Barack Obama Hops on the Web 2.0 Bandwagon

Illustration for article titled Barack Obama Hops on the Web 2.0 Bandwagon

Remember in 2004 when Howard Dean discovered blogs and it "revolutionized" presidential campaigning? That was quaint. This time around, blogs are old hat and everyone is looking to use the internet to connect to you, the concerned and unapathetic voter. Prepare to get jaded and cynical.

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Barack Obama looks to be diving into this whole "Web 2.0" thing head first, what with his own Facebook profile, Flickr account, and YouTube account. In addition to all this stuff, he also has my.barackobama.com, a social networking type site for his supporters to create profiles, network, and make blogs all about how great Barack Obama is.

It's clear that the internet is going to play an even larger role in the election this year, for better or worse. Do you think all this buzzword bandwagon hopping is going to help, or is this still politics as usual?

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Barack Obama [via NotCot.org]

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DISCUSSION

As the former Online Communications Director for my state's Democratic Party and Internet Director for a US Senate campaign in the last couple years and a person continuing to work in the field, I can tell you first-hand that all this fancy social networking stuff has a terrible return on investment. (My state has consistently elected Democrats for decates, by the way, so we - the state Democratic Party, the Senate campaign, etc - must be doing something right.)

A campaign is just as likely to get people riled up and active by sending the bulk emails asking people to do something or inviting them to some event as you are investing resources in the perpetual state of contact social networking brings. Especially if the campaign has good issue targeting at specific subscribers. And with email and a good website, I don't have to spend time monitoring what's going on like I do with your Web 2.0 thing - it's nice to be able to put in a mere 10 hours a day, 60 hours a week into your online strategy without the social networking (this is me speaking as an administrator who likes to sleep occasionally and maintain a shred of social life).

A campaign probably shouldn't be concerned about using the Web 2.0 social networking things to reach new people that wouldn't subscribe to the email list. There's nearly a 100% overlap between the two. There will be a pick up of handful of new supporters using the social networking so the return on the investment won't be all that great. The campaign's money and manpower would be much better spent elsewhere.

Lastly, we all saw how Howard Dean's presidential campaign turned out (bless the man, he's energizing my party like no other). Blogs don't vote. They yell a lot. They look important and powerful. But they don't translate to votes well. The single most effective thing you can do is months ahead of time figure out who your supporters are and make sure they get to the polls, knocking on their doors and dragging them there if you have to. (Or by running a good absentee ballot program if a state's laws allow.) The old fashioned ground game is still around for a reason.

That said, will this year be the year social networking revolutionizes politics? The media will certainly say so and have countless stories by clueless reporters talking about the new-fangled Internets. There'll certainly be a ton o' money poured into such projects (yay for me!). But I don't think - and I'm basing this on numbers I've spent time staring at and thinking about - it'll contribute votes in a meaningful way to a candidate or help facilitate a flow of ideas between voters and candidates. (Write your representatives in government a heart-felt letter or email (and I'm not talking about a form letter) - that's the best way to communicate your ideas.)

So there's my two cents on the question asked.