February 23, 2008

Campaigning on the internet--Part 2: Social Networking

Scroll down for Part 1 of this fascinating series brought to you by Shelby's Life and Whatnot.

Part 2: Social Networking

We've all heard of social networking sites, the most popular being MySpace. It's a website where you create a personal profile and then you can have conversations, blog, share pictures, leave messages, and whatever else you want to with other people who have profiles on the site. They're a kind of clearinghouse for keeping up with your friends, provided your friends are all on MySpace (or Facebook, or whichever site you're on).

Both Obama and Hillary have some profiles up. The mystery comes in again with sheer number. I took some screen captures from both campaign sites with links to their social networking pages.

Bottom center of Hillary's page:

I know the first thing all of you are thinking is, "whoa, that is some crappy visual presentation, Hills. Shoulda gotten a real website designer!" But visual standards aside, for the purpose of this discussion the thing I'd like you to notice is the number of sites she has linked. The writing got fuzzy in the shrinkage, so in case you don't have super-vision or recognize all of the avatars, here are her linked sites:


Contrast that to Obama's page (bottom right):

The visual presentation is a breath of fresh air. In fact, on the whole, while Hillary's site is not terrible, Obama's site is much more relaxing and well-done. But anyway, here are his linked sites:

DNC Partybuilder

That would be 16 sites to Hillary's 5. Looking through Obama's list, I only recognize half of the sites he has listed (I knew 4 out of 5 of Hillary's). But that's not the point. The point is that other people recognize those sites--in fact, are quite active on them--and they get to see Obama's happy face right there on their friends list.

Now here's the really confusing part. Why isn't Hillary all over those sites too? It's free to sign up. Additionally, there's no maintenance fees. What the Obama campaign has done is simply set up profiles on those sites and then encouraged active site members who are also Obama supporters to blog, start polls and discussions, and basically keep Obama's profile up front and center. He doesn't even have to do any work!

Have you ever heard of Faithbase? I haven't, but Obama has 2,948 friends linked there. That's almost 3,000 people who get messages from Obama and his supporters at least once a day. Think about it--reaching 3,000 people a day, every day, with your message tailored to their interests, for free. Free! It's free, Hillary! FREE! And without Hillary on there, Obama has their undivided attention. He can chat about anything he wants. Did I mention the free part? Why would you not be doing this???

But even on the sites where Hillary is active, Obama is still kicking her butt. Over on MySpace, Obama has 295,424 friends linked to Hillary's 186,718. That's a lot of people. Approximately 100,000 more on Obama's side. With a site like MySpace, you're looking at a questionable cause/effect here. We all know that more young people are Obama supporters, and most MySpacers are young, so does Obama have a solid young vote because of sites like MySpace, or does MySpace merely reflect his existing support?

With that question I turn to eons, a site I didn't know existed until approximately 10 minutes ago. Eons, as I have come to learn, is essentially MySpace for old people (no offense, old people). Its tagline is "Lovin' life on the flip side" and describes itself as, "the online community for BOOMers!" Much like other social networking sites, eons has a discussion section, so I scrolled down to see what the hot topics of the moments were. I thought I hit political paydirt with the topic titled, "Progressives..." (hot damn! They're talking my subjects!) but I read on to learn that the topic was a "Rant about new progressive lens glasses." I don't want to make any snide remarks, so I'll leave it at that. That said, this seems to be Hillary's base, and the friends list does support that. Hillary has 325 friends to Obama's 216. Still, a 109-person net difference is quite a stretch from a 100,000-person difference.

The most mind-boggling for me, however, is the DNC Partybuilder. I had no idea what the DNC Partybuilder was (I learned about it approximately 30 seconds after I learned about eons) but the link goes to the official DNC website, so I'm thinking if there's any place in the world Hillary should be, it's on the DNC website, no? Well good news--she's there. I did, however, have to search for her, since she doesn't post a link on her own website. Strange. Like the other sites, the DNC Partybuilder is a networking sites for other Democrats. Obama has 961 dedicated Democrats calling him their friend. Hillary has 197 friends. Hillary, honey, COME ON. Pick up the Clue Phone! Get a ride on the Clue Bus! Catch a moo from the Clue Cow! Obama's blog on that site is active--not daily active, but present. Hillary has no blog there. Obama is a member of several groups. Hillary doesn't belong to a single group. WTF?

Once again, these sites are not hard. Here's your social networking political strategy:

Step 1: Recruit a volunteer who is a member of your target site. Cost = Free
Step 2: Have volunteer create a profile, upload pictures, cut-and-paste bio information. Cost = Free
Step 3: Have volunteer Invite site members to add to your friends list. Cost = Free
Step 4: Have volunteer update your blog daily by cutting and pasting information distributed by your staff. Cost = Free
Step 5: Have volunteer and friends start discussions and conversations about you. Cost = Free
Step 6: Watch your friends list grow and the donations and votes come in. Cost = Free
Step 7: Read and follow Shelby's advice. Cost = Free

Talk about your lost opportunity, Hillary. Sheesh.

And related to Part 1: Fundraising, Obama gained 141 campaign-owners in the amount of time it took me to write this post.

Don't leave those desk chairs--the third and final part of this series is up next, after these messages. And after I eat dinner.

Posted by Shelby at February 23, 2008 04:05 PM