One of the most misunderstood parts of Campaign 2008, be it the Obama for President campaign, or a down ballot race, has been the power of social networking and one-to-one marketing in political decision making. Plenty of consultants and the like know buzzwords like “social networking,” “Facebook,” and so on, but many still don’t quite understand what we’re really talking about here.
While the Internet and Web 2.0 have brought about new, fast, easy ways for people to talk to each other, in the end it has been the power of friends and neighbors talking to people they know, who have emerged as the “king makers” in elections. This is nothing new – the only difference is that today, it’s much easier and quicker to get people to engage each other and do the kind of one-to-one marketing and grassroots organizing that was possible in the past – but with a significant time/money/staff cost.
A case study could be how I chose to support David Chiu for Supervisor in District 3. Now, normally I would either a) not care or b) not necessarily support someone that’s being pushed by the fatwa issuing Bay Guardian and Chris Daly.
But because I heard about David’s campaign from people I know and whose judgment I trust, such as my friend Stan (the quizmaster at the Blackthorn’s trivia Mondays), and my friend Anna at Metblogs (who lives in the district), their opinions mattered more to me in the end than what some ad said or what Chris Daly’s shifty junk mail says.
Now, think for a moment about this year’s campaign season, which has seen a blizzard of junk mail and TV ads from various groups all wanting to influence local elections. Few of them, however, regardless of political side, really mobilized a one-to-one communications plan, or did old-school organizing to beat back the “big money”.
Case in point: The Realtors! They have been noted for their flashy spending on tv ads and mail. Ironically, the biggest weapon they had in their arsenal went virtually unused – the many Realtors who have blogs, email lists of their customers and business contacts and so on. A campaign to organize these Realtors, and transform take someone people trust – their Realtor – and turn them into an evangelist for the issues and candidates the Realtors as a group care about, went largely unused.
Had they borrowed a page from the UFW/Old School Organizing handbook, and utilized Today’s Technology, they could have been the stealth army that would have taken everyone by surprise.
There’s been some interesting analyses of the Obama campaign and all note the importance of technology.
However, without millions of Americans getting involved, being organized, and talking to their friends about who they supported for President, all the gadgets in the world wouldn’t have made a difference.
Ironically in a digital era, it’s the kind of old-fashioned organizing at the grassroots level that will have the most impact now, and in the future.
Progressives in town seem to think a grassroots campaign has to be an underfunded mess of people running around in circles, gossiping and dropping dead-tree lit on people’s doorsteps. Others seem to think the only way to win is with big TV ads and lots of mail.
Neither side gets it – in an era of high tech, going back to what politics used to be – the door to door organizing and listening to voters (as well as talking with them) is what will win in the future. The only difference is now there are many new tools to make this easier and more efficient.
UPDATE: Today, the Chronicle had an interesting story about how blogging can help Realtors get more clients and develop a relationship with their customers.
Hmm. How about that!
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