Utterly gratuitous photo of the Extra Grumpy Cat
When Barack Obama crossed the nerd-culture streams in his Jedi Mind Meld moment last week, he created great joy on the internets: by combining the Star Wars Jedi Mind Trick and the Star Trek Vulcan Mind Meld into a single entity, he not only caused a great disturbance in the Force, he created the opportunity for a good, old-fashioned meme explosion.
And of course, the internet responded in fine form, with lots of talk of Obama losing the Nerd Vote, being banned from Comic-Con, etc. Good times all around!
But as Extra Grumpy Cat says,
And that’s exactly what the White House did, by jumping on the #JediMindMeld hashtag with a relevant joke of their own (including both Star Wars and Star Trek references)…AND a link to their own materials about budget sequestration. Good work taking advantage of a fleeting social media moment! Particularly one that Obama inadvertently created himself.
Of course, as the Daily Show pointed out, the real importance of the #JediMindMeld moment was that it gave cable news something to talk about other than actual news. Good job keeping your eye on the ball, folks — I’m glad there was nothing substantive happening in Washington that day.
March 6th, 2013
Time for us to get a little learnin’ — and to head up the road to NYC. Two old friends (Charles Lenchner and Elana Levin) are putting this event together, and I’ll be helping out wherever they need me (sounds like I’ll be moderating a panel or two at the least). More details:
Organizing 2.0 leads online organizing and new media skills training for members and staff at community organizations, labor groups, and local campaigns and nonprofits. This year we are expanding our training offerings to include grassroots fundraising and electoral organizing.
Join us and our esteemed partners at Organizing New York, March 22-24. Register now….
This conference is for communicators, organizers, and fundraisers. Members and staff at unions, nonprofits, member organizations, and campaigns. Board members, member-organizers, elected officials, and their staffers. Hackers, occupiers, free-agents, and trouble-makers.
Count me among the last two categories, at least philosophically. Hope to see you there.
March 6th, 2013
The Pew Research Center has a study out this week that should confirm what a lot of us have felt when people have tried to use the tone of social media coverage to gauge public opinion. Their top-line findings:
The reaction on Twitter to major political events and policy decisions often differs a great deal from public opinion as measured by surveys….
At times the Twitter conversation is more liberal than survey responses, while at other times it is more conservative. Often it is the overall negativity that stands out. Much of the difference may have to do with both the narrow sliver of the public represented on Twitter as well as who among that slice chose to take part in any one conversation.
Not mentioned at all: the fact that many political communicators CONSCIOUSLY try to skew the conversation on Twitter in our favor, in part to influence journalists and bloggers looking to Twitter to see how a speech or policy proposal is going over. Twitter simply isn’t a mass medium in the way that Facebook has become; only a small fraction of Americans (and a different fraction with each issue) are going to engage on Twitter. To quote Pew again:
Overall, the reaction to political events on Twitter reflects a combination of the unique profile of active Twitter users and the extent to which events engage different communities and draw the comments of active users. While this provides an interesting look into how communities of interest respond to different circumstances, it does not reliably correlate with the overall reaction of adults nationwide.
So no really big surprises here: Twitter doesn’t represent American opinion any more than, say, the Sunday morning political talk shows or CNN do. But that doesn’t mean it’s a waste of time to try to shape the tweeted concensus, any more than it’s a waste of time to get your spokesperson on MSNBC, Fox or Meet the Press — just take the results with a large grain of salt.
March 5th, 2013
Here’s a bit of a coup for our friends at POPVOX.com, who were also featured in that recent “50 Hottest” list in BusinessInsider: when advocates use the POPVOX site to post documents supporting or opposing legislation, they now go straight to the House Democratic intranet, where they’re immediately available to staff. Useful! These behind-the-scenes documents now often find themselves buried in an inbox or on someone’s desk, and this new channel will help keep them in front of exactly the eyes they need to reach. Here’s the text of an email from the Democratic Whip’s office with the details:
Subject: Ensure Your Organization’s Legislative Positions are Visible to House Democrats
Dear Congressional Advocacy Organizations,
We know you all spend significant time and effort producing letters of support or opposition for bills before Congress. Unfortunately, those letters often live an all-too-short life fulfilling their purpose—influencing Congressional decision makers—before being buried in overloaded Congressional inboxes. The Democratic Whip’s Office is taking action to improve matters and make your letters more prominent and easy to find for House Democratic staffers.
Democratic Whip Hoyer’s office manages DemCom, the official intranet for House Democratic staff, which has been in use for four years and is used regularly by over 2,000 House Democratic staffers. DemCom hosts all internal documents within the Democratic Caucus including “Dear Colleague” Member letters, Leadership fact sheets and talking points, sample press releases and constituent letters, all organized by bill. Beginning last summer, DemCom also automatically imports all letters of support/opposition from outside organizations that have been posted on the public website POPVOX.com and prominently displays those letters alongside the internal/official documents related to that bill. As a result, over 5,000 letters from outside organization letters are now on DemCom, all organized by bill, and more are added each day.
We want you all to be aware of this resource. You all can post your own letters directly to POPVOX.com or simply email them to email@example.com. And you can be sure that any letter posted on POPVOX.com is also automatically and prominently displayed to all House Democratic staff….
—The Democratic Whip Outreach Team
This sounds like a good development for both advocacy groups and Congressional staff, since it’ll help both do their jobs more effectively and efficiently — without the free flow of relevant information, Congress can’t make good decisions. Whether it makes good decisions once it HAS the information is a judgment I leave to our loyal readers.
BTW, for more on POPVOX, check out the initial Epolitics.com review of the site.
March 3rd, 2013
Here’s a milestone to consider: digital politics has now been around long enough now that authors can start writing about how it HAS changed people’s lives, rather than about how it WILL change their lives. Case in point? Andy Carvin’s new book about social media and the Arab Spring revolutions, “Distant Witness.” Here’s the Amazon description:
The series of Arab uprisings collectively known as the Arab Spring is a flashpoint in history — perhaps the biggest we’ve seen since the collapse of the Soviet bloc 20 years ago. It’s also been a stunning revolution in the way breaking news is reported around the world — and who controls the news.
In this book, NPR social media chief Andy Carvin — “the man who tweets revolutions” — offers a unique first-person recap of the Arab Spring. Part memoir, part history, the book includes intimate stories of the revolutionaries who fought for freedom on the streets and across the Internet — stories that would have never been recorded before the days of social media.
Andy’s a great guy and someone who grabbed hold of a tiger and rode it for all it was worth during the Arab Spring; by following, amplifying and connecting people involved in the uprisings, he was one of the few outsiders who had a global view of what was happening on the ground. Check it out, and see also our other recent book recommendation, “Social Change Anytime Anywhere.” For more on the internet and the Arab Spring, the Epolitics.com piece on social media in the Tunisian revolution is another resource to keep in mind.
March 2nd, 2013
David Rehr from GW’s Graduate School of Political Management sent over the slides below earlier today, which summarize the findings of a study in which he participated that looked at social media’s role in the 2012 elections. The results are based on a survey of adult Americans on how they used social media for politics and political news, and the results are worth going through, for sure. Slides are below, with some observations after the break.
February 27th, 2013
Guest article! We normally don’t run many pieces submitted by vendors here at Epolitics.com, but the article below looks at a fascinating development in government relations — the use of data mining to identify organizations’ members who have real-world relationships with lawmakers. The company involved (RAP Index) was recently profiled in a Politico article that made it into our last Quick Hits roundup, and for more, check out the piece below and see what you think. Can RAP Index provide a real alternative to mass-emailing Congress? My suspicion: The two techniques can live nicely side-by-side, just as social media and email advocacy have coexisted and cooperated with traditional lobby work for years now.
RAP Index: Using Data Mining to Change the Legislative-Contact Paradigm
Technological innovation and adoption over the last three decades has made it easier for organizations to disseminate their messages to customers, elected leaders, the media, and others. However, the ability of technology to facilitate the delivery of rote, cookie-cutter messages en masse, has itself created an obstacle to organizations’ messages being heard and truly taken to heart. Tools designed to cut through the noise often simply add to it. Information overload can lead to real frustration or even disengagement as we struggle to identify and prioritize what is most important among the clutter.
The problem is particularly severe in politics and greatly hinders advocates’ ability to influence lawmakers on behalf of their constituents. Most try to address it by casting a wide net and hoping they catch a few fish.
At RAP Index, we have developed a way to circumvent the noise machine by using technology to enable our customers to identify, build, and appropriately leverage relationships to improve advocacy efforts. We believe that quality trumps quantity, always. And we believe that personal contact — especially from someone a decision-maker knows — consistently trumps a bevy of form letters from random individuals the decision-maker has never met.
February 26th, 2013
Check out the infographic below (originally on Business Insider), which is simple but tells us a lot about the dynamics of the online advertising race for the presidency in 2012:
Several points to note:
- The sheer volume of ads that Obama ran, compared with Romney. Not included in the chart: considering how much the Obama campaign used data to optimize its outreach, we can also assume that his digital marketers spent less than Romney per supporter-acquired.
- The “long tail” of Obama recruiting ads, starting back in August of 2011. As we discussed that fall, these ads were a key part of rebuilding the campaign’s email list and supporter base.
- The Obama “spike” of Get Out The Vote ad spending, which helped nudge his backers to the polls.
- Romney’s late start — very little advertising during the primaries, and list-building starting in earnest only in late summer. Why not begin running more ads once he had the nomination wrapped up? He was short on cash at the time, but even a relatively small investment in April/May would have at least started his list-building process.
- Romney’s LACK of a strong GOTV ad push. Did they really think they had the election in the bag? Skipping an online campaign to get GOP voters to the polls reeks of political malpractice.
- Note that Obama ran as many ads in August of 2011 as Romney did in August of 2012. Which one understood that online recruiting is incremental?
Thanks to Nathan Abse for sending over the chart — look for his new report on political data and microtargeting on the IAB site tomorrow.
February 25th, 2013
The new Organizing For Action, the successor organization to Obama’s 2012 grassroots army, turns its fire on Republican Congressmembers over gun-purchase background checks, as first reported by USA Today. The weapon? Online ads on websites likely to be widely read within their districts:
The ads, which include the legislators’ photos and Twitter handles, are running on local-news Web sites in lawmakers’ home districts. The ads, which officials said cost close to $100,000, represent the first paid media campaign by Organizing for Action (OFA), the nonprofit group formed last month to harness Obama’s campaign apparatus in support of his legislative agenda.
In this case, the ultimate targets are the legislators themselves, but the mechanism is public pressure — by placing the ads on obvious, public sites rather than using cookie-targeting or zip-code targeting to reach voters behind the scenes, OFA ensures that journalists, bloggers and activists will see them. And likely, they’ll talk about them.
OFA inherits from its 2012 predecessor the tactic of using media outlets to a add local emphasis to its online outreach, since the campaign’s digital marketers often used home-page “takeovers” of a state’s top newspaper websites, for instance on the first day of early voting in a state. Local websites are often relatively cheap to dominate, meaning that a determined advertiser can make a splash and influence relevant conversations for at low cost. Including the lawmakers’ faces makes the whole thing that much more personal. Including their Twitter addresses encourages local OfA members and others to leverage the ads by tweeting their messages at the individual lawmakers.
Of course, these ads won’t suppress National Rifle Association counter-fire — expect local pro-gun activists to respond with a barrage of missives on Twitter, Facebook and every other modern battleground they can find.
February 23rd, 2013
Down here in the e.politics bunker, we’re bummed to have to miss South by Southwest this year (see last year’s status report for an example of 1. why it’s a terrific time, and 2. why skipping it may be good for staff health), but plenty of other conference goodness is on the horizon.
One example: the CampaignTech Conference, sponsored by Campaigns & Elections magazine and held in DC on April 18-19 this year. My own panel, “How to Act Like Obama Online When You DON’T Have a Billion in the Bank” (which will talk about applying Obama 2012 lessons to this year’s advocacy and electoral campaigns), is coming together nicely — we just signed up Ethan Roeder, Obama’s chief data manager for the presidential race and who’s now gone back over to the New Organizing Institute, as a speaker.
The conference as a whole should be great fun and educational all around, and you should register now before the rates go up at the beginning of March. More on our panel soon, and I hope to see you there.
February 21st, 2013
Lots of good news in the online politics/advocacy community lately, including a bunch of friends-of-e.politics ending up in Business Insider’s list of the 50 Hottest People in Online Politics today. Congrats, folks!
Also, Allyson Kapin (of Rad Campaign and Frogloop fame) and Amy Sample Ward have a new book out, called Social Change Anytime Everywhere: How to Implement Online Multichannel Strategies to Spark Advocacy, Raise Money, and Engage your Community. It’s a great (and timely) topic, with some many of us in the advocacy world looking at ways to put these online communities we’ve spend so much time (and often, money) building to work. I’ll be heading over to a book-launch event later this afternoon; definitely check it out.
And, head on over to Amazon and buy your copy today!
February 21st, 2013
Guest article! The inimitable Beth Becker returns to our pages to muse about developments in the social ‘net that’ll matter to online communicators in the year to come. My (irreverent) comments are included as (ed notes) in the text below. Take it away, Beth:
Eight Social Media Trends to Watch in 2013
By Beth Becker
It’s that time of year again: folks in our field are thinking about the coming months and predicting trends for the year to come. Below are my picks, eight ongoing developments I think everyone should keep in mind when creating Social Digital strategy for 2013.
From social media to social networking to social sharing to social shopping
This day was coming. On Pinterest, when you see a $ in the corner of a pinned picture, you can click to buy. With ActionSprout, a new Facebook App from some of the people behind Groundwire and other great digital companies, you could take payment for something right thru the Facebook app…meaning that a person doesn’t have to leave the Facebook environment to pay.
We can expect this model to affect politics as well: ActBlue, for example, has experimented with what it calls ActBlue Express, which lets you can actually tweet your donation and have the money transferred from your credit card to the campaign or organization’s account using a specific tweet syntax. Lowering the barriers to purchase — or give — online? A win for both the campaigns/organizations and the buyers/donors involved.
Additionally, today it was announced that Pinterest has bought recipe site Punchfork. They didn’t buy it for the food…they bought for the underlying software that has some of the most robust tagging, context and search algorithms around. Look for developments like this to accelerate ways to make purchases online. And of course my favorite example…Zappos Pinpointing, which lets you enter a Pinterest user’s name and then get shoe recommendations that are based on the things that person has pinned to his or her own Pinterest boards.
Online rapid response — more important than ever
It wasn’t too long ago that Oreo won the internet with their now famous “dunk in the dark” that got a lot of movement during the Superbowl Blackout. Such rapid response is just as important in politics as anywhere else. A few key things to keep in mind:
February 20th, 2013