Wednesday, May 23, 2007

More about online campaigns

Following up after yesterday's post regarding online campaign strategies, I recommend Michael Scherer's piece called "Power to the people, 2.0," at Salon.

Scherer's focus is on the lessons that John Edwards and Barack Obama learned from Howard Dean, about using the Internet to build an authentic political community. He quotes Joe Trippi, formerly Dean's manager who's now in the Edwards team: "People want to belong to something. They want to belong to a community that goes back to that notion that there is something bigger than yourself."

In service of building the social network, campaign managers are even taking the unconventional step of shifting attention away from the candidate's image and toward the supporters' active involvement in local issues. "On Tuesday, the home page of Obama's campaign Web site did not even feature a head shot of the candidate." (Doesn't Obama know that the Internet is only for narcissists?)

Hillary Clinton's camp, by contrast, is using her web presence to position her publicly, with relatively meager efforts to solicit active involvement. The Republicans, Scherer notes, "have treated their online operations more or less like an electronic form of direct mail campaigning. The campaigns rarely seek to involve supporters through online outreach in anything beyond traditional volunteer work and fundraising."

The article ends on a note of caution, reminding readers that Dean's Internet savvy failed to deliver his New Hampshire victory. The point is well taken. However, the Dean campaign is now several years in the past. Social networking is a more influential, more pervasive phenomenon today, far better understood than the nascent movement it was in the 2004 campaign.

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