Kate Kaye’s picked up on a story that bombarded the e.politics bunker with at least half a dozen Google Alerts this morning: Twitter has decided not to allow political campaigns to purchase “Promoted Tweets” through the end of this political cycle, which effectively cuts campaigns off from the microblogging site’s foray into ad-supported content. The logic makes sense — Promoted Tweets are a new feature and essentially still experimental, so only a relative handful of trial clients are using them — but campaigns are nonetheless feeling a little disappointed.
One fascinating reason why shows up in the middle of the article:
Still, as media outlets and social media researchers keep a close watch on candidates’ Twitter followings, campaigns have a growing need to attract as many followers as possible. Frenchman, for instance, was looking into Promoted Tweets as a possible way to build his client’s Twitter following. A large follower base is considered by some observers to indicate strong support or momentum, and it helps propel fundraising efforts as well.
Interesting that a major reason to boost a Twitter following ISN’T to actually communicate with voters, but to build at least the appearance of popular support. In that sense, a solid Twitter following is like a favorable internal poll released to the press, or like having big money in the bank — it’s a way to show The Powers That Be (funders, bloggers, journalists, party committees, large donors) that a campaign is worth supporting. Ultimately, is that more important than the campaign’s actual messaging on Twitter?
From the recent Vanity Fair profile of Sarah Palin: “Palin is the only politician whose tweets are regularly reported as news by TV networks. She is the only one who has been able to significantly change the course of debate on a major national issue (health-care reform) with a single Facebook posting (in which she accused the Obama administration, falsely, of wanting to set up a “death panel”).” Plus, “After the 2008 presidential campaign, when she returned briefly to the governor’s office, Palin became so obsessed with responding to criticism from bloggers that it sometimes paralyzed her administration.”
In Saturday’s AMP Summit panel discussion on effective online campaigning, fellow online politics old-timer Chris Casey made a great observation: politics may still be local, but fundraising in a networked age is national. I.e., candidates still have to reflect and react to attitudes and events in the districts they represent, but the money that funds campaigns now can come from anywhere. And as we’ve seen in lower-turnout elections through the entire 2010 cycle, both special elections and primaries, national money can make a decisive difference: Lisa Murkowski and Mike Castle may be the latest victims, but Scott Brown’s win back in January had already shown the way.
Of course, outside money is nothing new in politics — industries, unions and interest groups have flooded critical races with cash for decades — but what IS novel is the ability of the online tools to gather contributions from small donors and bundle them up into a meaningful sum again and again. Obama’s 2008 campaign remains the prime example, but many other groups on all parts of the political spectrum are building up grassroots donor bases with an eye toward repeating his success on behalf of their own issues. We’ll see whether the trend can survive the inevitable defeats that groups will endure, since not EVERYONE can win an election — donors may drift away if they don’t see their work as effective. But fear works, too — just ask the Tea Parties now and MoveOn back during the Bush days. Motivation may be just a scary email away…or a hope-filled one, depending.
One takeaway from today’s AMP Summit sessions so far — Google has seen such a surge of election-related online advertising that the company’s actually established a “war room” for the remaining weeks of the 2010 campaign. The goal is to be able to approve political ads 24 hours per day, knowing that campaigns will be flooding the system with new and amended buys. In fact, in the final days they’ll be pulling people in from other sections of the company’s ad practice to help. It’s just one measure of the extent to which online advertising has become a mainstream tactice for political campaigns, plus a nice profit center for Google.
Regardless of the up-staffing, political advertisers on Google and Facebook should get their requests in as early as possible — you don’t want your opponents’ ads dominating because yours are sitting in an approval queue. Buy early, buy often….
Howdy folks, the AMP Summit kicks off in earnest tomorrow (Friday, September 24), and I hope to see you there (our panel is 2:30 Saturday, BTW, so mark your calendars). But if you can’t make it, you can take in the events from the comfort of your own couch courtesy of NextGenWeb, which will be live-streaming the conference. I’m not sure how they’ll handle the simultaneous breakout sessions, but you should be able to catch at least the keynotes and other general sessions (note: my boss at NMS, Pete Snyder, will be giving one of the keynote presentations at 9 am on the first day). Check out the NextGenWeb site starting Friday morning for more.
Here’s one of the more interesting applications that’s come across the e.politics desktop this week — a company called AktNow.com is promoting technology that allows people to donate their Facebook status and Twitter feed to a political campaign. Of course, plenty of people have been “donating” their social media accounts for years, in that they’ve used them to promote campaigns they support (we certainly saw plenty of that in the 2008 race, and not just from Obama supporters). The kicker in this case, according to the company’s press release: “Once a user gives permission, the application automatically posts updates to their profiles on their behalf during the course of the campaign.” The cost? Just a hair under $500 per campaign.
Of course, it requires people to trust a campaign with what amounts to their public face — not something I’d do, thanks. But plenty of people might, so perhaps its worth a look.
According to a recent piece on PBS’s MediaShift blog, the answer is simplicity and the ability to inspire action. I agree — which is good, because I’m quoted extensively in the article, along with Joe Rospars (a guy who REALLY knows what he’s talking about), Robert Willington (who worked on Scott Brown’s campaign last winter) and Tim Hysom (Congressional Management Foundation). MediaShift’s Steven Davy does a great job pulling the pieces together, and he also got us to pass along several examples of what we thought were good and bad campaign sites (thanks to several of my NMS colleagues for tossing out ideas on that front). Good lessons all around, and anyone who’s tried to communicate online would probably agree with the conclusion of the piece:
One thing that all good campaign websites have in common is that they get to the point quickly and do a good job of capturing a user’s interest.
“At the end of the day what many people will give you is their first couple of seconds on the site,” Rospars said. “If you don’t make clear that they are important or that there are real opportunities to get involved and that it will be a meaningful thing for them, they are gone.”
You’d better believe it — and a website they WILL find more interesting is always only a click away.
Hey kids, check those details before you post that web video! Lisa Murkowski’s staff apparently didn’t, and they misspelled HER OWN NAME in the original version of the ad below:
Yep, the ad listed “www.lisamurkwski.com” in its first incarnation, an error caught by the online press with much mirth and joy. And of course, someone moved fast to buy up the misspelled domain name, which now plays host to a site that’s not exactly flattering to the sitting Senator (it starts here and gets worse: “Lisa Murkowski is an elitist, Big Government, Tax and Spend career politician who was given the seat by her daddy.”). Ah, sweet internets — you never let me down.
At the Democratic National Committee, aides already have started work on a database to link the most controversial statements of the Tea Party-backed candidates to possible Republican presidential aspirants.
The database will point out, for example, that Sarah Palin and Mitt Romney are supporting the Republican candidate for Senate in Nevada, Sharron Angle, who once said that victims of rape should make “what was really a lemon situation into lemonade,” and Ms. O’Donnell, who has said that having women in the service academies “cripples the readiness of our defense.”
The tactic of linking potential Republican rivals to such statements was already in evidence last week. After Ms. O’Donnell’s victory, a party spokesman told reporters, “The fact that Mitt Romney and Sarah Palin would put their name behind a candidate that believes women who serve our country ‘cripple the readiness of our defense’ make them unfit to be commander-in-chief.”
A handy little rapid-response tool, indeed — let’s hope they put a public front on it and let us use it as well. Room for growth: if they include some “match the speaker to the rabidly insane quote” games, it might just become a family hit. For weird, politically obsessed families. Like mine.
As the number of Facebook members signed up for the “Boycott Target Until They Cease Funding Anti-Gay Politics” page neared 78,000 in recent days, Facebook personnel locked down portions of the page — banning new discussion threads, preventing members from posting videos and standard Web links to other sites and barring the page’s administrator from sending updates to those who signed up for the boycott.
“It slices the vocal cords,” complained Jeffrey Henson, who ran the Facebook page, calling for a boycott of Target over its $150,000 donation to a group supporting a candidate some view as hostile to the gay community, Minnesota gubernatorial candidate Tom Emmer. “The page is now outraged” over the website’s action, Henson added.
Facebook justified this shutdown and others by claiming that the activism campaigns go against the intent of Facebook Pages, yet another reminder that if you build an activist base on Facebook, you don’t own it — Facebook does. So, the old rule of thumb for recruiting via social networks still applies: move those people onto your email list as fast as you can get them to sign a petition. And count on Facebook to interpret its Terms Of Service exactly as it wants them to apply at that moment…particularly if (potential or actual) big advertisers might be the beneficiaries.
Hell of a political year so far, eh? The Tea Party Express just ran over its second establishment Republican in the past few weeks, and since Delaware’s victorious Christine O’Donnell doesn’t seem to stand much of a chance in the fall, this time the Democrats are likely to be the real beneficiaries. Meanwhile, former congressmember AND former governor Mike Castle gets to spend the rest of the election season kicking back with Alaska’s Lisa Murkowski and trying to figure out what went wrong.
Here’s one clue, buried in Justin Elliott’s article on the Tea Party Express in today’s War Room. It turns out that the organization is sitting on a big, fat email list of 400,000 Tea Party enthusiasts willing to cough up enough individual donations for the group to bankroll advertising for Joe Miller in Alaska and O’Donnell in Delaware to the tune of close to a million dollars. Sound familiar? A big email list of small donors was key to Obama’s victory in 2008, and here again we see a tool often ignored in favor of flashy social media actually proving to be decisive. Email + a website that takes credit cards = still the most important technology in online politics.