Archive for June, 2008

Online Advocacy Tools: Political Databases

Updated January, 2011

Political databases generally don’t get a whole lot of attention in the press or in public, but they underlie much of the technology of modern politics. Email advocacy and fundraising systems are really just specialized examples of CRM (customer/constituent/contact management) software, while blogs and website content management systems are database-driven, as are online ad serving systems. Robocalls, phone banks and direct mail depend on databases of voter registration and consumer behavior, and database experts frequently spend large amounts of time sorting their lists and testing different messages and asks.

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5 comments June 19th, 2008 Trackback Bookmark on del.icio.us

Online Advocacy Tools: Advertising

Updated January, 2011

If I had to pick a most-neglected aspect of internet politics, it would be online advertising — until recently. In particular, electoral campaigns used to spend relatively little money advertising to web audiences, particularly compared to the huge amounts they raised online. While it’s typical for commercial marketing campaigns to spend 15% or 20% of their budgets online, for political campaigns the comparable range before 2010 would have been 3% to 5%. This seems particularly strange considering the targetability of online advertising (the ‘net naturally breaks down into demographic and interest-based niches) as well as its trackability. During the 2010 election cycle, this situation finally started to change, with campaigns turning to Google and Facebook ads in particular.

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Add comment June 19th, 2008 Trackback Bookmark on del.icio.us

Online Advocacy Tools: Social Networks

Updated January, 2011

If you want to build a following online, a good strategy is to go where the people are — and in 2011, plenty of them have flocked to online social networks, particularly (in the U.S.) on Facebook. Earlier versions of this guide focused on strategies for MySpace and the plethora of other social networks, but over the past two years Facebook has come to dominate the social side of online advocacy to an unprecedented degree. Facebook (and to a lesser extent, niche social websites like Black Planet) have in some ways become the modern equivalent of town squares, places where people from all walks of life can mingle and connect in a public environment and where campaigns can fish for support in a pond both broad and deep.

Since 2008 edition of this guide, political campaigns and nonprofits have hit social networks hard, but before we dive in, let’s answer the basic question of what a social networking site IS. An online social network is a website on which people and organizations can set up profile pages with basic information about themselves and then link to other people’s pages — it’s that simple. Readers typically browse profiles by searching by keyword or name or by following links from one person to another, and they can also leave comments behind as they go.
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2 comments June 19th, 2008 Trackback Bookmark on del.icio.us

Choosing the Right Tools

Updated January, 2011

Okay, I’m sold — let’s get started. So what ARE the essential tools of online politics, and are they the same for every campaign? I’d argue that the answer to the second question is pretty close to yes: regardless of their ultimate goals, most campaigns will end up needing three basic online components:

  • A central online hub, usually a conventional website but sometimes (and particularly for citizen activists) a Facebook page, YouTube channel or blog.
  • Some way to keep in touch with supporters, usually via email list but also including Facebook and other social networking websites, RSS feed, Twitter or text messaging.
  • Online outreach, to connect with potential supporters and to influence the online discussion in your space, often meaning blogger relations but also including traditional media relations, social networking outreach, RSS, participation in back-channel email/IM discussions, online advertising, the production of podcasts and video pieces, etc.

(By the way, I’m indebted to Josh McConaha, formerly of the Democratic National Committee, for that division: when asked on a panel in the winter of 2007-8 to name the three essential tools for online politics, he listed a website, email and blogger relations or some other way to influence the discussion. My list just expands on his.)

The exact mix of tools you use depends on the goals you’re trying to reach and on actual means you have available to reach them. If you’re trying to organize high school and college students to speak out about human rights issues, you’re likely to use Facebook and (if it ever comes back from the grave) MySpace. If you’re a think tank or policy-heavy nonprofit, or if you’re just a good writer with something to say, a blog or family of blogs may be the right answer. If you’re raising money for a candidate for office, you’re likely to use email and a website that takes credit cards, with Google Ads helping to build the donor list over time.

The chapters that follow will look at the major tools available to political communicators as of January, 2011, along with tactics for specific applications like fundraising and influencing legislation or the media.


Next: Websites

1 comment June 19th, 2008 Trackback Bookmark on del.icio.us

E.politics on Interweb Radio, and Other Site News

Hi, y’all, just pulling it together after last night’s blow-out at the Reef — we had at least 100 folks show up to enjoy a what turned out to be a beautiful early summer evening. The crowd was heavy on the Adams Morgan/Mt. Pleasant/Col Heights neighborhood side, with a sprinkling of journalists, writers and online politicos, and conversation raged late on at least two floors of The Reef. I even saw some digits exchanged. Success! We’ll have to do that again some time.

In other news, I’m working on an updated version of Online Politics 101, trying to get it ready to launch next week, while also building out a website for a client. So, e.politics may not get updated as regularly until after the PDF and DIA conferences at the end of the month.

In the meantime, you can get your fix via a rebroadcast of today’s Digital Politics show on SignOn (Internet) Radio — the segment should be posted over the weekend. Host Karen Jagoda (she of the E-Voter Institute Survey) and I talk about the presidential campaigns, governance, citizen activism and a ton of other interesting topics through the lens of online politics. The segment runs about 25 minutes, so get a cup of coffee and settle back for a spell.

One more upcoming event: I’ve been invited to be on a June 25th panel on intellectual property and digital culture for the Media Future Now lunch series (I think I’m along for comedic relief). For details, go to the Media Future Now site, or if it (ahem) still hasn’t been updated, you can contact Andrew Mirsky directly for details.

cpd

Add comment June 13th, 2008 Trackback Bookmark on del.icio.us

Upcoming Events: Personal Democracy Forum and DIA User Conference

Hey kids! Two upcoming events of note:

  • Personal Democracy Forum is looming up a lot more quickly than I realize — it’s less than two weeks away now. I hope they have a sizeable red carpet; lots of Big Name (in our world) speakers will be hanging out, and I hope to see you there, too. Look for e.politics to be wandering the halls at random, searching out pockets of booze and tossing the occasional conversational grenade. Dig the cool setting — is a purple loincloth required or just de rigeur?
  • Also coming soon: the Democracy In Action user conference, in DC June 26-27. Registration ends June 16th, so get on it. E.politics has been coaxed into giving a presentation at this one, tentatively titled “Cheap, Quick and (Sometimes) Dirty: Creating Integrated Online Campaigns Using Off-The-Shelf Parts.” Catchy, eh? Hope you’ll make it there as well.

cpd

June 10th, 2008 Trackback Bookmark on del.icio.us

Quick Hits — June 9, 2008

The End of the Beginning!

cpd

Add comment June 9th, 2008 Trackback Bookmark on del.icio.us

Let’s Go to the Videotape: Slate Reviews the Democratic Race

Want to remember the 2008 Democratic primary process one last time before it fades into gauzy memory? Check out the video below — very nice work by Chadwick Matlin and the folks at Slate (via The Trail).

If only we could have lived it at that speed…

cpd

Add comment June 9th, 2008 Trackback Bookmark on del.icio.us

A “Gracious” Matt Drudge Attended Clinton’s Final Campaign Speech

This little vignette from Mike Allen’s Politico Playbook today (I can’t find it in the Ben Smith article he cites) — Matt Drudge attended Hillary Clinton’s Saturday campaign-closing event at the National Building Museum, “Fedora-free, no less. And a gracious guest.”

Drudge had damn well better be grateful to Hillary Clinton as well as gracious — without the Clintons, who would he be? Breaking the news about the Bill Clinton/Monica Lewinsky affair created his website as a significant media entity, letting him ditch that convenience-store job forever, and a symbiotic relationship with Clinton-hating right-wing radio has helped sustain him since. This year, his evolving relationship with Hillary Clinton’s campaign (did she use Drudge to distribute negative stories about opponents?) has drawn notice and a certain amount of flak for both.

By now, Drudge has built a solid niche for himself, in part by acting as an online battlefield for Republican campaign operatives, and The Drudge Report no doubt will be with us for quite a while. But with the Clintons fading from the scene at least for now, how will Limbaugh and crew fill their time? Will they and their listeners be able to work up the same kind of visceral rage against Obama and a Democratic Congress that led millions of people (and the Wall Street Journal editorial board) to believe sincerely that Bill and Hillary killed Vince Foster?

Another ‘net-related nugget related to Clinton’s speech: Obama apparently watched it over the internet. Live or later? Is watching over the web somehow different from watching it on TV?

cpd

Add comment June 8th, 2008 Trackback Bookmark on del.icio.us

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