The 2004 Howard Dean campaign will go down in history for embracing innovative online tools for fundraising, online community-building, blogging, and other lessons learned. Many techno-savvy individuals, organizations and campaigns followed suit. But the Dean campaign fell flat on its face when it came time to turn online buzz into real support among primary voters and caucus-goers. Now's the time to watch closely to see what innovations the 2008 candidates employ, that will in turn be imitated by other candidates and advocacy organizations in the future. According to The Washington Post, Barack Obama's campaign is the most innovative:
- data mining, sending different emails to undecided voters and to firm supporters, customizing messages based on the petitions people signed on the campaign web site and the emails they've answered;
- following up with Facebook reminders, telephone messages, text messages, and house visits;
- using lots of social networking sites, including EONS, MySpace, Facebook, LinkedIn, BlackPlanet.com, MiGente.com, AsianAve.com and GLEE.com, as well as online video. "They have posted more than 350 videos on his YouTube channel, twice as many as Clinton, and his videos have been viewed nearly twice as often as hers. Obama has more MySpace friends than any other Democratic candidate, and he lists more Facebook supporters than all other Democrats combined."
- Text-messaging, with quick responses: When caucus-goers text a question such as "Where's my precinct in Des Moines?" to Obama headquarters, they get answers in minutes.
- "We get everyone who signs up with us online to get involved in person," says Steve Hildebrand, Obama's consultant in Iowa. "It's not just a computer-to-computer relationship -- it's a person-to-person relationship."
- Old-fashioned door-knocking is still the key of keys to victory, Hildebrand said. "Working the ground, going from house to house, talking to supporters and those leaning towards us and to undecided voters, is what we'll do all day Thursday," he said. "Nothing beats that door-to-door contact."
For Hillary Clinton's campaign, seeking to target women, Emily's List "designed an online advertising strategy that popped up a link to its Web site every time a computer in Iowa searched Google or Yahoo using specific terms. Some of the search terms were politically oriented, such as '2008 caucuses.' Others aimed at the presumed interests of Iowa women, such as 'recipe,' 'stocking stuffer' and 'post-Thanksgiving sales.' By the end of the week, about 20,000 visitors from 613 Iowa towns had clicked on the ads."
- Best and Worst of the 2008 Websites. Presidential Candidates A Web-Savvy Bunch, Mostly (Hartford Courant) "Virtually all of the websites exploit the latest software and digital technology to raise funds, recruit volunteers and steer supporters to events in their states. Innovations such as interactive maps and the ability of Web visitors to create their own ads for candidates also have a conspicuous presence on many sites."
- Fear and Blogging on the Campaign Trail: The Influence of YouTube, MySpace and Facebook Have Seen the 2008 Presidential Election Dubbed 'The Internet Election' (Times of London)
- 10 Lessons from Internet Use in Early Stages of a Political Campaign: Case Study of 2004 Democratic Presidential Nominating Contest