New guest article, new guest author! Beth Becker’s first piece for Epolitics.com reviews a mobile CRM tool with implications for elected officials and campaigns alike. Look for more from Beth to come, and also check her out on Twitter and at one of her latest projects, ProgressiveCongressNews.
Visible Vote: Bringing Constituent Relations to the Mobile Phone
By Beth Becker
Visible Vote was founded in part as a response to frustration by Chicago resident Paul Everton after he tried to find an easy way to track what was going on with the 2009 economic stimulus bill and to make his opinion heard. A long conversation with his brother led to one of those classic light-bulb moments, and a new idea was born.
Why do I love Visible Vote? It’s the first tool for communication between elected official and constituent that is built for the mobile app environment. The only way to access Visible Vote other than a smart phone is through the company’s Facebook app. The cool part? That Facebook app and the app on your mobile phone sync with each other at the touch of a button, so if you bounce back and forth you won’t lose information or see the same poll twice.
[Have I mentioned it's free to use for both the elected official and the constituent and that there are no ads? It's also useful for communications between a campaign and a potential voter, but in this article we'll focus specifically on the elected official/constituent relationship.]
So what exactly does Visible Vote do? From a constituent viewpoint, when you first log in via mobile phone or Facebook, the app will set you up to “follow” the President, your two Senators and your Representative using basic demographic information (such as your zip code) you’ll be prompted to enter. Via the app’s settings, you can then choose to follow any other members of Congress, any number of organizations that have Visible Vote portals and a variety of News Channels via their RSS feeds.
Now you’re set to explore! The first feature that’ll catch your eye is the Vote Summary. This allows you to indicate via a thumbs up or down what you think of the job being done by the President and the Members of Congress the represent you.
Next you’ll notice the Bills Portal, which lists every bill before Congress (via thomas.gov and gives you the opportunity to vote as if you were voting yes or no on the bill and to indicate on a scale of 1-to-4 how important that bill is to you. These results are compiled weekly and faxed to each member’s office so they have an idea of what their constituents are saying.
The next panel you’ll want to become familiar with is the Write Legislators Portal, where you can send an email directly to the White House, your Senators or your Representative right from your smart phone. Note the plus in this system for elected officials: messages originating in the app integrate with whatever Constituent Services Management system their office is using, meaning that correspondence doesn’t just get lost in the shuffle.
For me, the most exciting part is the Live Events Portal. Visible Vote allows elected officials and organizations with their own portals to conduct live video townhalls. When you log into Visible Vote you’ll get a notification that there is a live event going on…you can watch the townhall video right on your mobile phone and you can send in questions to be answered, without having to be sitting front of a computer. Busy working? You can just go to the Video Portal and watch it later.
Want to voice your opinion for the world to see? Using the 60-Second Portal, you can upload a 60-second video of yourself talking about your viewpoint on something.
I could go on all day about why I love this app, but better that you go download it to your phone or find the Facebook app and explore it yourself!
Thanks, Beth! Hard to tell when you’re excited! Now, how about that series you were talking about the other day….