Washington Post online politics reporter Jose Antonio Vargas wrote over the weekend on the Obama campaign’s use of niche social networking sites for voter outreach:
And as of Friday, he’s the first candidate to have profiles on BlackPlanet.com and MiGente.com, popular soc-nets in the black and Latino communities, and also on newer soc-nets such as AsianAve.com (for Asian Americans) and GLEE.com (“GLEE” stands for “Gay, Lesbian and Everyone Else”).
Jose quoted me at the end of the article and I’d like to expand a little on what I said there. Specifically, I talked about going where your audience is, not exactly a new topic on this site. For most campaigns, deciding on which social networking sites to hit, if any, is a resource-allocation question: we have X amount to spend on voter outreach, and we’d like to get the most votes possible for it. In a congressional, state legislative or local race, niche social networking sites aren’t likely to yield enough supporters in the right places to be worth the time, but a MySpace profile may be a good investment. Though of course, even for some local races, ethnic niche sites (for instance) might well be perfect targets it all depends on which voters those campaigns need to reach and the relative costs of reaching them through different means.
For presidential campaigns that are already maintaining social networking profiles on several sites, adding a few extras probably isn’t going to stretch resources much national campaigns can pick up extra supporters a few thousand here or a few thousand there, and they’re going to be looking at plenty of different niches, online and off. As with most communications decisions, we don’t have hard-and-fast rules to go by, only tendencies, trade-offs and opportunity costs.