With the election a little over six months away, it finally occurred to me the other day to put the “Learning from Obama” e-book — available as text and PDF on Epolitics.com since August, 2009 — in the Amazon store for the Kindle-lovers out there to download. It IS, after all, the most comprehensive guide to Barack Obama’s 2008 online campaign I know of, and required reading in undergrad and graduate-level communications classes at universities across the country. Plus, if you want to analyze the political effect of what’s happening online this year, it helps to know what happened last time — particularly since I’d argue that the 2008 Obama campaign was an important moment not just in the digital political world but for the larger internet culture as well.
In any case, it’s also good practice for publishing the “Winning in 2012″ e-book, which is coming out shortly. Kindle self-publishing turns out to have some annoying quirks, but it wasn’t TOO painful once I used Mobipocket Creator to build the Kindle-friendly version starting from an HTML base. For the first time I’m charging for an e-book — for the benefit of reading it on Kindle, I’m asking them to pay $1.99 (though you can still read it on Epolitics.com for free). We’ll see what happens! If you happen to be a habitue of the Amazon Store, will you do me a huge favor? Please give it a thumbs-up! And perhaps someone who’s read it will even volunteer to write a review…for which I would shower thanks upon you.
P.S. One other experiment: I switched the subtitle in the Amazon version to “A Comprehensive Guide to His Groundbreaking 2008 Online Presidential Campaign” (it had been, “Lessons for Online Communicators in 2009 and Beyond”). I’m hoping the change will make it a little clearer for people browsing the Amazon store to grasp what it contains at first glance.
Howdy folks, I’ve been hit lately by a rash of sales pitches from social media “experts,” and the only rational response is to make fun of them. So with a nod to Letterman, here are my Top Ten Signs a “Social Media Expert” isn’t.
He (and it’s probably a “he”) thinks Twitter follow-bots are a GREAT idea.
He tells you to focus your outreach work on Google Plus.
He thinks “email is dead.” (Note: bonus points if he says it in an email.)
When you follow his Twitter feed, he sends you an automated sales pitch via DM.
He thinks that the number of people who “Like” a Facebook page is all that matters.
He automatically posts EVERY ONE of his tweets to Facebook.
He thinks social media is the answer to all communications problems.
He has fewer followers than your cat.
His previous jobs have all been in sales.
And finally: the only thing he measures is the size of your bank account.
What’d I miss? Add your own suggestions in the comments!
Organizing for America New Mexico is accepting applications for a Data Director to work in Albuquerque, NM.
The Data Director will work on all aspects of data programs including data analysis and handling, reporting, auditing, training, and administering online tools.
Responsibilities and Qualifications
Data supports the field effort by making technology an accessible and powerful tool for organizers and volunteers. Therefore ideal candidates will have an organizing background….
It’s becoming increasingly obvious that data is the underlying story behind his campaign’s grassroots outreach, much as outside observers often like to focus on Facebook, Twitter and the other social tools that essentially every political operation now uses. Also note that Obama continues to spend heavily on digital advertising, largely for recruiting and fundraising though at times for persuasion. Watch this space.
Call today a study in crowdsourcing contrasts. First, the good: public-interest news outlet ProPublica is asking citizens to help track political advertising by candidates and outside groups like SuperPACs (they need assistance because the FCC has balked at making local TV stations publish online the records of the political ads they’re running). ProPublica’s solution is to assemble an army of ad-trackers to physically go to the stations, request the documents (which must be made public, but only on paper), scan them and email them in to a central repository. A heavy lift, but they’ve already overseen a successful effort in Chicago and are hoping to build a network of spies in Wisconsin before that state’s primary election on April 3rd.
We’ve looked recently at ProPublica’s reverse-engineering of an Obama campaign fundraising email, and I bet their reporters — and the citizens who volunteer to help — will have just as much fun finding trends in this advertising data. With so many newspapers having gutted their investigative journalism programs, projects like ProPublica are about all that’s left to fill in the gap. Citizen journalists can help, whether they’re scanning documents or analyzing piles of them posted online.
I’m starting to experience a kind of “favoriting” fatigue — meaning that the digital causes of the day or week are all starting to blend together. Another week, another hashtag, and with it, a question about what is actually being accomplished.
But by the end of the article, he’s come around:
That outcome — a very traditional organization responding with an open mind to a netroots outcry — made me think again about my own cynicism about Web activism. Many of the folks who made the unpopular decision at Komen are gone and the policy has been amended. Trayvon Martin’s death is under investigation and the president is now weighing in directly. And who knows, perhaps the Web-enabled sunlight on Joseph Kony will end with him being brought to justice, finally.
Sure, hashtags come and go, and the so-called weak ties of digital movements are no match for real world engagement. But they are not only better than nothing, they probably make the world, the one beyond the keyboard, a better place.
Not a bad recognition of the struggle common to most online communicators, and (frankly) most advocates in general: how do we turn people’s concern/outrage/disgust into some meaningful act?
One aspect of Carr’s piece that jumps out at me is that he seems to speak of online activism in the abstract, as something taking place out in the aether without much connection to the real world. To the contrary, most successful online organizing I can think of — from Zucotti Park to Tahrir Square — is fundamentally tied to action in the physical world. Yes, we use digital tools to spread messages and mobilize supporters, but we’re often doing so in order to ask people to do something concrete, even if it’s just to call their Congressmembers. Think about it: the 2012 Obama campaign isn’t investing in a massive digital team just to get people to post articles on Facebook — they’re doing it (ultimately) to get them to turn out and vote. Miss that, and you miss the real point of digital advocacy.
In the analysis, the team defined success metrics for Congressional tweeters, looked at demographic differences in Congressional Twitter performance, identified key behavioral differences that impact Twitter success and highlighted ten Twitter Best Practices for U.S. Members of Congress.
Some of their observations won’t come as much of a surprise (Republican House members love them Teh Twitter!), nor will many of their conclusions (Tweet regularly! Tweet links to useful content!). Others may: for instance, successful Hill tweeters tend to send lots of messages earlier in the morning and later in the week, which I suspect are also times when overall Twitter volume may be lower, meaning that their messages may stand out more.
Definitely read the full report (embedded here), but you can skim their top-level findings in a handy slideshow (below) and a big infographic (after the break).
For another of the occasional glimpses we get of the Obama campaign’s comprehensive effort to re-energize his 2008 online supporters, check out this article from The Times, which came out right before I ran off to Austin for SXSW:
With a “chief scientist” specializing in consumer behavior, an “analytics department” monitoring voter trends, and a squad of dozens huddled at computer screens editing video or writing code, the sprawling office complex inside One Prudential Plaza looks like a corporate research and development lab — Ping-Pong table and all.
But it is home to the largely secret engine of President Obama’s re-election campaign, where scores of political strategists, data analysts, corporate marketers and Web producers are sifting through information gleaned from Facebook, voter logs and hundreds of thousands of telephone or in-person conversations to reassemble and re-energize the scattered coalition of supporters who swept Mr. Obama into the White House four years ago.
So Mr. Obama’s re-election team is sifting through reams of data available through the Internet or fed to it by its hundreds of staff members on the ground in all 50 states, identifying past or potential supporters and donors and testing e-mail and Web-based messages that can entice them back into the fold.
Be sure to head on over to the Campaigns & Elections site for the latest edition of Technology Bytes. On the menu this issue? Profiles of three interesting tools campaigns can use to organize and mobilize volunteers, two of which have social and gaming aspects to them. Plus, check out a piece that’s likely to stir up some trouble, in which we examine the possibility that trained and/or experienced Republican online campaign staff are few and far between.
And while you’re reading C&E, also check out the upcoming Campaign Tech conference — April 19th and 20th right here in DC. More about the conference soon — e.politics will be moderating a panel, natch.
With all the talk the last couple of weeks about the Kony 2012 video — including why it went viral — let’s go back a few months to Epolitics.com’s own contribution to the literature of virality, which broke 1000 views on YouTube earlier in March:
Good fun! And it keeps picking up a steady stream of attention, being seen perhaps 100-200 times per month. Not quite viral, though — there’s no evidence that it’s spread widely from person to person. Which is fine with me, since a video about the difficulty of going viral going viral is more ironic than I can handle today. I’ll settle for something that’s useful for the right people, which ain’t bad at all. More on what it means for content to go viral, plus a few tips for optimizing content to spread widely.
Colin Delany, the founder and editor of epolitics.com, which analyses how politicians can best use social media, cautioned that this support online does not necessarily translate into support at the polls.
“It’s about like trying to predict an election based on how many yard signs someone has,” Delany said. “Sometimes it’s a good reflection but certainly not a definite correlation.”
There is a correlation between a politician’s ability to stimulate a following on the web and the organization and enthusiasm they are likely to have on the ground, Delany said.
Patient: Reported on SXSW Music Festival Day 3 (of 4), overall SXSW Festival Day 8
Diagnosis: SXSW Syndrome
Symptoms: Subject displays a wide array of SXSW-related symptoms. They include: perpetual squint, even with sunglasses on. Jeans worn three days straight, same pair (the t-shirt is relatively clean, thank god). Sunburn is fading to a robust face-tan, over two-day beard stubble. Subject’s free-food-and-booze locator senses are tuned to a fine pitch (note: he has discovered a source of free beer, coffee & live music dangerously close to his hotel). Subject also suffers apparent optic nerve damage from SXSW-hottie-ogling (one can’t look too long at the sun without consequences, after all).
Body-bloat is evident, apparently from over-ingestion of barbeque and a substance referred to in the literature as “Death Metal Pizza.” Feet sore from 10+ miles of walking per day plus hours of standing at shows. Subject displays a particular inability to react appropriately (or even perceptibly) to amplified music, laser shows or the strong smell of marijuana in public places (in all three cases, unless of particularly high quality). Likewise with tattoos, piercings and unconventional clothing. Subject claims to have seen more bands than he can handle, but still wants more.
Prognosis: Patient’s body may still be saved, though only as a subject of scientific study. The soul, however, is a lost cause.
Recommended treatment: Two more nights of live music, plus an ethanol/barbeque IV. Stat!