online and offline niche communities…So when the next smash viral hit of the cycle emerges, don’t forget that there were a few hundred others that didn’t get noticed, but may have just as much — if not more — of an impact on our democracy and our politics.”
Absolutely, for every Will.i.am, there are dozens and hundreds and thousands and hundreds of thousands more trying to persuade their viewers, readers, listeners and pets how to vote in the days ahead. Different people will respond to different appeals, but the genius of a technology that turns the passionate and creative among us loose is that each of those different niches is likely to have a message aimed right at it. Just as Lessig’s was aimed right at my sister-in-law.
We did this in Australia last week. Our parliament apologised on behalf of previous governments to Australia’s Indigenous Stolen Generations. We suggested to both our Facebook and MySpace friends that they change their status to “is sorry” on the day of the apology. Lots of people did, and as an added extra, hundreds of people joined our cause that day.
Excellent way to get an issue out in the public eye, and obviously in this case it benefited the folks encouraging people to do it. On the same article, also check out Briton Mark Pack’s comment on Facebook’s use in UK elections:
Using status in this way is a pretty common campaigning technique in the UK, though what’s become more popular here (at least in the Liberal Democrats) is changing your profile picture to a graphic that says you are backing / have voted for a particular candidate.
Also clever — clearly, this is a promising tool to help activists spread political messages. Facebook users are bombarded by tons of messages and group invitations, but even when they tune those out, they’ll still see their friends’ status and picture.
From the beginning of Campaign 2008, liberal media pundits have fawned over the Democrat presidential candidates while ignoring their lack of substance on the issues. You can be certain that as the campaign heats up they will continue to mislead voters with their anti-Republican agenda.
Joe, Republicans must fight back against the mainstream media’s clear liberal bias — and we need your help to do it.
According to every TV type I heard last night, one of the few things the Far Right seems to hate more than John McCain is the Times, so perhaps this (potential) scandal will provide an effective hook for coaxing some bucks out of the faithful. At the very least, it’s won over Rush Limbaugh for a couple of days. And note how quickly it blew the Obama/Patrick plagiarism affair off the air.
Seeing more dollar signs, the McCain campaign and the RNC decided to jump at the chance to take advantage of the distraction they had created to raise money. They had spent the day firing their supporters up, trying desperately to change the subject, and then they literally cashed in on it. It was textbook sleaze.
Facebook Surveillance vs. Google Disappearance. “The real motivator is money, of course, since social networking sites are in the business of monetizing the social graph. That means people are traffic and personal information is content.”
We’re already drowning in a sea of citizen-generated media, so pouring one more cup of it on our heads couldn’t possibly hurt:
Actually, this one’s not quite amateur, since as The Sleuth reports, it’s one of a series of Huffington-funded online ads against Clinton. I doubt they’re likely to do her much harm, but they do show a good tool for taking the wind out of future Swift Boaters’ sails: humor, something of which the 2004 public version of John Kerry was essentially incapable.
With the long weekend and a relative lull in the presidential primary season, the political world seems to be catching its breath for a moment (it must be quiet for a story like the Obama/Patrick “plagiarism” affair to get as much attention as it has). Time for a little e.politics late-winter cleaning, and also a chance to catch up on some recent developments on the site. First, two milestones: the good news is that over the past couple of weeks, e.politics has consistently had over 500 RSS subscribers on an average weekday for the first time. Yay, readers! Thanks for sticking around. The less-good news: on Sunday, the site received its 300,000th spam comment, which was about as welcome as a skunk at a picnic.
As for the site cleanup, we now have an updated list of Highlights to the right — articles for which I have a soft spot in my heart, and a feature that came down a couple of weeks ago because it was gettin’ long in the tooth. Now, it’s back and no longer six months out of date. Next up, and here’s where you can help, is the blogroll, that long list of links below the RSS button. It also hasn’t been updated since at least last summer, and not only have several of the sites gone dark, I’m also missing good new ones. Want to suggest some additions? Email me or (even better) leave them as a comment below for everyone to see. After the links are fixed, next it’s time to rewrite Online Politics 101 — just a few things have happened in the world of online advocacy since September of 2006.