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Weekly #11: The 2012 Online Race

I can’t believe May is almost here. Where did the time go? It seems like just yesterday when I was on the National Mall witnessing the swearing in of the 44th President of the United States. With the fall elections close in sight and the 2012 presidential race around the corner, politicos across America are gearing up to battle it out in an effort to get their candidates elected.

So what steps should political strategists take to ensure they win the 2012 election online? To be effective, they will need to look to past case studies to see what worked and what didn’t. Luckily for them, one of the best case studies of online organizing lies within the political arena. President Barack Obama’s online grassroots organizing effort was without doubt the key ingredient to his victory.

In 2012, candidates will need to use a combination of social media and micro-targeting strategies to effectively engage and empower the electorate. According to Edelman’s The Social Pulpit: Barack Obama’s Social Media Toolkit, best practices learned from the Obama campaign include:

  • Start early
  • Build to scale
  • Innovate where necessary; do everything else incrementally better
  • Make it easy to find, forward and act
  • Pick where you want to play
  • Channel online enthusiasm into specific, targeted activities that further the campaign’s goals
  • Integrate online advocacy into every element of the campaign

Candidates will need to utilize today’s standard social media platforms, including Facebook, MySpace, Twitter, YouTube and Meetup to engage their supporters as they did in the past, but will also have to look to newer Web 2.0 tools that have only recently come into play.

For example, one of the hot upcoming trends is location-based services as seen at this year’s South by Southwest Interactive. Foursquare and Gowalla are two such companies that are offering information and entertainment services through mobile devices via geographical positioning. With the mobile phone industry expected to climb to $30 billion by 2013, it’s clear candidates should seek to engage voters through similar tools. More innovative technologies will certainly be here by 2012.  Just think – YouTube didn’t even exist during George W. Bush’s 2004 reelection campaign.

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