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  • 1. Person-to-Person-to-Person Harnessing tHe Political Power of online social networks and U s e r - g e n e r at e d c o n t e n t T h e G r a d u at e S c h o o l o f P o l i t i c a l M a n a g e m e n t
  • 2. Person-to-Person-to-Person Harnessing tHe Political Power of online social networks and U s e r - g e n e r at e d c o n t e n t T h e G r a d u at e S c h o o l o f P o l i t i c a l M a n a g e m e n t
  • 3. institUte for Politics, deMocracY & tHe internet ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS Person-to-Person-to-Person: Harnessing the Political Power of Social Networks and User-Generated Content is a publication of GW’s Institute for Politics, Democracy & the Internet (IPDI). Julie Barko Germany, deputy director of IPDI, is the principal editor of this publication. Riki Parikh (research- er) assisted with research, editing, and writing. Ed Trelinski (event manager), Chris Brooks (financial manager), and Ryan Sullivan (assistant event manager) provided invaluable assistance and helped with the editing. Carol Darr, director of the Institute, provided additional editing. Ian Koski of On Deck Communication Studio de- signed and paginated the publication. This project benefited greatly from the advice and assistance of many individuals. We especially thank all of our authors: Eric Alterman (KickApps), Colin Delany (epolitics.com), Chuck DeFeo (Townhall.com), Brad Fay (Keller Fay Group), Joe Green (Essembly.com), William Greene, (RightMarch.com), John Hlinko (Grassroots Enterprise), Heather Holdridge (Care2), Valdis Krebs (InFlow), Mike Krempasky (Edelman and RedState.com), Chris MacDonald (Liberated Syndication), Nicco Mele (EchoDitto), Justin Perkins (Care2), Zach Rosen (Civic- Space Foundation), Alan J. Rosenblatt, (Internet Advocacy Center), Gideon Rosenblatt (ONE/Northwest), Carl Rosendorf (Gather.com), Phil Sheldon (Diener Consultants, Inc.), Michael Silberman (EchoDitto), Ravi Singh (ElectionMall.com), and Mara Veraar (Democracyinaction.org). Their opinions, however, as interesting and provocative as they are, do not necessarily reflect those of the Institute. IPDI is the premier research and advocacy center for the study and promotion of online politics in a manner that encourages citizen participation and is consistent with democratic principles. IPDI is non-partisan and non-profit and is a part of the Graduate School of Political Management at The George Washington University. F. Christopher Arterton is dean of the school. For more information about the Graduate School of Political Man- agement, visit www.gwu.edu/~gspm. For more information about the Institute for Politics, Democracy & the Internet, visit http:/ /www.ipdi.org. © GW’s Institute for Politics, Democracy & the Internet. The editor is Julie Barko Germany. The date of publication is September 15, 2006. PERSON-TO-PERSON-TO-PERSON | Page v
  • 4. institUte for Politics, deMocracY & tHe internet Page vi | PERSON-TO-PERSON-TO-PERSON
  • 5. institUte for Politics, deMocracY & tHe internet TABLE OF CONTENTS Introduction ................................................................................................................................................ 3 By Julie Barko Germany Chapter 1 – Social Media: Promising Tool, Double-Edged Sword .................................................. 7 By Colin Delany Chapter 2 – Don’t Let Go Yet! What You Need to Know about User-Generated Media and Politics before You Take the Plunge ...................................................13 By Julie Barko Germany Chapter 3 – Reaching the Under 30 Demographic: Social Networking in the 2006 Campaigns........................................................................................ 19 By Riki Parikh Chapter 4 – How Howard Dean Turned Online Social Networks into an Offline Phenomenon .............................................................................................. 23 By Michael Silberman Chapter 5 – Call in Now! How Townhall.com Turned Talk Radio into a Community of Bloggers ............................................................................................................... 29 By Chuck DeFeo Chapter 6 – Building Networks of Informed Online Adults ........................................................... 33 By Carl Rosendorf Chapter 7 – The Social Context .............................................................................................................37 By Eric D. Alterman Chapter 8 – The Emerging Podcast Swing Vote .................................................................................41 By Chris MacDonald Chapter 9 – Building a Blog Network .................................................................................................. 45 By Michael Krempasky Chapter 10 – Go with the Flow . . . But Not Just Any Flow ..............................................................49 By Valdis Krebs PERSON-TO-PERSON-TO-PERSON | taBle of contents PERSON-TO-PERSON-TO-PERSON | Page 1
  • 6. institUte for Politics, deMocracY & tHe internet Chapter 11 – Identity Formation in Online Social Networking Web Sites................................... 53 By Mara Johanna Veraar Chapter 12 – Take Action, Get Action: Using the Power of Love to Drive Activism ............... 59 By John Hlinko Chapter 13 – How an E-mail Campaign Can Tap into Social Networks ...................................... 61 By William Greene Chapter 14 – Take It Offline: How One Person Can Reach One Thousand .............................. 63 By Brad Fay Chapter 15 – Moving Ideas: A Higher Order Social Network ....................................................... 67 By Alan Rosenblatt Chapter 16 – Building a Network of Political Allies: How the Environmental Movement Is Learning to Leverage Its Network of Allies ................................... 69 By Gideon Rosenblatt Chapter 17 – Essembly ............................................................................................................................ 75 By Joe Green Chapter 18 – Think like a Rock Band: How to Use Social Networking Sites for Political Campaigns .......................................................................................... 79 By Justin Perkins and Heather Holdridge Chapter 19 – Video Games Are Political Tools ................................................................................. 83 By Nicco Mele and David K. Cohen Chapter 20 – Creating an Online Voter Space ................................................................................. 87 By Ravi Singh Chapter 21 – Political Organizing through Social Networking Sites: the Fred Gooltz Story ............................................................................................ 89 By Zack Rosen Chapter 22 – Is the Hot Factor Worth the Trip? Why Some Groups Are Forgoing the MySpace Experience .......................................................... 93 By Phil Sheldon Author Biographies ................................................................................................................................ 97 Page 2 | taBle of contents | PERSON-TO-PERSON-TO-PERSON
  • 7. institUte for Politics, deMocracY & tHe internet INTRODUCTION by Julie Barko Germany Institute for Politics, Democracy & the Internet “Social software is political science in executable form.” - Clay Shirky, Social Software and the Politics of Groups In July 2006, a Web site called MySpace.com, So what’s a campaign, non-profit, or advocacy originally used as a way for bands and music lovers group to do when the public wants individualized, to connect online, became the most popular Web interactive, on-demand content thisveryminute? site in the United States. Bigger than Google. Big- The good news is that the tools for building active ger than MSN or Yahoo. Bigger than Amazon. So- social networks already exist. They are surprisingly cial networking officially arrived for most of main- affordable, and they seem to work well for both na- stream America. tional movements and small, local campaigns. Its reign as King of the Web, however, lasted just a few weeks. YouTube, a site that allows users to post, share, and discuss videos soon emerged as the new most popular site on the Web, serving up “Every time someone interacts with more than one million videos a day. another person, there is the poten- Is the hype of MySpace in particular and social tial to exchange information about networks in general justified? In the grand sweep people they both know. The struc- of social networks – both online and offline – In- ture of everyone’s links to everyone ternet giant MySpace is considered to be a “low trust” social network because of its size, the pro- else is a network that acts as a chan- liferation of fake profiles, and its devalued concept nel through which news, job tips, of what constitutes a friend.1 Further, some would possible romantic partners, and argue that sites like YouTube contain so many dif- contagious diseases travel.” ferent videos that the only way for political groups – Howard Rheingold, Smart Mobs to break through the clutter is to create extreme, even offensive content – a move that some groups and campaigns may be unwilling to make. On the other hand, the promises that Web 2.0 will engage, Nodes and Ties rejuvenate, and activate the public in new ways have led many organizations to leverage social net- If you’re looking for a tome on social network works in relatively simple ways and with successful analysis, then you’ve picked up the wrong hand- results. book. Person-to-Person-to-Person does not delve into social network analysis, a cross-disciplinary study that maps and measures relationships within 1 Cindy Gallop, “Monetize My Social Network? How One a network. You won’t find scatter diagrams in this can Answer the $580 Million Question,” Adotas, August 10, publication (except on the cover). On the other 2006. PERSON-TO-PERSON-TO-PERSON | taBle of contents PERSON-TO-PERSON-TO-PERSON | introdUction | Page 3
  • 8. institUte for Politics, deMocracY & tHe internet In a social network, the term “nodes” is hand, if you’re seeking guidance on how to incor- another word for individuals. The term porate the existing technology into the strategy of “ties” refers to the relationships between your campaign or organization, then you’re in the actors. A “scatter diagram” is used in right place. The authors in this publication offer social network analysis to show poten- step-by-step guidance and a wealth of expert tips tial relationships between individuals in a to help you figure it out. network. Person-to-Person-to-Person includes the advice, strategies, analysis, and predictions of leading the- orists and practitioners who work for political can- didates, advocacy groups, non-profits, and busi- Some of our authors take a more philosophical nesses. Almost all of the authors in this publication approach to using social networks. Others discuss highlight the importance of blended networking, incorporating social networks and user-generated which incorporates both online and offline network- content into strategy. Still others present case stud- ing. They use MySpace profiles to drive volunteers ies that outline their successes and failures. Some to campaign headquarters, and talk radio shows to of them talk about the past; others look toward the herd people onto blogging communities. They en- future. A few of them discuss large, national cam- courage their supporters to talk online and publish paigns, while others illustrate the best tools for lo- content, such as blog entries or Web videos, and cal campaigns and non-profit organizations. One they invite them to attend offline events, volunteer or two question the power of large social network- as door-to-door canvassers, and evangelize in their ing sites. communities and offices. All of them use technol- ogy to engage individuals in a community and ask The purpose of this publication is to introduce them to take some kind of action – whether online you to their ideas, provoke questions within your or- or offline. ganization, and give you some concrete techniques. This publication isn’t designed to sit on your shelf. Every chapter includes tactics, best practices, and suggestions for creating a social political space – ideas that you can begin to implement immediate- ly, once you understand the underlying concepts. Further Reading Social networking involves a lot more than sim- ply creating a MySpace profile and asking people to Mark Buchanan. Nexus: Small list you as their buddy. The idea is to use technol- Worlds and the Groundbreaking ogy, like the Internet, to develop an active network Science of Networks (New York: W. W. of supporters around your issue, organization, or Norton, 2002). candidate. It involves creatively altering your com- munications strategy to give supporters a voice, Peter J. Carrington, John Scott and Stan- engage them in the work of your campaign, and ley Wasserman. Models and Methods empower them to reach people offline. in Social Network Analysis (New York: This isn’t new. But it is the new business of Cambridge University Press, 2005). politics. In his 1997 book Interface Culture, Steven Steven Johnson. Interface Culture: The Johnson writes, “There’s a funny thing about the fu- Way We Create and Communicate (New sion of technology and culture. It has been a part of York: Basic Books, 1997). human experience since the first cave painter, but we’ve had a hard time seeing it until now.”2 Person- Martin Kilduff and Wenpin Tsai. Social to-Person-to-Person takes what you already know Networks and Organizations (Thousand about human nature – for example, that people like Oaks, California: Sage Publications, to be treated as individuals and are more willing 2003). to buy into something when they feel they have a voice in it – and incorporates the concepts in an af- Apophenia (http://www.zephoria.org/ fordable, tangible way into strategy. thoughts/). Network Centric Advocacy Top Ten Tactics: (http://www.network-centricadvocacy. Throughout Person-to-Person-to-Person, our au- net/). thors offer some of their best tips, techniques, and Network Weaving (http://www.networkweaving.com/ 2 Steven Johnson, Interface Culture (New York: Basic Books, blog/). 1997), 2. Page 4 | introdUction | PERSON-TO-PERSON-TO-PERSON
  • 9. institUte for Politics, deMocracY & tHe internet advice. We’ve summarized some of their best ad- vice below. “There’s a funny thing about the fu- sion of technology and culture. It 1. Make Participation Simple. has been a part of human experience If it isn’t intuitive, people won’t use it – particu- since the first cave painter, but we’ve larly people who don’t log on to the Internet every- had a hard time seeing it until now.” day for work or school. Think about how easy it is - Steven Johnson, Interface Culture to send a YouTube video or post a photo on Flckr. Long registration processes and pages of text are time-consuming, and many people find them to be 3. Build Trust. prohibitively encumbering. One of the main rea- Justin Perkins and Heather Holdridge call trust sons YouTube has become so overwhelming popu- the “currency” of success in social networking. lar has do to the ease of use. Writer John C. Dvorak That trust is a two-way street. Mara Veraar writes summarized this best in a piece for MarketWatch of the challenge that advocacy groups face when earlier this year: “It’s brain dead simple,” he wrote.3 they attempt to build trust with their supporters Both Chuck DeFeo and Ravi Singh advise politi- online. When conversation moves onto the Inter- cal groups to make it easy for people to communi- net, identity verification becomes difficult. Help cate with each other – and with your organization. your supporters get to know you because, in the As you will read later, DeFeo’s site, Townhall.com, words of Valdis Krebs, strangers don’t make good created a blogging network of over 1,000 members messengers. in just a few weeks by providing blog templates for At the same time, many of our authors write its users. Similarly, Singh suggests using simple, in- that political organizations must learn to trust their expensive software to connect supporters through supporters. If you can’t trust them, how can you ex- Web video networks. Technical and financial barri- pect them to carry your message to others? Mike ers of entry should not come between you and your Krempasky suggests leading by example and giving supporters. your supporters a sense of ownership and freedom to make the site their own. Still, Phil Sheldon rec- 2. Encourage Conversation. ommends establishing standards for community Zack Rosen calls a good social networking site conduct – and sticking to them. “a living and growing organism.” Feed it by bring- ing people together and encouraging them to talk 3.5 Trust but Verify. to each other as often as possible. Conversation Remember the adages about birds of a feather will build a stronger, more active community, as flocking together and being known by the company people grow more comfortable working with each you keep. Colin Delany offers a cautionary note other – and with you. about letting anybody and everybody link to you. Carl Rosendorf recommends jump-starting “I’ve already seen news coverage of a candidate’s conversation by posting comments at least twice a MySpace site that mentioned some of his more week. Chuck DeFeo suggests programming inter- noteworthy, (i.e., risqué) friends,” he says. “My activity into every page of your social networking approach so far has been to approve all friend re- site. Give people the ability to post comments or quests, figuring that a blanket policy is the safest forward information from every page on your site. course.” In the words of Joe Green, conversation becomes What could be even worse is the creation of a the “gut-level appeal” that gets people to return to fake profile. “Fakester Politicians” has happened to your site. other candidates and it could happen to you. If you, Michael Silberman and Brad Fay suggest taking your candidate, or your organization has been in this one step further by creating a two-way con- the public eye for anything longer than a split sec- versation with your supporters. Invest personal ond, you could be a victim of unauthorized profiles. time with supporters who are active in your online People may have logged onto a site and created a community. Make it easy for them to contact you, profile without either your knowledge or your per- treat their inquiries with respect, personalize your mission. It’s not a rare occurrence. In August 2005, response, and respond to them in a timely manner. the Minneapolis-St. Paul Star Tribune reported that at least 14 governors had fake profiles.4 3 John C. Dvorak, “Missing the point about YouTube,” Mar- 4 Brady Averill, “Fake MySpace profiles pose a dilemma for poli- ketWatch (http://www.marketwatch.com/News/Story/ ticians,” StarTribune.com (http://www.startribune.com/587/ kx41F17ZJwXRG8Lm0R8nK9), August 10, 2006. story/612223.html), August 14, 2006. PERSON-TO-PERSON-TO-PERSON | introdUction | Page 5
  • 10. institUte for Politics, deMocracY & tHe internet 4. Don’t Forget What You Already Know. Rosendorf and Phil Sheldon, and create a group ex- Joe Green reminds political professionals to ap- perience that enables your supporters to help you ply what they already know about offline grassroots meet those goals. organizing to the Internet. Cultivate your early sup- porters online and empower them to spread your 8. Find the Leaders. message. Both Ravi Singh and Michael Krempasky Many of our authors recommend targeting in- recommend building action tools directly into your fluencers – the portion of the online and offline site. But don’t stop there. Brad Fay, Zack Rosen, population who function as opinion leaders and and Michael Silberman all recommend combining share advice with a large network of colleagues online and offline organizing tools to encourage and neighbors. Several of our authors offer differ- activity. As Valdis Krebs writes, “don’t get enam- ent ways to capture that collection of influential ored of technology and forget everything you know activists. Carl Rosendorf recommends finding the about human behavior. Mix them together.” people who lead the dialogue in your community Provide online resources that they can use in the and engaging them more deeply in your organiza- offline world, such as event planning guides, volun- tion. Michael Silberman also suggests pinpointing teer registration, customizable newsletters, and your super-activists. printable talking points. The point is to target people who are especially active and who are willing to act on your behalf. 5. Mind Your Content. You’re looking for people who do more than just Don’t forget to post content regularly. Why? participate once in while. Once you find them, give Because it provokes conversation, keeps people them more responsibility and reward them for their engaged in what you are doing, and gives people extra effort. Zack Rosen writes that you might con- information to share with their personal networks. sider giving them a little message training and let- Content equals activity. Both Zack Rosen and Carl ting them create their own messages and respond Rosendorf recommend posting no less frequently to online queries. than every few days. William Greene suggests re- sponding quickly to news and current events within 9. Join a Hub. your community. No one has the money or the staff to solve all the Follow Chuck DeFeo’s advice and ensure that world’s problems. If you’re a smaller organization you give people correct information. This includes or non-profit, considering joining forces with other getting your facts straight the first time and giving organizations to accomplish major goals. A hub of people geographically-relevant content, such as networks, such as the progressive-leaning Moving the names and contact information for local media Ideas Network, help organizations work together and elected officials. by increasing coordination, collaboration, and so- cial capitol. Alan Rosenblatt, Zack Rosen, and Phil 6. Cross Promote. Sheldon recommend creating and driving people to a hubsite – a place where people can sign petitions, Not everyone can find you on his or her own. write letters, recruit more activists, and learn about For example, Chuck DeFeo writes that talk radio boycotts. As Gideon Rosenblatt writes, “By work- helps push visitors onto his Townhall.com site. Carl ing in harmony, a network raises the effectiveness Rosendorf recommends maximizing your media of each individual while raising the collective effec- strategy by using each component to promote the tiveness and value of the entire network.” others. Use events to promote your Web site, and your Web site to promote your events. That way, you reach a wider audience. 10. Be Yourself. All of us feel a special bond with people and 7. Manage Expectations. organizations that depict themselves genuinely. Don’t try to conceal your identity, or your human- Technology does not win elections. However, ity. Be up front about who you are and what you using technology effectively can encourage a com- are trying to accomplish. Often, all it takes is a little munity to grow around your candidate, organiza- Internet research to uncover misrepresentations. tion, or issue. A strong, active community can help Allow your personality to shine through. As Chris you meet your goals – from raising money to win- MacDonald writes, “If you come off like a press re- ning a campaign. But don’t depend on your net- lease, you’re dead to the listener.” work for everything. Set realistic goals, say Carl Page 6 | introdUction | PERSON-TO-PERSON-TO-PERSON
  • 11. institUte for Politics, deMocracY & tHe internet SOCIAL MEDIA Promising Tool, Double-Edged Sword by Colin Delany e.politics Many political campaigns are experimenting Social Networking Sites with online social networking sites and social media Social networking sites can be a good way to as ways to reach supporters and motivate volun- reach a new audience, though for most campaigns teers. What should issue-advocacy and candidate they’ll supplement rather than substitute for an campaigns keep in mind as they dip their toes into actual Web site. Let’s begin at the beginning – just this new medium? What’s working? What might what IS a social networking site? just blow up in your face? Social networking Web sites are designed to al- Let’s look at three basic ways to use the con- low people and organizations to set up profile pages cept. First, your campaign can work with existing and link to other profile pages. It’s that simple. They social networking sites such MySpace or Friendster work on a “circle of friends” model – presumably to reach a new audience. Second, you can build social networking tools into your campaign’s own Web site to motivate your existing supporters. And finally, you can take advantage of the broader world of user-created content to help turn casual sup- porters into passionate activists. MySpace isn’t the only kid on the block. Trying to reach a particular demographic? Try some of the following sites: • Gather.com • AsianAvenue.com The e.politics (www.epolitics.com/) blog • MomsRising.com discusses online advocacy and online politics, including a how-to folder on us- • MiGente.com ing social networking sites. • BlackPlanet.com • Eons.com PERSON-TO-PERSON-TO-PERSON PERSON-TO-PERSON-TO-PERSON | | introdUction | Page 7 cHaPter one
  • 12. institUte for Politics, deMocracY & tHe internet most networks of connected “friends” have some preexisting basis in the real world, though they usu- Pay close attention to your profile design. Many ally quickly grow beyond that initial nucleus. MySpace sites are garish and assault readers with Users can follow links from one profile to an- sound and flashing graphics: they often look like a other out of curiosity or to look for friends, dates, flashback to late-90s Tripod and Geocities sites, customers, and supporters. Usually, they can also but are even more annoying. Some are so gooped- search by keyword and leave comments on profiles. up that they’re almost impossible to read. You’ll Getting friends is as easy as going to a profile and probably want to use pictures or other graphics to requesting a connection. Really aggressive users illustrate your links and dramatize your issues, but amass thousands of friends, most of whom they’ve use sparingly – having a “clean” site can actually never met in person. Social networking sites can help you stand out. function as mass communications tools when us- Like so many other pieces of the online organiz- ers send messages to their friends all at once. ing puzzle, your results from social networking sites MySpace and Friendster are the best-known generally depend on how much effort you expend: social networking sites, with MySpace (originally if you simply post a profile and wait for people to a place to promote bands) being by far the more come, you’re likely to be awfully lonely. What can popular. By some measures, it became the most- you do to boost results? visited site on the Web in the summer of 2006. Because of its dominance, in this chapter I’ll often • Be aggressive! – Successful MySpace- refer to MySpace when I’m speaking of social net- based campaigns really work at getting working sites in general, but the same basic rules supporters. For starters, go to profiles apply regardless of which site you’re using. devoted to similar issues and ask to be Since setting up a MySpace page or a Friend- friends, and also try to develop direct ster profile is quick and easy and the sites reach relationships with that profile’s friends. such broad audiences, many advocacy organiza- It never hurts to ask – the worst some- tions and corporations are experimenting with the one can do is say “no.” The more pro- new medium. Social networking site users tend to files your link appears on, the more po- be younger, so the sites are particularly good tools tential supporters can stumble over you for campaigns trying to reach high school/college and fall in love. students and recent graduates (e.g., that drive to • Use MySpace to promote your nor- save Social Security might not be quite as good a mal campaign action alerts. – Send a match). mass message out to all of your friends MySpace pages also automatically include a and also post a notice of it on your site. blog function, so they can be an easy way to get Readers are more likely to move beyond into blogging if you’re not ready to set up a stand- MySpace and sign up for your main ac- alone site. Technorati, the main blog search engine, tivist list if you present them with a spe- now indexes MySpace blogs, so they’re fully con- cific action to take. nected to the broader online conversation. • Ask your friends to post your alert on Often, your MySpace page will be simple “bro- their sites. – If they really care about chureware” – little more than an online business your issue, they’re often eager to help card and a chance to get your name in front of po- out. Plus, it gives THEM some interest- tential supporters. To get more out of it, try adding ing (you hope) content for their site. links to your individual campaigns (if you’re an ad- • Send information to your friends of- vocacy group) or to more information about each ten. – MySpace readers are constantly of your issues. Always include a link to join your e- bombarded with messages, so you don’t mail list, and a donate button wouldn’t hurt, either. have to worry so much about wearing them out. List exhaustion doesn’t seem to be as much of a problem with social networking sites as it is with e-mail ad- Try adding links to your individual vocacy, so keep in touch and make sure campaigns (if you’re an advocacy that they don’t forget about you. group) or to more information about each of your issues. Always include A few other things to keep in mind: a link to join your e-mail list, and a donate button wouldn’t hurt, either. • MySpace and Friendster users are a di- verse bunch, and many people use the Page 8 | cHaPter one | PERSON-TO-PERSON-TO-PERSON
  • 13. institUte for Politics, deMocracY & tHe internet sites for dating and self-promotion. You may end up with some “friends” with an exhibitionist streak, so decide in ad- vance how to handle friend requests Don’t just assign some random intern from less-conventional parts of your or junior staffer to create and run audience. This consideration is prob- a social networking profile because ably more important for a candidate’s “they’re young and know about these campaign than for an advocacy cam- things.” A MySpace site is just as much paign – just imagine how your opposi- a part of your campaign’s public front tion might use that “friend” of yours who loves her bikini shots. I’ve already as your main Web site is, and it must seen news coverage of a candidate’s be on message. MySpace site that mentioned some of his more noteworthy, (i.e., risqué) friends. My approach so far has been to approve all friend requests, figuring that Putting Social Networking Tools to Work a blanket policy is the safest course, but for Your Campaign I’m also working with issue advocacy Another way to employ social networking tools campaigns rather than for a politician. is to integrate them directly into your own cam- • Friend lists tend to build exponentially – paign by allowing your supporters to create profile the more people who see you, the more pages on your site. The obvious benefit lies in help- people who are going to link to you – so ing to wed your backers to your issue or candidate try to build a healthy list right away. If emotionally: if they have pages on your site and you have an e-mail list or newsletter, visit them regularly, they’re more likely to identify mention your MySpace page to your with your campaign and become seriously involved readers when you launch it and invite with it. With prompting, they’re also likely to ag- them to become friends. The stron- gressively reach out to friends and family and draw ger your initial base, the faster your them in as well. Also, social networking tools can growth. help your supporters self-organize and work with • As with every other Web site, don’t let each other to promote your campaign. your content slip out of date. If you’re The potential downside? Just as with campaign afraid that you’re not going to have time blogs, all of these people will be putting content to keep your profile updated, stick with on your site, and you’ll be limited in the amount of evergreen content. One trick I’ve found control you’ll have over it. As we’ll discuss in the is to use your main campaign’s RSS feed section on social media below, communications to keep your MySpace content current professionals are used to being able to control a (you do have an RSS feed, don’t you?). campaign’s message, and it can be very difficult for MySpace blocks JavaScript, which is them to drop the reins and let the horses run free. the usual tool to display a feed on a re- And for good reason – if you thought that having mote site, but several people have built an exhibitionist “friend” on MySpace was bad, think free applications that convert your feed about what happens when that same person can headlines into an automatically updat- post content with your URL on the address line. ing image, which you can then link to A second problem derives from the smaller a news or headlines page. Just go to scale of most campaigns. MySpace and Friendster Google and search for ways to display depend on a “network effect”: the sites get more RSS feeds on MySpace and you should useful as more people sign up. A good analogy is a find what you’re looking for. fax machine: one fax machine is useless (it has no • Finally, don’t just assign some random one to communicate with), but two can have a con- intern or junior staffer to create and versation, and a million can become an essential run a social networking profile because business tool. Similarly, social networking applica- “they’re young and know about these tions work only if they have a critical mass of users, things.” A MySpace site is just as much but most campaigns simply aren’t big enough to a part of your campaign’s public front create one. Think of all the empty message boards as your main Web site is, and it must be that sit lonely on low-traffic Web sites and you’ll on message. Make sure that it meshes realize how painfully and publicly your social net- with your overall communications strat- working application will fail if you can’t get enough egy. supporters to sign up. PERSON-TO-PERSON-TO-PERSON | cHaPter one | Page 9
  • 14. institUte for Politics, deMocracY & tHe internet Despite the potential pitfalls, campaigns and seeing the light of day). To keep from angering corporations alike are experimenting with their own the creators, you’ll need to approve or disapprove social networking applications. One of the most items quickly – people will get frustrated if their la- interesting I’ve heard of is planned for the Wash- bor of love takes forever to appear. And if you block ingtonPost.com. The site is already implementing a piece of content, be sure to contact the person reader comments on all news stories, starting with who made it and explain why. This can help keep less controversial topics and expanding to political feathers from being ruffled. coverage after the editors are sure that the content filtering mechanisms work. Next, the site will en- courage readers to create profile pages that gather all of their comments in a central place. Absolute If a campaign is going to use social genius – every reader becomes an author! Not media, good gatekeeping is essential: only will this tie them more strongly to the site, but content must be approved before the they’ll also have every incentive to spread the word public can view it. about their own creations and draw more people to read the original articles. Turning a chunk of read- ers into both passionate fans and aggressive mar- keters is hard to beat. That said, allowing your members or readers to generate content has some real strengths as a tac- Social Media tic. For one thing, it allows you to capture the brain- power of far more people than you could reasonably Let’s expand our view and look at the wider hire – you can leverage the collective intelligence of world of social media. First, what are we talking a chunk of the Internet. Some of the content will be about? Social media is a broader concept than so- junk, of course, but the occasional gems that rise cial networking: it refers generally to content cre- to the surface might just blow you away. And of ated by site users rather than by a central person or course, it’s potentially a terrific tool for community group. YouTube and Wikipedia are great examples, building, for all the reasons discussed above. as are blogs that allow comments. Besides the obvi- ous example of blogs, how can political campaigns use social media? Carefully, as MoveOn.org discovered during the Some of the user-generated content 2004 presidential campaign. If you recall, early in will be junk, of course, but the oc- 2004 the group encouraged its members to create casional gems that rise to the surface anti-Bush ads that it would then evaluate for ac- might just blow you away. tual use on television. Hundreds of ads were sub- mitted and placed online, but one used historical footage to associate the Bush administration with As an example of both aspects, in the summer Hitler and the Nazi party. Oops – that one ad gave of 2006 the Ned Lamont campaign for Senate in MoveOn.org’s enemies fodder for days of attacks Connecticut made great use of user-created video. on the organization. An ad that never ran got plenty For instance, Lamont supporters shot clips of oppo- of media coverage and took attention away from nent Joe Lieberman’s campaign appearances and the issues on which the group wanted to focus vot- uploaded them to the Lamont site. Minor gaffes ers. that would have passed unnoticed in the past could Anytime you open the floodgates to user-gener- thus be preserved for all to enjoy (all except the ated content, you take the same risk. Many cam- Lieberman folks, of course), and those behind the paign professionals will have a very hard time ac- cameras could feel that they really were an essen- cepting the concept – too many campaigns have tial part of the campaign. Lamont supporters also been burned in the past by a candidate or staffer’s amused themselves and their comrades endlessly loose lips, and political operatives are accustomed by cleverly editing Lieberman footage into their to going to great lengths to make sure that informa- own online ads and “documentary” clips. tion that goes to the press and the public has been Ah, but that sword can have two sharp edges: carefully vetted. for the Lamont campaign, social media bit back as If a campaign is going to use social media, good well, when a supportive blogger posted a photo of gatekeeping is essential: content must be approved Lieberman doctored into wearing blackface. She before the public can view it (be sure to keep those intended the piece as a satire of the incumbent’s at- goose-stepping video clips and nudie shots from Page 10 | cHaPter one | PERSON-TO-PERSON-TO-PERSON
  • 15. institUte for Politics, deMocracY & tHe internet tempts to reach out to black voters, but it backfired: Lieberman’s campaign pounced and forced the challenger to publicly disavow the piece. Lamont won the election, but responding to media coverage of the dust-up was not how he wanted to spend a day on which he was campaigning with Jesse Jack- son and Al Sharpton. Summing It Up As we’ve seen, social networking and social me- dia can be both a blessing and a curse. Use them wisely and they can help your campaign turn casual supporters into passionate partisans. But use them less wisely and you might just find yourself being spanked in public by the opposition. You have been warned! PERSON-TO-PERSON-TO-PERSON | cHaPter one | Page 11
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  • 17. institUte for Politics, deMocracY & tHe internet DON’T LET GO YET! What You Need Know About User-Generated Media and Politics Before You Take the Plunge by Julie Barko Germany Institute for Politics, Democracy & the Internet Yahoo! is doing it. News Corp is definitely doing ers), the duo managed to earn $30,000.5 it. Sony, Mentos, and Toyota are doing it, too. This is called user-generated media (UGM), and They’re loosening the reigns, letting go, and giv- it will change marketing. As Jay Rosen writes in ing customers control of their message in an effort The People Formerly Known as the Audience, “There’s to move beyond the same old 30-second advertis- a new balance of power between you and us.” It’s ing spots. Many of them think they have the answer not about passivity. It’s about interaction and par- in something called user-generated media. Instead ticipation. of serving up a helping of the same-old, been-there- The people become the producers, which allows done-that TV and print advertising spots, many them to engage with a brand or product line more companies are investing in marketing campaigns than when they remained a passive audience. It’s produced by consumers. cheaper than hiring an ad agency and paying enor- Consider this summer’s unusual pairing of Diet mous production costs. And, according to writer Coke and Mentos in a viral Web video that became Ulises Mejias, it has the ability to translate ideas a marketing phenomenon. In June 2006, a lawyer into action.6 Instead of just thinking about a prod- and a professional juggler (Stephen Voltz and Fritz uct, consumers do something with the product. Globe) created a three-minute Web video of Diet Participation appears to translate into growth. Coke bottles fizzing up like volcanoes when they In August 2006, Nielson/ /NetRatings reported tossed Mentos candies into them. They posted their that five out of the top 10 fastest-growing Web $300 video on the Web, and within two months, it brands focused on user-generated media, such as attracted millions of viewers and generated tens of photo-sharing, video-sharing, and blogging.7 It is a millions of dollars in free, prime-time media. Voltz growing trend, but is it right for politics? and Globe became celebrities, and, by posting their video on Revver (a site that shares the revenue it generates by placing ads before each video with us- Can Political Groups Take a Leap of Faith? Political groups and campaigns already engage in a sometimes difficult balancing act. We worry about how to say what we really feel without un- necessarily alienating some voters who may dis- User-generated content and user-gen- erated media refer to interactive, often 5 Michael Geist, “Video and the Internet: An Explosive Mix,” multi-media material that members, us- BBC, July 17, 2006. ers, supporters, fans, and consumers pro- 6 Ulises Mejias, “Social Media and the Networked Public Space,” E-Business Blog (http://www.line56.com), July 24, 2006. duce and post online. Many marketers 7 “User-Generated Content Drives Half of U.S. Top 10 Fast- view user-generated content as a way to est Growing Web Brands, According to Nielsen/ /NetRat- build loyalty for a brand – or, for the sake ings,” Interest! Alert (http://interestalert.com/story/siteia. shtml?Story=st/sn/08100000aaa00045.prn&Sys=siteia&F of this publication, an issue, advocacy id=ADVERTIS&Type=News&Filter=Advertising), August 10, group, political party, or candidate. 2006. PERSON-TO-PERSON-TO-PERSON | cHaPter two PERSON-TO-PERSON-TO-PERSON | Page 13
  • 18. institUte for Politics, deMocracY & tHe internet Did you know? If I let go of your message, will my supporters behave or What amount of money did media con- will they run amok and destroy my credibility? sultants spend on network television The answer to this question mostly depends advertising for political candidates, par- upon you and the rules that you set for your com- ties, and political groups during the 2004 munity. Two of the authors in this publication campaign? The answer: zero dollars. – Chuck DeFeo and Michael Krempasky – launched They placed ads on cable and net- political blogging communities. When I spoke work affiliates, but they placed no with each of them about whether they could trust national network advertising. their communities, both men said yes. And they mentioned that their communities were very good at policing themselves. Their sites, RedState and Townhall, both contain brief guidelines of behavior, agree. We wonder if we can trust ordinary people and individual members hold each other account- to speak on our behalf. We try to balance a proj- able. ect’s potential with the time and human resources Sometimes these rules are written and posted deficit that occurs in the middle of campaign sea- on the site. Sometimes they emerge organically son. We worry about financial cost. Even though as offensive behavior emerges. One example we’ve seen some evidence to the contrary, we still comprises a particularly telling chapter in Web trust television advertising more than the Internet. lore. According to a few users of a creative, edgy As with many choices in life, the decision to mashup network called YTMND.com, a teenage embrace user-generated media brings some costs. boy found footage of someone torturing a kitten The picture isn’t all rosy and warm – even though and combined the footage with music from the many of us think it’s pretty darn cool. But when game Doom. The YTMND community was so out- used appropriately, it may have the ability to en- raged that they started a meme of mashups called gage a core group of supporters, who will share the NEDM (not even Doom music) to humiliate both messages they create with countless networks and the American teenager and the man who originally possibly even convince people who may have never posted the footage. Not even Doom music justified heard your name or cared about your issue to take using the footage in a mashup. The NEDM meme an action. emerged online as a stand against animal abuse. Rules don’t necessarily have to ruin the party. In fact, it may even help create a healthy, vibrant com- Can you improve civic participation, generate more munity. Several years ago, Clay Shirky wrote that volunteer dollars, increase the activism of your sup- the communities that will thrive online are those porters, or expand the name recognition of your issue, that set guidelines: organization and candidate by allowing normal, every- day people to create a media campaign for you? While to our knowledge no one has studied the potential effects of user-generated content on po- litical organizations, we do know that interactivity with your message – whether through a blog post- Can’t find what you’re ing, a Web video, public discussion boards, mash- looking for on YouTube? ups, photos, or any other kind of activity – breeds Try one of these other video sites: intimacy with your organization. People feel closer to you, and they become less susceptible to being • Revver seduced by other messages.8 • Google Video True, politics differ from big business, but the • Machinima end result of any marketing campaign is similar: • iTunes you want to get people to take an action. UGM is • PoliticsTV.com participatory. People are already taking an action by engaging with you. In the process, they feel as if they are developing a two-way relationship, and this may, in fact, lead to higher turnout, volunteer, and donation rates. Time will tell. 8 Max Kalehoff, “Media Specialists Must Grasp Consumer- Generated Media,” OnlineSPIN, August 4, 2006. Page 14 | cHaPter two | PERSON-TO-PERSON-TO-PERSON
  • 19. institUte for Politics, deMocracY & tHe internet Instead of unlimited growth, membership, Am I just using people to do the hard work for me? and freedom, many of the communities The simple answer is yes. But that doesn’t nec- that have done well have bounded size or essarily make you the bad guy. Stealing someone strong limits to growth, non-trivial barriers else’s handiwork online and using it to make an to joining or becoming a member in good enormous profit might categorize you as a villain standing, and enforceable community – as well as a criminal. Asking your supporters and norms that constrain individual freedoms. your super-activists to help you and going out of Forums that lack any mechanism for eject- your way to thank them (even if it means an extra ing or controlling hostile users, especially hour or two in the office) is a little different. It’s those convened around contentious top- asking them to volunteer in a new, creative way. ics, have often broken down under the Would you pay a marketing company or an of- weight of users hostile to the conversa- fice full of paid staff to do the same thing? If the an- tion.9 Thoughtful regulations can actually swer is yes, then consider being particularly grate- help, not hinder the growth of your com- ful – perhaps even effusive – with your praise. And munity. make sure you individualize your e-mails of thanks. Nothing goes over as poorly as a seemingly stan- Whether you decide to post a few rules for your dard, machine-generated response when someone community (i.e., no profanity) or allow standards of has gone above and beyond. In another chapter, behavior to emerge as the community grows, the Michael Silberman discusses sending your super- fact that you allow your community to have a voice activists special thank you presents, such as pins in the first place will breed trust between both you and bumper stickers, as a sign of thanks. and them. That element of trust works both ways. Yes, your supporters will feel like trusted, valuable members of your community. But there is an add- ed bonus as you watch what they produce – from a blog posting to an e-mail to an animation – you will “Different people want to drive their learn about them and trust them more too. opinions around different topics. This results in a richer response, and Will it save me money? it helps you reach people you haven’t Quite possibly. Production costs and aggrega- already met. The Internet allows us tion cost next to nothing. And people spread viral to survey a varied audience and let messages free of charge. them provide responses on topics they care about in an unfiltered man- Will my message go viral if someone else produces it? ner.” No promises. The viral nature of a message de- pends on its content and its ability both to appeal to - Richard Counihan, Senior Vice President Strategic Development, Who’s Calling emotion and interact with the immediate moment. If a UGM contains each of those things, then it is relatively easy for it to spread through networks and aggregation. Many of the most successful niche Web vid- UGM doesn’t feel like advertising. It feels fun eos and animations are textured, nuanced, col- and catchy, and it has the ability to mesmerize ev- laborative endeavors – much like good Jazz music. eryone from retirees to office workers to students. Their creators take an image (or several images), a theme, a famous line, or a news clip and reinter- “To create word-of-mouth about a pret it in a new way. While portions of Web media viral ad, you have to do something may in fact impinge upon what we’ve historically that people love to talk about. That described as rights restrictions, many people know that when they post media content online, some- usually means sex, political or social one else will reuse it. However, this does not mean humor, or evil and violence – or, of that your organization should sweep the Web for course, gross-out jokes.” cool media content and post it as your own. Give - Dave Balter and John Butman, Grapevine them credit – a policy that works well with content that supporters produce on your behalf as well. If you just “have to have it,” try tracking down its pro- ducers. You never know: they might be flattered 9 Clay Shirky, “Social Software and the Politics of Groups,” Clay that you reached out to them. In any event, make Shirky’s Writings About the Internet (http://www.shirky.com/ writings/group_politics.html), March 9, 2003. sure you observe copyright restrictions. For a good PERSON-TO-PERSON-TO-PERSON | cHaPter two | Page 15
  • 20. institUte for Politics, deMocracY & tHe internet Greg Linden wrote, you may have to work to un- cover good content: “The experience of the World Wide Web as a whole should serve as a lesson to those building the next generation of community- powered Web sites. At scale, it is no longer about aggregating knowledge, it is about filtering crap.”11 “Homogenous groups are great at Have you visited YouTube lately? For ev- ery fantastic video there are dozens of doing what they do well, but they boring clips that someone made by re- become progressively less able to cording a funny part of last night’s Daily investigate alternatives.” Show on her mobile phone. - James Surowiecki, The Wisdom of Crowds summary of these laws, see http://www.copyright. Can I get away with passing off professionally-pro- gov/. duced content, like campaign ads, on our community site? Will my message get lost in a swirl of crappy handi- Well, that depends on what you’re trying to work: videos with poor production quality, humor that accomplish. The standard 30-second, profession- doesn’t work well, poorly written blog entries, etc.? ally-produced campaign ad often comes across like “brochure-ware,” and just doesn’t seem to work Have you visited YouTube lately? For every fan- well online. People tend to like footage that shows tastic video there are dozens of boring clips that real emotion, unscripted action, interaction, and someone made by recording a funny part of last humor. night’s Daily Show on her mobile phone. Have you seen the Flckr pages of some non-profit organiza- On the other hand, one Washington firm, DCI tions? Even the most heart-wrenching trip to dig Group, was recently “outed” as having passed off wells in Africa can be reduced to insignificance as user-generated content a deliberately amateur- with out-of-focus shots of a latrine or a group hug ish parody they had produced of Al Gore’s movie, at the airport. As blogger Chris Pirillo wrote during An Inconvenient Truth. The Wall Street Journal called a fill-in-the-caption contest, “I’m going on the re- it “Propaganda 101.” A useful, cautionary tale for a cord by stating that user-generated content is often brave new media world. user-generated CRAP.”10 Some of your supporters may be professional What can I do when other people make fun of me? designers, videographers, or writers. Others may The short answer: nothing. We live in an era of produce professional-quality work as a hobby. Val- video phones and easily updatable blogs. The re- ue them and encourage them. But don’t intention- ality is that many people who create online media ally leave anyone behind. If you want consumer- – everything from Web videos to mashups to blogs generated media to be a substantial part of your – feel that any public action, mistake, gaffe, speech, marketing, fundraising, or political strategy, then or piece of writing is up for grabs. consider sharing some of your expertise with your The good news is that this environment is supporters. Teach them how to conduct citizen good at holding public figures accountable. The journalism, what types of images are most appeal- bad news is that somewhere out there, somebody ing for a fundraising campaign, and how to simply doesn’t like you, your candidate, or your organiza- edit and post a video. Ask some of your volunteer tion. He knows how to create really funny mashups “experts” to share their advice, and create a mini- of you looking foolish. And making a big deal about community around message training. Equip your it will only fuel more publicity. supporters to create better content for you. Finally, consider devoting some of your human resources to monitoring (and removing) inade- quate or offensive content and spam. As Blogger 11 Greg Linden, “Community, content, and the lessons of 10 Chris Pirillo, “The Great Political Cartoon Experiment,” Chris. the Web,” Geeking with Greg (http:/ /glinden.blogspot. Pirillo.com (http://chris.pirillo.com/2006/08/11/the-great- com/2006/07/community-content-and-lessons-of-web. political-cartoon-experiemnt/), August 11, 2006. html), July 11, 2006. Page 16 | cHaPter two | PERSON-TO-PERSON-TO-PERSON
  • 21. institUte for Politics, deMocracY & tHe internet Who else is doing it? Several authors in this publication tackle the topic of user-generated media, and many more po- litical practitioners have been incorporating it into their strategies for a number of years. Both Michael Krempasky and Chuck DeFeo discuss community blog networks as a form of user-generated media and suggest ways to cre- ate media coverage around an issue or campaign. DeFeo produced an application that allows users to create their own e-mail newsletters about current events, politics, and opinion. Krempasky said that a community blog, like RedState, sometimes func- tions better than the professional press. “If written by enough people,” he writes, a blog “can cover an issue more intensely and more in-depth than any single publication.” Eric Alterman writes that by asking supporters to create media content, political groups physically and virtually extend their reach. Each media cre- ation provides a new entry point into your organiza- tion – particularly when individuals post their work on other sites. Eric recommends making sure that each piece of supporter-made media links to your site in order to drive people back to you. Their stories are just a few of the many good ex- amples. And keep your eyes peeled the next time you visit YouTube. What you see might inspire you. “Letting Go” Isn’t Enough Incorporating UGM into your political strategy is not the easy way out. In fact, it may be more time-consuming than writing your own copy. Us- ing other people’s content takes time and vigilance, but more importantly, it requires that you engage directly with individual supporters. People need a motivation to create, and they need to feel that you appreciate their creative contributions. But the upside is a site that incorporates other voices and other perspectives. If you want your supporters to be active participants in your organi- zation, then make your organization an active par- ticipant in its supporters. “Once we’re part of a group, we’re all susceptible to peer pressure and so- cial norms and any number of other kinds of influence that can play a critical role in sweeping us up in the beginnings of an epidemic.” - Malcolm Gladwell, The Tipping Point PERSON-TO-PERSON-TO-PERSON | cHaPter two | Page 17
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  • 23. institUte for Politics, deMocracY & tHe internet REACHING THE UNDER-30 DEMOGRAPHIC Social Networking in the 2006 Campaigns by Riki Parikh Institute for Politics, Democracy & the Internet “Social networking is probably the next big thing for campaigns because it’s the next big thing within our culture.” - Phil Noble, PoliticsOnline In the 2006 mid-term election, campaigns are What Makes It Work pulling out the stops to look fresh in the eyes of Using these social networking sites, a campaign voters who are tired of the status quo. And for the can create a personal profile for its candidate, dis- more adventurous that includes being hip with the seminating biographical and professional informa- MySpace Revolution. tion to an entire network and acquainting users with Social networking has already been used by the candidate. Campaigns can then add media and commercial marketers to target certain demo- messages to share within their network and create graphics and decipher their interests and desires. groups for feedback and discussion. In return, so- As the social networking phenomenon begins to cial networks give campaigns instant information: permeate politics, some of the more innovative social, geographic, and (in some cases) ideological campaigns are starting to log-on and create pro- connections. A user’s profile lists a person’s so- files for their candidates. cial connections (who they are friends with, which Embracing social networking sites is seen by groups they associate with), regional location, and many as the next natural step in campaigning be- political leanings. cause of the sites’ ability to directly inform and en- “Politics is essentially about the sharing of po- gage the electorate. Just like a political campaign, sitions and values and the ideas that a politician social networking Web sites allow for the prolifera- wants to implement and gaining support of that tion of the four Ms: message, momentum, media, through conversation and persuasion,” said Chris and mobilization: “Social networking can be used Kelly, vice president and chief privacy officer for in the same way it is for everything: to build an au- Facebook, the online social networking site for col- dience, to create activists, to raise money, and to lege students. “So, in many ways social networking create buzz,” said Phil Noble, president of Politic- sites… are a great platform for building support for sOnline. a candidate or the particular positions of a candi- date.” Several candidates running in 2006 are seizing Social networks give campaigns instant the opportunity to attract and interact with young information: social, geographic and voters to build that support. They’ve turned to the social networking sites, particularly MySpace and (in some cases) ideological connec- Facebook, which are the two most popular commu- tions. nity-based sites on the Web, to target and engage with that demographic. “Young people under 30, who are the social networking constituency, care PERSON-TO-PERSON-TO-PERSON | cHaPter tHree PERSON-TO-PERSON-TO-PERSON | Page 19
  • 24. institUte for Politics, deMocracY & tHe internet passionately about issues and what’s happening cess to a person’s group of friends and an easy and in society. They just don’t give a damn about poli- effective way to target a certain demographic with a ticians,” said Noble. “If social networking can be specific campaign or message. “With a traditional used to structure that commitment to channel it in political site, you’ve got to create your own audi- a different way, then I think it has a lot of poten- ence and gather your own crowd,” said Noble. “But tial.” with a social networking site, the crowd is already By generating interest and enthusiasm among there and they’re already gathered. You’ve just got the younger demographic, politicians and candi- to attract their attention.” dates can generate a base for both recruitment and organizing. By registering on a site as a “vir- Who’s Using It tual person,” a campaign or issue group can tap into an online community and gain direct access The candidates who use these sites are more to a supporter’s connections. They can also boost likely to be challengers, and more often than not their database by including a user’s demographical seem to be Democrats. Jack Carter, the son of for- information. This gives them a tool for spreading mer President Jimmy Carter and Democratic candi- word-of-mouth buzz to the younger generation of date for U.S. Senate in Nevada, created a MySpace online voters and the potential to mobilize their account after his daughter, who helped run Carter’s connections to act on their behalf. “It creates the Internet campaign, suggested it. Carter joins can- crowd that a politician can have access to online. didates such as Rep. Leonard Boswell (D-IA); Bill That’s the new big thing. If I can get some 18 year- old interested, then that works out from there: he’s already got his people, he already knows where they are,” said Noble. The other advantage of social networking Web What’s on Jack’s Profile? sites is for those candidates who cannot afford Jack Carter’s MySpace profile adapts traditional media, such as television and print ad- standard MySpace features in a new way. vertisements. Social networks force everyone on Here’s what Jack includes on his profile: an open playing field, giving everyone the same ad- • Pictures from the campaign vantage and opportunity to mobilize a base of sup- porters from the same pool. These sites can also • Blog entries be a gauge of a candidate’s popularity and effec- • Campaign ads tiveness. In the non-political world, the number of • Special message from Jimmy Carter “friends” a user has on a social networking site acts • Quote of the day as a validation for the user. Similarly, the number of connections a candidate or organization maintains • Biography also serves as one metric for gauging how well the • List of activities supporters can do on message is getting out. MySpace • Links to his bus tour • A virtual “bumper sticker” that sup- Social networks force everyone on an porters can put on their own profiles open playing field, giving everyone the same advantage and opportunity to mobilize a base of supporters from the same pool. Social networks take advantage of the “social voter” model of the electorate, which hypothesizes that “who we know influences what we know and how we feel about it.” In the offline world, these include our family, friends, neighbors, co-workers, co-religionists, and acquaintances. In the online world, those connections translate to “friends” or “buddies” on the various social networking sites. Thus, social networking Web sites offer instant ac- Page 20 | cHaPter tHree | PERSON-TO-PERSON-TO-PERSON
  • 25. institUte for Politics, deMocracY & tHe internet Ritter, candidate for governor of Colorado; and Phil alter ego of somebody who has six profiles,” said Angelides, candidate for California governor. Kelly. “They’re rooted in the community and that The campaign chose MySpace “as one of sev- allows the political types to get volunteers, dona- eral innovative ways in which to reach potential tions, and voters.” voters – many of them young people – who don’t necessarily connect to mainstream media,” said Jay Jones, Carter’s press secretary. “This medium is enabling us to reach out to potential voters who we “When you reach a person on Face- otherwise might overlook. The interactivity allows book, you’re reaching that person. people to share their perspectives both with fellow You’re not reaching a profile or some visitors and campaign leaders.” alter ego of somebody who has six The MySpace profile is accessible at www. profiles.” MySpace.com/jackcarter2006. The account is - Chris Kelly, Facebook registered under the username “Jack Carter for Sen- ate, 2006.” In the biographical portion of the site, the campaign lists that Carter is a 59 year-old male from Las Vegas, Nevada and includes the quote Both Facebook and MySpace are planning to “I’m a Democrat running for US Senate in Nevada capitalize on their popularity this election cycle and I sure would appreciate your vote.” (Carter won by offering candidates attractive advertising rates. his primary bid in August 2006 with 73 percent of Facebook created their own program for candi- the vote.) dates to use their site for their political gains. They The Carter campaign can communicate out will begin offering global profiles to candidates so through their blog and blurbs section, which gives all Facebook users can see their profiles. the campaign a chance to inform visitors about Also, on the advertising end, they will reserve a the candidates and keep visitors updated about billion advertising impressions for political purpos- the campaign. Visitors of the profile also par- es and sell them at the lowest unit rate, much like ticipate by adding “Jack Carter for Senate, 2006” television commercials. Facebook said they are do- as a friend, messaging the account, forwarding it ing this out of their own desire to see young people to friends, and posting comments on the public more engaged in the democratic process. Through message board. The campaign has even provided that offer, campaigns can micro-target their adver- source code so users can put a personalized online tising based on location, gender, political views and bumper sticker in their own profiles. interests. However, candidates will not be able to get user The Younger Demographic information on these Web sites, which would be a There are about 100 million profiles on MySpace, violation of privacy policies. “We don’t share data,” a fact that accounts for it popularity in reaching the said Kelly. “We will let our users share data if they college-aged youth vote. Some argue, however, want to with the campaign, but our privacy policy that Facebook users may be more likely to vote than strictly prohibits taking contact information from a MySpace users, given its connection to colleges user’s profile…. They (a campaign) can see it, but and the fact that college-educated Americans are they can’t use it.” Ultimately, of course the key to more likely to vote than those with less education. a successful social networking campaign is to pro- Thus, while MySpace will give a candidate visibility, vide a forum that allows users to connect with one Facebook may be more likely to generate the kinds another and with the campaign itself. That way of volunteers that campaigns are seeking. “When they can easily distribute the content or message you reach a person on Facebook, you’re reaching to people outside the group, converting the online that person. You’re not reaching a profile or some organization into offline action. Did you know? In September 2006, Facebook will open its site to politicians. Now, political candidates can buy pro- files and attempt to reach out to the sites more than 8 million members – many of them college students or alumni. PERSON-TO-PERSON-TO-PERSON | cHaPter tHree | Page 21
  • 26. institUte for Politics, deMocracY & tHe internet Page 22 | PERSON-TO-PERSON-TO-PERSON
  • 27. institUte for Politics, deMocracY & tHe internet HOW HOWARD DEAN TURNED ONLINE SOCIAL NETWORKS INTO AN OFFLINE PHENOMENON by Michael Silberman EchoDitto Certain segments of the political world remain skeptical about the power of online social networks to encourage real-world offline action, such as voting, donating, or showing up for a rally or protest. Yet, Howard Dean and Meetup managed to achieve offline success thanks to their online organizing. Let’s be clear: The Net is not about technology, it’s about people – a fact that is obvious to everyone except to we programmers. The most important The Internet and new technologies things we, as humans, need to do – commercially or enabled us to dramatically expand the socially – is to connect with others. An online com- size, reach, and strength of what oth- munity is no substitute for real-world interactions. erwise would have been a convention- In fact, the most successful online communities are al national volunteer program — all the ones that throw parties, sponsor events, host for a fraction of the time and cost. get-togethers – help members meet one another face-to-face in the real world. 12 —Craig Newmark, founder of Craigslist In a matter of months, the Dean campaign coupled an online event-planning tool with the In- EchoDitto (www.echoditto.com) is an ternet’s word-of-mouth potential to grow its online Internet strategy firm that specializes in volunteer network exponentially and build its active interactive community building. and engaged community of supporters. The Inter- net and new technologies enabled us to dramati- cally expand the size, reach, and strength of what otherwise would have been a conventional national volunteer program — all for a fraction of the time and cost. 12 Katharine Mieszkowski, “Are You on Craig’s List?” Fast Com- pany (http://www.fastcompany.com/magazine/nc02/026. html), November 2000. PERSON-TO-PERSON-TO-PERSON | cHaPter foUr PERSON-TO-PERSON-TO-PERSON | Page 23
  • 28. institUte for Politics, deMocracY & tHe internet work that we did (and invented) to build the larg- est online/offline organizing program possible. The Meetup team really had only one job in the Burling- ton, Vermont headquarters: doing whatever it took to support the self-organizing efforts taking place in thousands of communities as best as we could. Building an Online Network The Dean Meetup program represented the ide- al intersection of the online and offline organizing Meetup (www.meetup.com) is an online worlds, as well as the convergence of our support- tool that allows people or groups to plan ers’ online and offline social networks. monthly meetings around an issue, hob- As we started building the Meetup program, we by, belief, interest, or pet. Over 200,000 benefited from the hundreds and thousands of peo- people signed up to attend Meetups for ple who were looking for ways to get involved in the the presidential candidates in 2004. To- campaign every day. Every campaign Web site, e- day, Meetup has over 2.5 million mem- mail reply, and phone response funneled support- bers worldwide who participate in 4,500 ers to their local Meetup group. Not only was it the Meetup topics each month. most scalable solution to the ever-increasing (and unmanageable) number of inquiries, but it was also among the most effective ways of engaging volun- Can Meetups help with teers and supporters in meaningful activity. fundraising? IPDI’s study of donors to the 2004 presi- dential candidates, titled Small Donors and Online Giving, found that 24% of all Meetup.com was the most scalable respondents who attended a Meetup or solution to the ever-increasing (and house party said it prompted them unmanageable) number of inquiries, to make their first donation. For but it was also among the most effec- more information, visit www. tive ways of engaging volunteers and ipdi.org/publications. supporters in meaningful activity. If a Dean Meetup didn’t exist in or near a sup- The very first Dean “Meetups” took place with- porter’s community, the program and associated out the campaign ever knowing. Between January 1 Web tools encouraged people to start their own. and February 5, 2003 (the first Dean Meetup day), Volunteer Meetup leaders continued to emerge in 473 intrepid, independently-motivated “netizens” places where none previously existed. These local used the site Meetup.com to join a group or vol- grassroots leaders almost instinctively tapped their unteer to host one of 11 self-organized Dean gath- own local networks to grow their events and in- erings across the country – outside the umbrella crease the local Dean presence. They reached out to of the official campaign. Within a year, this small other people they knew, forwarded the campaign’s cadre grew into a powerful force of 189,000 people e-mails to them, and ultimately invited them to join who had signed up online to get together locally in their local Dean Meetup group. 1,200 cities and towns worldwide. Local Meetup groups flourished and grew as a The too-often untold stories of the Dean cam- result of our volunteers’ built-in social networks. Al- paign came from a powerful network of 2,000 most every e-mail message encouraged supporters grassroots leaders — everyday citizens — who vol- to pass the message along to five friends, and every unteered to run these independent Dean events. Meetup agenda encouraged leaders to remind at- In most locations, these became just one of many tendees to bring one or two new friends with them activities being organized by unofficial volunteer to the next Meetup. Increasing media attention and Dean chapters that emerged from the Meetups. press stories only facilitated this process by provid- My recounting of the Dean Meetup story focuses ing third-party validation for their friends’ personal on the part I know best: the behind-the-scenes requests. logistics, communications, and online organizing Our ability to funnel supporters into this self- Page 24 | cHaPter foUr | PERSON-TO-PERSON-TO-PERSON
  • 29. institUte for Politics, deMocracY & tHe internet We targeted people who did more generating and self-organized Meetup program than just sign up on an e-mail list. allowed us to rapidly circumvent more traditional These were supporters who took campaign practices of going out into the field to actions online, donated money, or recruit volunteer organizers by hand. The Internet also enabled us to provide a direct link and con- showed an indication that they were nection to the official campaign, which provided a more than just e-mail activists. good balance to the more local, decentralized en- gagement that they had via the Meetups. We were also wary of the Internet’s shortcomings in replac- ing these high-quality face-to-face interactions, so Keeping the Network Alive we made a concerted effort to maintain constant Once we assembled this core group of grass- dialogue with our grassroots leaders using every roots leaders, which included over 2,000 people available technology (i.e. phone, conference call, volunteering to build and host Meetup events every mail, instant message, and digital video). single month, we had to figure out how to organize As the campaign took off and our Meetup pro- and support them. How do we keep these leaders gram really started growing, we started seeing gaps engaged with campaign goals while continuing to in some geographical areas. We saw, for example, organize them to take further action? And how do that the state of Florida lacked substantial cover- we balance our national campaign needs and pri- age. The campaign needed to grow, so we asked orities with their local autonomy? ourselves what we knew about traditional organiz- Many people assume that online organizing ing and traditional social networks that we could only involves building an e-mail group and making apply to the online world. PDF downloads. This is just one layer of building As field organizers, we could ask a supporter, a successful grassroots network. As experienced “Who do you know in your circle of friends who field and community organizers will attest, not ev- might be willing to join us?” As a national online erything can be done over the Web. Here are some campaign, we could ask a similar question, “Who lessons learned from managing the grassroots in our supporter database might be likely to orga- leader network that powered the Dean Meetup nize a Meetup in their area, given their previous program, as well as from other successful online/ engagement with the campaign?” We called and offline grassroots programs that we’ve managed: e-mailed those very specific subsets of people, and many agreed to help (and were happy to have been • Build a support desk. – We tried to asked!). make up for being physically absent We used the example of the local Rotary Club from each community by creating a vir- to pinpoint other influencers and grassroots lead- tual field desk with a fulltime staff of 3- ers. We knew that we needed to find the online 4 people who responded personally to equivalent to Rotary Club membership. These are e-mails and calls from Meetup leaders the types of group members who know everybody and followed up with leaders when nec- and everything in town and are respected for that. essary. We divided the country up into We targeted people who did more than just sign regions, so that we could become more up on an e-mail list. These were supporters who familiar with the volunteers we were took actions online, donated money, or showed working to assist. More than half of our an indication that they were more than just e-mail grassroots leaders were new to politics activists. Once we found them, we called or sent or local organizing and were eager for them an e-mail about Meetups and invited them to tips and organizing assistance. build a Dean community in their towns and coun- • Use the next best thing: phone calls. ties. Our strategy worked: Dean had more Meetup – In the absence of regular face-to- groups across the country than almost all of the face meetings, we launched a series of other Democratic presidential candidates com- monthly conference calls just for our bined.13 Many of them still meet today as chapters grassroots leaders. These calls built of Dean’s new organization, Democracy for Ameri- accountability and trust. The ability for ca. us all to hear each other’s voices made the program so much more real for ev- eryone involved, and it deepened the relationships we had established via e-mail. We hosted the maximum 100 -125 people per call, usually at four dif- 13 Christine B. Williams and Jesse Gordon, The Role of Meetup in ferent times each month to accommo- the 2004 Presidential Nomination Contest, April 8, 2004. PERSON-TO-PERSON-TO-PERSON | cHaPter foUr | Page 25
  • 30. institUte for Politics, deMocracY & tHe internet date work schedules and time zones. Who attends a political After providing an inside look at the Meetup? campaign’s progress and reviewing the They look like the average political activ- suggested national Meetup agenda for ist: mostly white, middle income, middle- the upcoming month, our leaders were aged, and professional. They’re also high- encouraged to share best practices with ly wired. For more information, read each other. Meetup Study 2004 by Christine • Don’t forget about the spokes. — There Williams and Jesse Gordon at are lots of ways for a campaign head- http://meetupsurvey.com. quarters, or hub, to stay in touch with its grassroots leaders, or the spokes. But spoke-to-spoke communication is just as critical to the viability of a net- ter-writing parties at Meetups. (We later expanded work. One of the first and most suc- the program to include voters in New Hampshire cessful things we did to facilitate this and other states, and we encouraged letter-writing communication between and among parties to take place between Meetups.) leaders was to create a Yahoo! Group discussion list for Meetup hosts, where We combined online and offline tools to build leaders asked questions of one other, successful levels of activity. First, we made it easy swapped success (and horror) stories, for the leaders to organize. We knew that the and shared resources or best practices. burnout rate could be high. After all, these people weren’t full-time organizers: they were volunteers. • Make an effort to visit. – We tried to be We sent each group every item they would possi- physically present at some of the Meet- bly need – sample letters, stamps, envelopes, pa- ups. While it was impossible to be at per, pens, and even information about the county every single meeting, Howard Dean and in Iowa to which they were writing and a DVD mes- the campaign staff rotated attending sage from Howard Dean about the program. the monthly events, and we tried to visit as many as possible. Most importantly, Secondly, we stayed in contact before, during we ensured that Dean could be virtu- and after the events. We asked people to call us ally present at each Meetup by sending right after or even from their Meetups and at any a special DVD message to each group time of night. We wanted to hear how it went. This every month that they could play at the gave us an extra level of personal contact. And al- Meetup. most everyone called in. • Give them the credit they deserve. In retrospect, the effect of this “reverse phone – Phone calls and personal e-mail gave bank” was far greater than we initially intended. We our grassroots leaders access that set it up to get an early survey of the data, for our- other people didn’t have. We sent selves and for the rest of the campaign staff, who them immediate updates, even in hard would be asking for it next morning. We also real- times. For example, when Joe Trippi ized how powerful that connection to headquarters left the campaign, we delivered the was for these leaders. It showed that they weren’t news immediately, so that they could alone on this campaign. When you can pick up the be prepared to discuss it with their local phone and hear a familiar name or voice on the networks after it broke on the evening other end of the line, interested in you and your last news. We treated them like high-dollar three stressful volunteer hours, that means a lot. donors. As far as we were concerned, they were the most important people in How to Run Your Own Online Grassroots the campaign because they were doing Network all of the heavy lifting – without getting paid. We also sent our grassroots lead- On our Web site (www.EchoDitto.com), we list ers surprise thank-you packages during several ways to make it easy for your online volun- the holidays. teers and leaders to host offline events fueled by their personal or social networks: Taking the Network Offline 1. Communicate with your online leaders The first big test of our online grassroots net- regularly. – Assume that the personal work occurred on July 2, 2003, when we launched investment of time and energy that a major letter writing campaign to voters in Iowa. these organizers make is equivalent to We asked our grassroots volunteers to organize let- Page 26 | cHaPter five | PERSON-TO-PERSON-TO-PERSON
  • 31. institUte for Politics, deMocracY & tHe internet the financial contributions of a high- swers to frequently asked questions as dollar donor. Acknowledge this invest- soon as possible to demonstrate your ment through regular “insider” updates responsiveness and attentiveness. Fi- and frequent expressions of apprecia- nally, when you launch new Web tools, tion. set up a help desk or special e-mail ad- dress where people can send questions and get help from a real person. 2. Respect local autonomy while pro- viding leadership and direction. – Re- member that your grassroots leaders 5. Create a dynamic, two-way communi- signed-up to organize an event because cation system. – Keep your network of they support your cause or campaign. online leaders engaged and interested So provide them with clear goals and by communicating regularly with them, direction that they need to make the not at them. Find ways to foster dia- program a success, while respecting logue between and among leaders so the autonomy of the local organizer. that you’re not doing all of the talking. Publicly acknowledge that your role is Listen for trends and re-communicate simply to provide the volunteer orga- best practices back out to the larger nizers with the support and resources group. they need to make the local events a a. Watch your tone, and avoid speak- success. ing to “the masses.” Your tone 3. Provide step-by-step organizing and should reflect the intimate, special planning guides. – Outline specific nature of your online leadership program goals and simplify the steps core. required for organizing a local event, b. Vary communication mediums meeting or party. Think through ev- to maintain interest, and over- ery detail of the event as if you are the communicate to ensure that your grassroots organizer, and include these message points are conveyed ef- items with any additional materials you fectively. may send to event hosts, such as: c. Assume your leaders are only paying half as much attention as a. The action that you want everyone you’d like them to be, and publicly to take. acknowledge that they have busy b. Goals (fundraising, action, etc.). lives outside their volunteer work. Repeat the most important infor- c. Talking points, special announce- mation. ments or facts to use when com- municating with the group. d. Remind yourself of the difference between leaders and participants, d. Dial-in numbers for a conference as each have different communi- call. cation needs and expectations. e. DVDs. e. Encourage collaboration. f. Contribution forms. f. Solicit feedback and let your lead- g. Promotional items, like stickers or ers know how you’ve incorporated buttons. their ideas. Keep in mind that many of your leaders, 6. Listen and create a feedback loop. especially the newer ones, will follow – Survey your leaders and your partici- your guide closely through every step pants to find out what worked and what of the planning process and even dur- didn’t both during the event preparation ing the actual event. and the actual event. You might be sur- prised by what you discover. Remem- 4. Provide ongoing support. – Hearing ber to communicate with them within from your volunteer organizers is a 24 hours after the events take place, good sign that they are active and en- when people are still buzzing about gaged. Keep a tally of the questions what happened and are still eager to you receive from them or the problems share information and stories. they encounter. Communicate the an- PERSON-TO-PERSON-TO-PERSON PERSON-TO-PERSON-TO-PERSON | | cHaPter foUr | Page 27 cHaPter five
  • 32. institUte for Politics, deMocracY & tHe internet 7. Let your program goals drive your technology strategy, not vice-versa. – Experienced community or field orga- nizers will likely be dissatisfied with the reporting and data collection systems included in most of the existing Web tools that are available for decentral- ized or self-organized event programs. Be wary of letting your technology in- frastructure drive your program. For example, Meetup.com was a great tool for local group organizing on the Dean campaign, but it was not designed to support communication or informa- tion flow that we needed between local organizers and our national campaign organization. To overcome this obsta- cle, we rapidly built a Web tool called Meetup Central that enabled us to get up-the-minute information from the network as leaders signed up to host the next month’s Meetup, entered ex- pected attendance numbers and their mailing address, identified secondary hosts, and reported back after their events. Page 28 | cHaPter foUr | PERSON-TO-PERSON-TO-PERSON
  • 33. institUte for Politics, deMocracY & tHe internet CALL IN NOW! How Townhall.com Turned Talk Radio Fans into a Community of Bloggers by Chuck DeFeo Townhall.com How do you merge an existing online community with a national fan base of radio listeners? How do you grow a community and ensure that a platform exists for different voices to be heard? In May 2006, Salem Communications, a con- many of them became activists based on what they servative talk radio company, purchased Townhall. heard each day. com, and on July 4, 2006, it launched a new Web If this concept of finding a voice sounds familiar, presence that combines the grassroots mediums of consider the parallels between talk radio and the talk radio and the Internet. Their metamorphosis Internet. Talk radio rose to prominence in the late illustrates how an online community can become a 1980s. At the height of the broadcast era, the abil- multi-platform political movement. ity to pick up a phone and address an audience of millions was revolutionary and powerful. Talk radio Background Townhall.com has been America’s conservative opinion editorial page for a decade, carrying over 100 different conservative columnists. Because of the wide array of conservative opinion leaders car- Townhall.com was launched in 1995 by ried by Townhall.com, it is home to an active, online the Heritage Foundation as the first con- community that covers the spectrum of conserva- servative Web community. It now exists tives. under the umbrella of Salem Communi- Salem’s five nationally syndicated talk show cations, and it amalgamates the online hosts – Bill Bennett, Hugh Hewitt, Michael Medved, information and content of 120 different Dennis Prager, and Mike Gallagher – reach about partner organizations. For more informa- six or seven million people a week each on the ra- tion, visit www.townhall.com. dio. Like all the Townhall.com columnists, these personalities enjoy a strong affinity with their lis- teners and readers. Talk radio is a personal medium for its listeners, many of whom feel as though they have developed relationships with their favorite talk show hosts. Further, radio listeners are accustomed to partici- pating in dialogue as it happens. They can pick up the phone and have their voices broadcast to mil- lions of people, which is very empowering. And PERSON-TO-PERSON-TO-PERSON PERSON-TO-PERSON-TO-PERSON | | cHaPter foUr | Page 29 cHaPter five
  • 34. institUte for Politics, deMocracY & tHe internet influenced politics in a major way, particularly dur- Step 3: Make It Easy to Have a Voice ing the 1994 election. Next, you want to get your community talking, As the Internet grew to become a truly broad- and you want to make it easy for them to join the based medium, it opened opportunities for self- dialogue and buy into the community. publishers – bloggers – to build an audience. In fact, Townhall.com does not require an advanced de- the blogosphere comprises the next big wave of gree in technology. Supporters can create their own grassroots opinions media. blog in three easy steps, and they can individualize Our goal was to take these millions of grass- it. We currently offer eight blog templates and plan roots listeners, who were accustomed to voicing to expand that and expand features as we continue their opinions on the radio, and move them online to grow. They can create their own blogroll. They for activism, blogging, and commentary. We ac- can set up their own mailing lists, so when they complished that feat in several ways. post to their blogs, their friends will know about it – and they will visit the site to post comments of their own, thereby building the community. We Step 1: Cross Promote give people standard blog features, like the ability to The talk radio hosts played a large role in driv- turn comments on or off. We also offer a Townhall. ing their audiences to the Web site. For example, com newsfeed and bibliographical information. rather than just saying, “Call in and talk to me now,” The results have been phenomenal. In the first Hugh Hewitt now adds, “If you have something to few weeks of Townhall.com’s new site release, we say, go to my blog and post your comments.” Even gained over 1,000 bloggers. more powerfully, Hugh has called on his listeners and other bloggers to create their own Townhall. com blogs. People started logging on in droves, Step 4: Acknowledge Effort creating over 1,000 blogs in three weeks, and they We want the individuals in our community to brought intelligent conversation with them. Hewitt know that we are listening. One of our editors reg- calls this the “great blog migration.” ularly reads across the blog community and pulls Now, talk radio listeners have a bigger platform quotes that are then featured on our homepage. to voice opinion. Instead of just calling in during a Further, when people post to the blog, the most re- pre-set, three-hour block of time, they can access cent post automatically appears at the top of our the Web site and comment anytime and any way. main Townhall.com blog. They will also appear in a The only requirement is having something to say in section of Townhall.com called “Your Opinion.” the first place. Step 5: Give Them the Right Information Step 2: Don’t Forget the Individual We want to know who our community mem- More importantly, talk radio listeners joined bers are, so we developed a personal tracking ac- a large, online community of people who shared tion center, similar to GeorgeWBush.com and GOP. their views. Rather than going to blogspot.com and com. Once you register with the site, we remember creating a single blog in a sea of other blogs from you, and we feed you specific information, such as across the spectrum of interests and political views, the names of your federally- and state-elected of- conservatives can now go to Townhall.com and join ficials and how to contact them. a like-minded community of people. Our members We also know what media market you’re in, don’t become anonymous. Each person has his or and we tell you how to contact the right newspaper her own chair in this big town hall where nobody is editors, similar to what we did on GeorgeWBush. more important than the individual. You get to sit com and GOP.com. We break the media down by right next to the celebrities, like Hugh Hewitt and largest circulation and closest geographical loca- Bill Bennett. tion in order to improve your punch. We want you to reach the most effective media outlets within your community, such as the local paper that your Our members don’t become anony- neighbor reads because it covers your local high mous. Each person has his or her school sports team. And, we don’t neglect talk ra- own chair in this big town hall where dio! Not only do we encourage people to call our nobody is more important than the Salem hosts, but we also provide them with the in- individual. You get to sit right next to formation of other talk radio shows in their media the celebrities, like Hugh Hewitt and markets. Bill Bennett. Page 30 | cHaPter five | PERSON-TO-PERSON-TO-PERSON
  • 35. institUte for Politics, deMocracY & tHe internet Grassroots-style media is hitting main- Step 6: Trust Them to Carry the Message stream marketing in a major way. Thanks Our audience is influential, and we want them in large part to sites like YouTube, origi- to produce their own content because we trust nal ads created by fans, product users, them to know which topics will interest their social and people with a cool new idea, are networks. Hundreds of thousands of them have re- making their way from the Web to the ceived e-mails from Townhall.com’s editor-in-chief TV screen. Marketers are paying atten- Jonathan Garthwaite for over a decade. We asked tion. And they are using the cleverest our members, “Can you write an e-mail as well as ideas for new ads. Who’s doing it? Sony, Jonathan Garthwaite? Can you find the best con- L’Oreal, MasterCard, Mentos, Chevrolet, tent in Townhall.com? What is it that your circle of and Burger have all used ads created by friends wants to read?” One of the actions we in- everyday people online. vite people to take is to become the author of their own “what’s new on Townhall.com” e-mail, and we Why are they catching on? Because give them the tools to do it. traditional marketing isn’t working any- We trust our community members to carry the more. Many user-created ads have a conservative message. They are movement con- strong viral component, and appeal to servatives first and partisan party people second. people on a more personal level. And The vast majority of our readers and listeners are don’t ignore the fact that many of the thoughtful conservatives who seek to put out con- ads become full-fledged online trends! servative ideas and values in order to persuade and inform people – not shout over them. scene aside, if I were to give my one word on the We invited the community to interact future today it would be “broadband.” with us on every page. Conversation Broadband will only continue to enable both is ingrained in the DNA of the Web our opinion leaders and grassroots activists to site. achieve a new level in voicing their opinion by allowing video. The Internet has always been a visual medium. But because of load speed, it has been primarily a text-driven medium. Up until now, people have mostly consumed printed Step 7: Make Conversation a Policy words, but that is changing. As download speeds We didn’t create the community around one increase and as the broadband infrastructure gets “big bang” feature like “Your Blog.” Instead, we bigger, video will be a relevant player, and we will invited the community to interact with us on every see more and more YouTube-style, grassroots vid- page. Conversation is ingrained in the DNA of the eo media. The political impact will be powerful. Web site. Everywhere on the site is an opportunity to post a comment – whether you’re listening to au- Conclusion dio or reading a blog post or reading a column. What we are seeing today – the grassroots And there is an opportunity to forward everything participation in the political debate – is not new by to somebody else. At every turn, we encourage any means. It is how politics has always operated. visitors to create their own blogs. For centuries prior to 1960 people knocking on After all, this is the era of interaction for poli- neighbors’ doors, participating in the local town tics. That is what our job is: to create a platform, hall meeting was how ideas were communicated. to create opportunities for people to voice their Candidates literally touched voters with person- opinions in political debate and participate in the to-person contact efforts. For decades the domi- arena of ideas. nance of broadcast television has served to push grassroots participation out of politics. The Inter- net has brought the grassroots back. Step 8: Look Ahead Remember the film The Graduate with Dustin Hoffman? At a house party early in the movie, a The Internet has brought the grass- friend of the main character’s parents takes him to the side and gives him a piece of advice on what roots back. to pay attention to in the future. That one word was “plastics.” The social commentary of that PERSON-TO-PERSON-TO-PERSON | cHaPter five | Page 31
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  • 37. institUte for Politics, deMocracY & tHe internet BUILDING NETWORKS OF INFORMED ONLINE ADULTS by Carl Rosendorf Gather.com How do you merge an existing online community with a national fan base of radio listeners? How do you grow a community and ensure that a platform exists for different voices to be heard? The Internet has made one thing incredibly diffi- zations, advocacy groups, and non-profits. Many cult: you simply can’t stop people from talking. Not of these organizations share a hesitancy to loosen that we’d want to. In fact, just the opposite is true. the reins on how they control their message. They The Internet has created a medium for dialogue, typically have a Web site and most now have a which allows for a broader, deeper discourse than blog. But generally they follow the traditional path ever before. of one-way communication: centralized content For some, this has been a hard lesson to learn. distributed to the masses. They want to control the When it comes to social networks, some political communication and their message. Most of these groups have a fear of letting go. In my capacity as fears reflect an older paradigm that fears change. President and COO of Gather.com, an online social We live in a changing world. Political groups networking and social media site, I talk to the lead- need to look no further than the big media orga- ers of a lot of political parties, campaigns, organi- nizations, including network television and news- papers like the Washington Post and the New York Times, to find examples of how an equally hesitant industry is learning – slowly and steadily – to adapt. Gather.com is a network for people who Media companies are just as concerned about let- want to share their own content online. ting go of their message as you are, but they are Gather.com members are rewarded for beginning to face reality: people want the ability to their participation with Gather Points™, have a voice. They want the ability to talk to you, or even cash for top contributors. and more importantly, they want the ability to talk to each other. Media companies are just as con- cerned about letting go of their mes- sage as you are, but they are beginning to face reality: people want the ability to have a voice. PERSON-TO-PERSON-TO-PERSON | cHaPter siX PERSON-TO-PERSON-TO-PERSON | Page 33
  • 38. institUte for Politics, deMocracY & tHe internet Social networking sites offer just that — a voice. be incorporated into your overall Web strategy. Us- Think about one of the most visible phenomena of ing a social media platform provides an additional the 2004 presidential campaign: political Meetups. opportunity to extend your reach, generate dona- People used the Internet to meet each other in the tions and sign-up volunteers. Think about social real world and act on behalf of their favorite can- media as an integrated part of your strategy, both didates. That physical component was incredibly as a part of Internet efforts and as a link to build of- significant, and it provides a metaphor for what so- fline support. cial networks do in the virtual world. Building Online Communities Think about social media as an inte- MySpace is one of the biggest media trends grated part of your strategy, both as a of the year. At the time of this writing, it was an- part of Internet efforts and as a link to nounced that MySpace was the most visited site on build offline support. the Internet, above all the major media outlets and portals. Granted, MySpace tends to skew toward teenagers, but those teenagers are speaking to each other. My company, Gather.com, as well as other Take the example of Alex Sink. Alex Sink, a busi- sites like LinkedIn and Eons.com, offers a grown-up nesswoman and former President of Bank of Amer- alternative, providing the 30-year-old-plus demo- ica in Florida, is running for Chief Financial Officer graphic with that same capability to interact on- in Florida. Her campaign incorporated a social net- line. work, Gather.com, into its campaign strategy, and Social networks like ours provide organizations the campaign promoted both the social networking with a multi-directional communications platform. group and the Web site simultaneously. Not only can a political group communicate with Alex Sink created six different groups on Gather, its constituents and the constituents communicate targeted towards different constituencies, such as back to the political group, but the platform also businesspeople and geographical groups. This way, allows the constituents to communicate with each the individual constituencies can hear messages other. Most importantly, the conversation happens from Alex Sink that address their unique concerns within the construct of the organization itself. Thus, and communicate amongst themselves on issues the organization can shape the dialogue, respond of importance to that specific group of people. She to any concerns, and be exposed first-hand to the is building her online groups through promotions issues on people’s minds. And, while enabling this flow of ideas, thoughts and discussion, you actually maintain a great deal of control. Companies like Gather.com provide or- ganizations the ability to create their own group – a customized, branded area within the broader on- What’s on Alex line community. Group owners can tailor the group Sink’s Gather group? experience through a series of easy-to-use tools. Alex Sink uses her gather group, Florid- The group owner has the ability to decide who can ians for Alex (http:/ /floridaforalex.gather. join the group or post content. A group can be open com), as a way to encourage her support- to anyone, allowing everyone the ability to post ar- ers to write articles on her behalf. During ticles, or be more restricted as determined by the August 2006, this included everything group owner. Private groups, for example, can en- from articles on hurricanes and the insur- able a political field organization to restrict access ance industry to tips on increasing atten- to those invited by the campaign itself. They can dance at a grassroots house party event. use their online profile to share their field notes col- laboratively and confidentially. On the other hand, a public group, such as a group involved in the issue of immigration, can provide access to the public yet still moderate the content. In this case, the group owner decides which content appears on the group site. Web Site & Social Media Convergence As you develop a social media strategy, it should Page 34 | cHaPter siX | PERSON-TO-PERSON-TO-PERSON
  • 39. institUte for Politics, deMocracY & tHe internet from her campaign Web site. The online groups were promoted prominently on her campaign site’s It is already evident how the Internet is chang- home page, and supporters could fill out a form to ing politics. Now, with social media, that change sign up for one of her online groups on the cam- continues. People want a voice, and they are using paign site. Likewise, she used the online groups to online tools to do it. They want their voice to be draw people back to the campaign site. heard wherever it makes a difference. People are This example illustrates a very important com- engaging in state and local politics beyond state ponent of politically-motivated social networks. and local lines. Geography isn’t holding back politi- The way to build traffic to your group is to cross- cal donors or political activists, for that matter. promote across all mediums: on your Web site, in People are beginning to recognize the impact of your e-mail, and in your printed material. The goal legislation and elections outside their states. Peo- is to drive traffic to each and every one of you on- ple in Missouri are starting to care about elections line outlets, including your campaign site and your in Indiana or Florida or Texas or Massachusetts. social networking groups. And you want them to And, they are willing to donate to political candi- support each other. dates outside of their state who share their views on a particular issue. This trend gives your cam- paign or issue a national platform, and that is where the fundraising component of social networking The goal is to drive traffic to each and sites comes alive. Your voice can be greater than every one of you online outlets, in- your typical reach or the content on your Web site, cluding your campaign site, and your which usually just speaks to people who seek you social networking groups. And you out in the first place. want them to support each other. People want a voice, and they are us- ing online tools to do it. Remember: This Isn’t (Only) Kansas Anymore Online social networking communities are high- ly viral. People connecting to people connecting To maximize your media strategy, leverage each to people. This growth enables you to extend your of the component parts. All of your media assets reach beyond your core constituencies. You will should promote each other. Your e-mail should have access to people from around the globe that promote your Web site, your Web site should pro- may share your concerns on the issues facing all of mote your online social networking group, and your us. For example, if you are running a local political online social networking group should drive traffic race or a geographically-specific issue campaign, back to your Web site. This type of cross promotion then the fact that you are engaging people in an on- further enables you to reach an audience wherever line social network means that a lot of people out- they may be. side your region will become exposed to your or- ganization or campaign. This opens new markets, new opportunities, and a broader audience for your Don’t Fear User-Generated Content message. Web sites distribute a fairly universal message Think about it this way: online social networks across a mass medium, but it doesn’t always speak provide a way for you to reach out beyond just the directly to the individual. On social networking people who might visit your Web site. You might sites, you can target specific groups, just like Alex say that social networks are a no-cost marketing Sink is doing in Florida, and tailor your message to vehicle, with a high-impact potential amongst sup- individuals who are interested in a specific area or porters and voters. issue. More than that, individuals can become active participants by writing articles on the issues that matter to them most. They can blog about it, or go You might say that social networks are on a social networking site, and they can write and a no-cost marketing vehicle, with a publish articles. When other people share their high-impact potential amongst sup- comments on an article, an online conversation en- porters and voters. sues. Suddenly, activism is more than just reading a position paper or a pamphlet. Social media con- verts readers into advocates. They become your PERSON-TO-PERSON-TO-PERSON | cHaPter siX | Page 35
  • 40. institUte for Politics, deMocracY & tHe internet cheerleaders, voicing support for your position, and • Identify the influencers in every com- they can have conversations amongst themselves munity. – What is interesting about – all under the umbrella of your organization or can- social networking sites is how quickly didate. That is very empowering. you can identify the influencers and More importantly, those voices are heard out- their capacity to shape the discussion side the choir that is already preaching to itself. and the dialogue. Find the people that Your participation in a social media site enables you lead the dialogue and engage them in to extend your reach to those that have not heard your group. Read the articles and espe- your perspective. As you know, victory comes from cially the readers’ comments that drive engaging those people outside your normal base. the conversation. It’s that on-going The viral nature of a social networking site makes conversation that makes social media that happen. so special. It fosters communication. Find the influencers as they can play a significant role in driving traffic to your Tips for Leveraging the Power of Online group. Social Networks. Remember, people have always sat in cafés or • Know who you want to reach. – It is bars or around the dinner table, talking politics and very important to participate in a social debating issues. Now, through social networking media site for the demographic that and social media, they continue the conversation you want to speak to. If you are look- on politics online. ing to speak to 15 to 25 year-olds, you go to MySpace or Friendster. If you are looking to speak to 30 to 60 year- The Time Is Now olds, you come to sites like Gather. You Today, the path is clear. People are now engaged. want to reach as many people as you The dialogue has already begun. The only question can, so target the broadest community that remains is whether you will be part of it. The that best represents your target demo- key is finding the right balance and developing a graphic. communications strategy that enables you to ac- • Define your expectations. – Create a complish your goals. group experience for your members that enables you to meet your strate- gic goals while encouraging those who join your group to participate as you Remember, people have always sat hope they will. Whether your goal is to in cafés or bars or around the dinner inform others of a platform, spark de- table, talking politics and debating is- bate, get out the vote, or raise money, sues. Now, through social networking be clear about those goals and you will and social media, they continue the increase your social media success. conversation on politics online. • Get them talking by initiating conver- sation. – Post content twice weekly to spark dialogue and to act as a catalyst for conversation. Conversation engages readers and writers within Gather and that leads to a vibrant community for your organization. Page 36 | cHaPter siX | PERSON-TO-PERSON-TO-PERSON
  • 41. institUte for Politics, deMocracY & tHe internet THE SOCIAL CONTEXT by Eric D. Alterman KickApps Context will drive the next phase of social networking and user participation. The two teachers who influenced me the most reign over the social networking space was short- were both professors at American University’s lived. A new player named MySpace emerged on Washington College of Law. Although they had the scene, and by the summer of 2006, it became been tasked to teach us mundane subjects like civil the most visited site on the Web (that is, until You- procedure and contract law, both spent an inordi- Tube surpassed it a few weeks later). nate amount of time during the first weeks (if not While technology and design may have played a months) of law school lecturing on linguistics and role in MySpace’s ascendancy, it’s clear to me that other esoteric subjects, often evoking the bewilder- its focus on building audience within a specific con- ing writings of philosophers like Ludwig Wittgen- text – music – was the key driver of its early suc- stein and Jacques Derrida. cess. Wherever there are guitars and poet-singers While most of us initially would have preferred there will be girls, and where there are girls, there that they cut to the chase and tell us “the law,” we soon figured out that “the law” was a much more amorphous concept than we previously imagined. In short, we learned that the language of law only had meaning within specific contexts and that the KickApps (www.kickapps.com) is a host- art of persuasion had everything to do with the par- ed platform that allows webmasters to ties defining that context. Today, outside the law quickly and easily deploy user-generated school lecture hall, context remains a key part of content and social networking functional- my role as an entrepreneur who develops social ity directly on their Web sites. networking tools. What does all this talk of context have to do with the social networks that have come to domi- nate the Internet experience for many people? The answer is that context will drive the next phase of social networking and user participation. Over the past few years, online social network- ing sites have emerged, skyrocketed to the peak of popularity, and fallen into irrelevance. Early innova- tors like Friendster provided basic social networking tools, quickly stealing attention away from tradi- tional portals like Yahoo! and AOL. But Friendster’s PERSON-TO-PERSON-TO-PERSON | PERSON-TO-PERSON-TO-PERSON | cHaPter siX cHaPter seven | Page 37
  • 42. institUte for Politics, deMocracY & tHe internet will be guys. Things snowballed accordingly. content and media management tools. Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, of From a user’s perspective, uploading photos course, and MySpace soon found a spate of imi- and videos to new, niche-oriented communities tators, all claiming superior technology and more is not a significant barrier to entry: anyone under user-friendly interfaces (e.g., Tagworld). As of the age of 35 can handle that task in a matter of writing, though, none have made serious inroads minutes. However from a webmaster’s perspec- into MySpace’s dominant market share. tive, the harder barrier to entry is having the tools The cool kids will continue to hang-out at the to manage all of this new technology. Resource- most popular social networking Web sites. But rich, major media properties require sophisticated social networking sites aren’t just for kids, or teen- media management, administration, and reporting agers for that matter. Granted, a teenage conver- functionality. sation riddled with references to bands, girls, and Why? Well, for one thing, it protects their “my parents don’t get me” on a MySpace profile is brands (and advertisers) from people uploading not particularly compelling to slightly older adults. pornography and other potentially offensive mate- Twenty-something, thirty-something and an in- rial on their Web pages. In other words, building creasing number of forty-something web-savvy a simple application that accepts video uploads surfers fully appreciate the excitement of sharing and displays them on a page is relatively easy, but their ideas and media with friends and interested building all the tools necessary to moderate and strangers. Many will turn to Web sites that provide customize a community experience is quite a dif- niche contexts more relevant to their specific inter- ferent engineering challenge. ests and lifestyle. However, that’s not where the story ends. The promise of the Internet has always been about pro- viding a platform through which individuals partici- Building a simple application that ac- pate in conversation, covering every conceivable cepts video uploads and displays them subject, moderated by webmasters with a full range on a page is relatively easy, but build- of political and social points of view – on a never- ing all the tools necessary to moderate ending stream of Web sites. The idea of a single venue like MySpace moderating 99 percent of our and customize a community experi- online social experience is a not a viable long-term ence is quite a different engineering reality. Context will again be the driver for what challenge. comes next. Blogs and message boards already exist on mil- lions of content-specific Web sites. But this is just the beginning. Web sites are starting to incorpo- With access to hosted platforms that provide rate easier access to other technologies that allow turnkey community technology, it’s easy to imagine richer participation, including user-generated video why active communities will form overnight around specific television networks, reality shows, talk shows, radio stations, newspapers, political cam- paigns, universities, religious groups, expatriate organizations, gaming enthusiasts, celebrities, ex- treme sports, etc. Any online community should be able to invite its members to participate in a media What’s a widget? rich way. And it’s easy to see why advertisers will For the purposes of this essay, be willing to pay a meaningful cost per thousand a widget refers to an interactive, for advertising within communities with knowable graphical interface. Think about the re- demographics and closely moderated content. cent success of YouTube, which allows Nowhere is this discussion more relevant than users to place someone else’s videos di- within the context of politics, where discursive par- rectly on their Web sites, social network- ticipation is its actual purpose. While contextual ing profiles, and blogs. Those are wid- participation may be the promise of the Internet, gets! According to Eric Alterman, allowing participation is an actual requirement of democracy. people to steal your video- and audio-rich Despite the proliferation of blogs and cable net- widgets provides a wormhole that fun- works, the process of American democracy is still nels people back to your Web site. Why? dominated by too few VERY LOUD voices. In most Because all of your widgets link back to other parts of the world the social context is, of you – whether they are premium content course, even more limited. But I think there’s hope developed by your organization or user that technology may soon play an important role generated videos. Page 38 | cHaPter seven | PERSON-TO-PERSON-TO-PERSON
  • 43. institUte for Politics, deMocracY & tHe internet in facilitating unprecedented participation at the Web sites of political parties, candidates, interests groups, and individual communities. “Distance on the Web is measured by links, so the way to make your site ‘close’ to where your customers are is to get lots of places to point to it. How? By being interesting or worthwhile.” – David Weinberger, Small Pieces Loosely Joined Think about it this way: when you combine user-generated media content within the context of a social networking community, you allow people to touch and feel your cause, candidate, or issue. They become part of the action as it happens. And How Big is YouTube? the media they create extends the reach of your YouTube is perhaps the biggest consumer Web site. In a way, they (and their creations) be- media company on the Web. Several oth- come entry points into your organization for people ers, including Google Video, Revver, and who might not otherwise know your organization Metacafe, also serve video content to or candidate’s name. large audiences and allow users to watch, upload, and share video content. What makes YouTube special is its audience size. In summer 2006, YouTube sur- If power and meaning are defined by passed MySpace as the most trafficked context, contextual diversity in social site on the Web. Users view 100 million networking may be more disruptive videos a day, and the site attracts 20 mil- lion people a month. and interesting than most of us now imagine. The most popular video content remains stunts, song parodies, TV clips, and video content paid for by sponsors. But, You- So in a very real way the philosophical musings Tube is quickly becoming a political me- of my two favorite law professors are finding rel- dium. John McCain, Ned Lamont, Joe evance outside their classrooms. And the issues Lieberman, Hillary Clinton, Tony Blair and go beyond the score-keeping and Internet strate- Al Gore have all been captured in hun- gies of venture capital firms and major media con- dreds of TV clips, parodies, animations, glomerates. If power and meaning are defined by and campaign ads. But by far, George context, contextual diversity in social networking W. Bush is one of the most visible may be more disruptive and interesting than most political figures on YouTube with of us now imagine. almost 3,000 video posts by the time of writing. PERSON-TO-PERSON-TO-PERSON | cHaPter seven | Page 39
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  • 45. institUte for Politics, deMocracY & tHe internet THE EMERGING PODCAST SWING VOTE by Chris MacDonald Liberated Syndication – IndieFeed Networks Podcasting isn’t just for geeks anymore. Politi- through this system, and several other podcast di- cians are joining the world of the subscribed me- rectories, including Yahoo, exist outside of iTunes dia file – albeit cautiously – and their messages are that provide even more access to podcast feeds. meeting with success and new challenges. This This is not to say that all the programming pos- chapter looks at how the podcasting medium can sesses outstanding quality and production value. drive social networks – and vice versa. As with blogs, the natural consequence of provid- ing everyone with the means to produce a broad- Background cast is a wide mix of releases, some of which is by most measures uninspiring. The output by politi- Podcasting – the delivery of scheduled audio cians who have rushed to the medium are no dif- and video digital media, consumable on the com- puter or a portable media device like an iPod – is a natural environment for political discourse. Apple, credited with bringing mainstream media to pod- casting through its release of a podcast-enabled Indiefeed Network is a community-ori- iTunes in mid 2005 (the dominant media delivery ented micro-media broadcast network. service is available in both Windows and Mac op- Its blog offers tips for people who want to erating systems), currently provides a rich platform record and post their own podcasts: for issues-oriented audio and video programming • Your content is unique, high im- that is free to users and rich in content. pact, high energy, and compelling. While Apple’s support brought mainstream • Your art pushes the envelope and media to podcasting and helped to establish pod- resonates, stimulates and perhaps casting as a popular, legitimate media distribution even challenges the audience. platform, it also – and perhaps more importantly • Your work is of a high production – helped bolster independent and alternative pro- and recording quality. gramming options. • Pieces no longer than six minutes Approximately 50,000 free shows are available are preferred. What’s a Podcast? A podcast is a publishing tool. It uses online syndication to de- liver multimedia content, such as the audio file of a speech or interview. It’s a relatively new tool. In fact, it’s only been around since 2000. PERSON-TO-PERSON-TO-PERSON | cHaPter eigHt PERSON-TO-PERSON-TO-PERSON | Page 41
  • 46. institUte for Politics, deMocracY & tHe internet ferent. Some have great shows (Wes Clark), some have good to passable shows (Pete Domenici, John The TiVo sensibility is no longer a fad Edwards, Barack Obama), and some have been but has become an imbedded practice. simply terrible (Bill Frist, Russ Feingold). The Political Factor Does this spell the end of television? Of course Why do we care? Research has yet to demon- not. The myth of a mass audience is simply erod- strate that user-generated content such as blogs ing to provide a much richer, more diverse environ- and podcasts will help turn out voters to the polls. ment of choice, and, most importantly, participa- Nonetheless, those of us who work in this field can- tion. Tom Webster of Edison Media Research in a not deny our positive bias toward Internet-enabled recent presentation aptly predicted that the days of media, and we might over-accentuate the impact Thursday night NBC “Must See TV” are a golden of this new phenomenon. One thing does ring true: era that we are unlikely to see again. It was not a the user generated content echo chamber is cer- matter of mass audiences electing a Thursday night tainly alive and reverberating. lineup; it was simply the best we had available at We care because all indications point to the fact the time. To then make extrapolations about the that media distribution in general and podcasting in mass media viewing population was also errone- particular, in their evolving states, are undergoing ous (“which Friends character are you?” The real rapid change on the fringes and increasingly mov- answer is none). ing inward. An analogy with global climate change If certain portions of the population, then, want is appropriate in that mounting evidence and intui- to hear more about the fine details of health care tive judgment simply cannot be denied: we are fac- reform, politicians should be using these niche ing massive upheavals in the way we interact and vehicles to expound on their subject matter po- consume as a global community. sition. Boring to some? Sure. But to the group The TiVo sensibility is no longer a fad but has where the discussion is primary, it may be the dif- become an imbedded practice. Adopting personal ference between a vote or a pass. Niche content schedules to accommodate the prime time televi- by design is not consumable by everyone, just by sion lineup has given way to getting it when you the right person. Leaving these fine categorical want it and how you want it. Recent polls indicate messages within a static webpage is shortsighted a precipitous drop in television viewership. Televi- because chances are most people will fail to dig sion is still powerful, but we are beginning to see in and find the information. Multimedia presenta- the stress fractures on the walls of the terrestrial tions that appear fresh and relevant (and therefore and cable television infrastructure. subscribed) are much more likely to penetrate the clutter. And if you are not participating, be assured that someone in the podesphere is talking about you, probably negatively. Podcasters ignored are a scornful bunch. Who’s Using It? WesPAC, the Political Action Committee of retired General If you are not participating, be assured Wesley Clark, offers ClarkCasts, a that someone in the podesphere is weekly podcast series in which Wesley talking about you, probably negatively. Clark discusses political issues and inter- Podcasters ignored are a scornful views political figures. For more informa- tion, visit http://securingamerica.com. bunch. From a political standpoint, depending on where you sit in the political spectrum, the diver- sity of content choice with podcasting is a welcome movement that gets us closer to a truly democratic system. By blurring the lines between content cre- ator and consumer, we collectively take on a higher burden of accountability of accessing what’s avail- able to hear and read. Listeners become partici- Page 42 | cHaPter eigHt | PERSON-TO-PERSON-TO-PERSON
  • 47. institUte for Politics, deMocracY & tHe internet pants and many become contributors and content creators themselves. More often new social net- working tools, like call-back features, audio com- ments and tagging, lend to the necessary debates Internet savvy consumers who may that help formulate policy and public discourse. very well become the most important swing population over the next decade Podcast Demographics due to their habits and influence. We also care because we are learning through research and practice that this new emerging cre- ation class is an extremely influential segment Ask any politician if he or she is interested in ig- of the population. Woe be the politician that dis- noring 10 percent of his or her constituency, and I misses this group as being simply nerdy and out of doubt you will be surprised with the response. Yet touch with the mainstream. Arbitron and Edison this is precisely what is happening in today’s politi- Research recently released some interesting data cal campaigns that have chosen to ignore this co- on the audio podcast consumer: hort of voters. Television ads are less likely to pene- trate this group. Sound bites are less likely to make • 11 percent of the population listens to a significant dent in their voting impulses. These podcasts. are bright, accomplished, culturally invested, Inter- net savvy consumers who may very well become • Listeners include 52 percent men and the most important swing population over the next 48 percent women. decade due to their habits and influence. • Ages are more spread than you might Podcast creators, in turn, tend to be highly net- first imagine: worked and leveraged influencers. The average 12 to 17 – 12 percent audience per podcaster is around 100, and super- 18 to 24 – 12 percent stars are able to touch as many as a half million per 25 to 34 – 20 percent download. Simple math argues that savvy politi- cians should adjust their communications mix, 35 to 44 – 22 percent even slightly, to make an impact within this envi- 45 to 54 – 17 percent ronment. Whether it’s creating one’s own feed, or 55 and up – 8 percent being available to provide content for other shows, • They are more likely to be students and/ they could reach those who are tuning out of tradi- or full-time employees than the average tional media. population. • They are more likely to live in higher in- come households. Today, the average audience per pod- • They spend less time watching TV and caster is around 100. Superstars are more time on the Internet, consuming able to touch as many as a half million alternative forms of media. per download. • They purchase significantly more mu- sic, movies and video games than the average person. • They spend more both online and of- Building a Relevant Podcast Presence fline, and they spend a tremendous My non-scientific, low-sample research sug- share of their income locally. gests that some common elements make for great • Podcasters are above average consum- political podcasting: ers of news and get their news via Inter- net video. • Don’t be uptight. – Podcasting is an • Given the choice of having to give up intimate medium. Podcasts are expe- TV or the Internet, 62 percent voted to rienced by listeners in very personal drop their TV.14 places, such as your computer at home or work, or during a work out or a stroll 14 Tom Webster, “The Podcast Consumer Revealed: An Exclusive or on a commute. As such, audiences Early Look at the Growing Podcast Audience,” Arbitron/Edison are receptive to a casual, up-front en- Media Research Internet and Multimedia (http://www.edison- vironment where candor and getting to research.com/home/archives/2006/07/the_podcast_con. the point score highly. php), 2006. PERSON-TO-PERSON-TO-PERSON | cHaPter eigHt | Page 43
  • 48. institUte for Politics, deMocracY & tHe internet • Meet acceptable levels of production value. – High fidelity sound acts as proxy for personal presence. You don’t have to win a production award, just edit with an ear toward listening enjoy- ment. Appropriately tag the metadata of the podcast so that searching your content is easy in directories. • Stop selling. Be yourself. – The force of personality plays heavily in podcasting, and politicians who respect the medi- um can create a special bond with their constituents, which is very hard to repli- cate in other communication mediums. If you come off like a press release, then you’re dead to the listener. Conclusion Podcasts are one of the newest and most inno- vative ways to deliver niche content, and they will change communication habits just as surely as fax machines and e-mail did. Politicians who get out ahead of the curve will find a receptive audience of educated, influential and intellectually curious peo- ple – just the kind of voters that a savvy politician should cultivate. “The party’s already started. You can join or not. If you don’t your silence will be taken as arrogance, stupidity, meanness, or all three.” – Doc Searls, The Cluetrain Manifesto Page 44 | cHaPter eigHt | PERSON-TO-PERSON-TO-PERSON
  • 49. institUte for Politics, deMocracY & tHe internet BUILDING A BLOG NETWORK by Michael Krempasky RedState “We saw the emergence of super activists – the precinct captains of the online world. Some individuals began to take more of a leadership role within the site by moderating content and keeping it fairly organized.” RedState was the brainchild of Josh Treviño, a publican National Convention in New York City. We war blogger who wrote at a site called Tacitus.org blogged at the convention and covered it with a dif- throughout 2002 and 2003. While Tacitus stayed ferent perspective, including a lot of interviews and focused on a particular topic, other sites like Daily original content. However, unlike many of the other Kos took a much broader view of politics and com- new media folks at the convention, we wanted our munity building. We felt this sense of a broader site to be more than just an information source. We community was absent on the right side of the aisle wanted people to use the site to encourage people and saw the potential advantage of developing a to take action – not just read something and agree community culture akin to what the left was doing, with it, but take the next step of donating, volun- but adapted for a Republican audience. teering, or otherwise supporting a candidate. We wanted to build our network from scratch, so we started identifying other people who blogged on their own and invited them to be a part of a new site: RedState. The goal was to avoid making this a We wanted people to use the site to top down effort. Instead, we wanted to bring on as many of the best bloggers on our side as we could, encourage people to take action – not particularly people who were good writers and who just read something and agree with (we felt) deserved more traffic. We knew that the it, but take the next step of donating, site had to be far more community-focused than volunteering, or otherwise supporting right-of-center blog efforts were historically. a candidate. We launched RedState with an understanding that each of the founders had been primarily in- volved in significant offline political activities – me in grassroots politics, Treviño and Ben Domenech as speechwriters and policy staffers – which was something that set RedState apart. At the time, blogs generally – but Democrat and liberal blogs in particular – lacked this type of background experi- ence. We launched right before the August 2004 Re- PERSON-TO-PERSON-TO-PERSON PERSON-TO-PERSON-TO-PERSON | | cHaPter eigHt | Page 45 cHaPter nine
  • 50. institUte for Politics, deMocracY & tHe internet We picked three Senate campaigns in 2004 to trum focused on one issue: the Federal Election raise money for: Tom Coburn in Oklahoma, John Commission’s proposed regulations on online po- Thune in South Dakota, and Jim DeMint in South litical activity – regulations that could have signifi- Carolina. We raised $10,000 to $12,000 for each of cantly threatened what many political blogs were them, which, at the time, was a big achievement for doing. On March 4, FEC commissioner Bradley us because we were a new brand. All three of them Smith gave an interview to Declan McCullagh voic- won their elections. ing his concern about the proposed regulations. By March 12, we had assembled a coalition of left, right, and libertarian bloggers, and we had already Online Activism and the Courts reached an agreement about a list of principles that Almost immediately after the 2004 election we wanted the FEC to recognize. cycle, we started taking the next steps in build- Along with a Democratic colleague, Michael ing the RedState community. Traffic was up. The Bassik, we handed a letter to the FEC chairman in number of registered users was up. We started to person at IPDI’s Politics Online Conference. When see the site develop into a community akin to any we handed him that letter, we opened a Web page offline political network of the users and activists. for other bloggers to sign on and make their own We saw the emergence of super activists – the pre- comments. We enlisted 3,600 bloggers within cinct captains of the online world. Some individu- 72 hours, all of them from very broad and diverse als began to take more of a leadership role within political backgrounds. This coalition was unusual the site by moderating content and keeping it fairly because it did not consist of the same boogie men organized, and unlike some other social networks, who consistently fight in the online political world. we retained a significant level of editorial control. This was a new issue and a new coalition. We set fairly specific rules about content – what goes on the site and what doesn’t – and we relied The FEC is a very inside-baseball game. Its his- on the community to police the site, which they did tory is one of dealing with the elite, the smallest remarkably well. number of people with the most money to affect politics. But our coalition had the perfect conflu- Our next step was to get involved in policy is- ence of timing and events. For the first time in its sues. The first one that engaged the site in 2005 history, the FEC had an audience of hundreds of was the Supreme Court nominations fight – one of thousands of people, not just political insiders. the biggest issues of the year. One of the things that we noticed during 2004 was that the most in- That summer, we submitted one of the largest teresting media coverage about particular nomina- collections of public comments to the FEC. These tions wasn’t from the Washington Post or Roll Call: were substantive letters with enormous reach it was from blogs and bloggers who had personal — bloggers who were lawyers weighed in, and connections to individual nominees or who worked bloggers who weren’t hired lawyers to help them in the legal field. We wanted to take media cover- navigate the process. A number of us ended up age one step further by assembling a community of testifying before the FEC. bloggers from all over the place with the intention This was one of the first times that the govern- of actually changing something. Simply writing ment recognized a real constituency in the blogo- about the nominations and drawing traffic to the sphere, and in a way, they reached out more to the site was not enough. everyday public. Bloggers, by definition, act as a That’s one of the reasons we started a blog proj- proxy for their readers. They may not always be ect of RedState, called ConfirmThem, focused on completely representative, but they certainly rep- these judicial nominees, and featuring writing from resent a new constituency – a constituency willing some of the best lawyers and court-watchers on to work together on important single issues even our site. We were able to aggregate enough writ- when they disagree over other political issues. Re- ten material that people started to turn to RedState member, the broad-reaching FEC coalition we as- as their first source about what conservatives said sembled occurred simultaneously with RedState’s about the issue, a place to see reaction, in real time, heated campaign over the Supreme Court nomina- and to the fight over the direction of the courts. In tions. That the online coalition didn’t crack under the end, the RedState community produced more the pressure of the broader political fight says a lot written content about the Supreme Court nomina- about the maturation of folks who engaged in poli- tions than any single publication in the country. tics online. Since 2004, RedState has grown by leaps and bounds. We’ve taken on new talent, new bloggers, Looking Outside the Community and new leadership – in our CEO Erick Erickson, In spring 2005, RedState launched a national a political consultant, and CFO Clayton Wagar, coalition of bloggers from across the political spec- a technology executive – in order to become the Page 46 | cHaPter nine | PERSON-TO-PERSON-TO-PERSON
  • 51. institUte for Politics, deMocracY & tHe internet most vibrant and active Republican community site can sign up and write an article about on the web. a campaign that they care about, an is- sue in their town, or their opinions on national politics. • Don’t underestimate your constitu- Bloggers, by definition, act as a proxy ents. A blog, if written by enough peo- for their readers. They may not always ple, can cover an issue more intensely be completely representative, but they and more in-depth than any single pub- certainly represent a new constitu- lication. There is no way Washington Post can assign someone to write an ency – a constituency willing to work article about the FEC every day for 200 together on important single issues days. They would go broke, because even when they disagree over other there are not enough people to buy that political issues. many papers. However, RedState was able to do just that. • Let your message be one of many. Be willing to lose a little control over Today, RedState is a for-profit media company your message in order to gain a more that looks and feels a lot like an opinion journal. engaged community of supporters. We drive opinion, and we’re focused on changing Remember that bloggers are not disin- the country. We have launched a network of sites, terested parties, but at the same time, each focusing on key issues and appealing to spe- they are not wholly owned subsidiaries cific activist audiences. This will allow us to be both of your campaign or organization. more flexible and more strategic as we continue to build a place for conservative activists to make a difference both online and off. The forward-looking nature of the medium pro- vides a way for a small media company to combine the advantages that Republicans and conservatives At IPDI’s 2006 Politics Online Confer- have had for 40 years: small donors, grass-roots ence, Idil Cakim, director of knowledge activism, and volunteers. This is an opportunity for development at Burson-Marsteller, spoke us to connect directly with the voters, donors, and about tech-fluentials, online influencers people who care about the future of American poli- who filter news and communicate their tics. decisions on social and political issues with others. In Cakim’s words, “social influence and peer networks have to be Lessons from RedState taken into consideration when addressing political constituencies.” She shared the • Lead by example. We discovered that following guidelines for communicating if the leaders of an online community with political tech-fluentials who blog: lead by example, then they can encour- age the community to rally around a • Check for consistency and credibility. particular political campaign. They will • Learn about bloggers’ backgrounds by also give their time and money to it. reading their biographies. • Give the community some responsi- • Disclose your affiliation. bility. Shortly after launching RedState, • Do not send them we discovered that if you invited the canned messages. community to help control the site, they were willing and able to take the reins. For more information, People need to feel a sense of owner- check out IPDI’s 2006 ship in any community (online or off) Politics Online Confer- that they join. They need to have a real ence Magazine at www. measure of freedom to make your site ipdi.org/publications. their own. One of the ways that Red- State accomplishes this is by allowing, encouraging, and soliciting anyone to produce content for the site. Anyone PERSON-TO-PERSON-TO-PERSON | cHaPter nine | Page 47
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  • 53. institUte for Politics, deMocracY & tHe internet GO WITH THE FLOW... BUT NOT JUST ANY FLOW by Valdis Krebs Orgnet “The easier it is for you to send a message, the harder it is for you to get my attention.” Are You Receiving Me? realize that I am ignoring you! Again, the easier it is Online organizing is the new buzz word in poli- for you to send it the easier it is for me to ignore it. tics. It gives us ways to connect to people whom we Old fashioned media – face-to-face (F2F) chats normally wouldn’t reach. Online tools for tracking – are difficult to organize and arrange, but easy to connections and finding others keep getting better. communicate a rich message that will influence However, there is a cloud in this silver lining – when it comes to politics, the Internet doesn’t solve every problem. In fact, it sometimes causes new ones. Social networks are popular online. They are also gaining interest among political organizers and Did you know? activists. A major piece of the political puzzle is Common wisdom in networks is how we influence those around us. In other words, “the more connections, the better.” how does influence “flow” in our social networks This is not always true. What is always – in our connections among neighbors, colleagues, true is “the better connections, the better.” friends, and family? What to read more? Check out Orgnet’s Practically speaking, how do I get you to vote? white paper on Managing the Connected And how do I get you to vote for my candidates? Organization at www.orgnet.com. How do we engage people who normally stay away from the polls on Election Day? The particular communications medium we use affects how influence flows. Face-to-face, e-mail, chat, and VoIP, are all different media with different abilities to transmit influence. Unfortunately there is an inverse law of media transmission that keeps the Internet from being the ideal political tool everyone thinks it is. The inverse law goes something like this: the easier it is for you to send a message, the harder it is for you to get my attention. We even have automatic methods on the net – spam filters – to help us bypass messages. I probably don’t even PERSON-TO-PERSON-TO-PERSON | cHaPter ten PERSON-TO-PERSON-TO-PERSON | Page 49
  • 54. institUte for Politics, deMocracY & tHe internet others. The richer the media, the richer the mes- tant part of the persuasion process: face-to-face. sage; the richer the message, the more it grabs my The campaign really didn’t understand the dy- attention. It is difficult for me to ignore you when namics of elections as well as they thought they we are sitting by side. did, or as well as people gave them credit for. They So what about chatting online? The best of both thought everything and everyone was online, that worlds? Nope. Again, it is easy for me to ignore that was all you needed. you and side step your attempts to engage me. You One of the big mistakes the Dean campaign are typing away in the chat window, I am opening made was that they didn’t understand that friends e-mails, listening to a conference call on Skype, influence friends, family members influence family reading a blog, and watching a clip from last night’s members, and strangers don’t influence anybody. Daily Show. What was that you wanted to say? The campaign did a tremendous job of signing On the other hand, if you and I sit and talk in a people up and getting them to take action, but they café, on a front porch, or at the supermarket, it’s seemed to forget what they started. When it came much easier for me to get and maintain your at- time for the Iowa caucuses, rather than organiz- tention. First, I am physically present with you. I ing locally with local people, they flew in a bunch am looking at you, and you are looking at me, and of people from out of state. They gave them these I can tell immediately whether or not my message crazy orange caps that basically screamed to the lo- is getting across. Non-verbals count for much of cals, “We are strangers and we don’t belong there!” the feedback and much of the influence we have Then they tried to get people to vote for Dean, with each other. Again, the richer the message the and slowly discovered that strangers, especially greater the opportunity for me to have an affect on weirdly dressed strangers, don’t influence anyone! you. The Dean story is the story of how the Deaniacs I receive a lot of feedback from our face-to-face screwed up. They had some great ideas, but they meeting that cannot be duplicated online. For ex- didn’t realize how those ideas all fit together. ample, if I send you an e-mail and don’t hear back from you right away, then I assume that you are uninterested, when in fact your non-response may Strangers, especially weirdly dressed be a result of the fact that you are out of town at a conference for three days. So, what do I do? I don’t strangers, don’t influence anyone! have enough feedback to act. Do I follow up with another e-mail, or do I wait for your response. On- line I don’t know. F2F I know immediately whether Contrast this with how the Republicans orga- I am coming across well or whether my message nized in 2004. They used the Internet. But they is not registering with you. The Internet leaves us also used naturally-formed social clusters, such as guessing about whether our messages resonate church groups. They assembled people face-to- because we cannot accumulate physical cues. face to talk about the issues and the candidates There are no cues – not even smiley faces and LOLs. they were supporting. These volunteers tried to When it comes to getting people to listen to your get their fellow parishioners and citizens to listen message and share it with others, nuance and in- to them and hopefully agree with what they had tensity count. How can I get you excited about my to say. They created networks of people who saw message when I don’t even know you are there? each other on a regular basis, and they got them talking to each other about what was important to them. The way the Republicans leveraged offline networks allowed them to spread their message, Non-verbals count for much of the and their message enabled people to take action. feedback and much of the influence They combined the best of F2F and online. They we have with each other. The richer used the right media in the right place for the right the message the greater the opportu- reason. nity for me to have an affect on you. When push came to shove the Democrats for- got about the sociology of how people function. They walked off the cliff to the tune of the tech- nology piper. They forgot that technology without Meet Me in Iowa sociology is absolutely worthless. If you combine F2F also has problems. Unless they are famous, those two effectively, then you can accomplish a strangers do not influence. The Howard Dean cam- lot – including becoming president. By using the paign in 2004 was extremely successful at online technology when it fits and sociology when it is ap- organizing, but they screwed up the most impor- propriate, the Dean campaign could have organized Page 50 | cHaPter ten | PERSON-TO-PERSON-TO-PERSON
  • 55. institUte for Politics, deMocracY & tHe internet themselves to a much better outcome. They were blinded by the bright gleam of technology and ig- nored everything else. Don’t substitute one for the other, use them as complements to each other, Lesson 1: Don’t Forget What You Know About and end up with 1+ 1 > 2! People The important thing is to not get enamored of technology and forget everything else you know about human behavior. Mix them together. The In- The computer network is great for administra- ternet crowd may be enamored of technology and tion and organizing. Influence requires a people think that electronic connectivity trumps all, but network. Influence requires emotion, intensity, the best use of technology comes when it recog- opinion, evaluation – best accomplished through nizes and supports human behavior. a rich media such as F2F or V2V communication. Take Google as the perfect example. Google Use the Internet to assist and organize your face- utilizes what people normally do – choose between to-face activities, not as a replacement for it. alternatives based on some factors of evaluation Use the Internet to create networks of people – and amplifies it using technology. Many people based on location. Match people up online. If think that Google’s very effective Page Rank algo- someone from Westlake, Ohio, signs up to be an rithm was a discovery of the 1990s. Actually, the activist for your issue or candidate, then link them link analysis portion of Page Rank is an evolution of with 15 other people from the same zip code who social network metrics that sociologists were using have also signed up. Give them online tools to meet in the 1960s to gauge who were the most influen- each other and do something for your organization. tial people in a community. Maybe the Google guys Find a “network weaver” – a person skilled at con- were not aware of this well-known work in sociol- necting others and building community – to be a ogy, but it is basically the same algorithm – look- catalyst for creating clusters for your cause. Use ing at both direct and indirect choices [incoming computer networks to discover possible clusters, links] and adjusting the chooser’s power by looking then use your human networks to build the clus- at who chooses the chooser. Given the computer ters. This process can be repeated in a fractal-like power of today such algorithms are much easier manner by joining local clusters into more global to calculate and can be refined and improved from groups. previous experience. Lesson 3: Strangers Don’t Make Good Messen- gers The important thing is to not get Unless the stranger is someone famous, people enamored of technology and forget do not extend their trust. Imagine how you feel everything else you know about hu- when a stranger shows up on your doorstep. Who is this person? What do they really want? What man behavior. Mix them together. are they really after? People don’t usually react well to strangers. Our first inclination is that maybe this stranger isn’t a good person. With something as personal as “our vote” we will never listen to those Lesson 2: Use the Right Tool for the Job we don’t trust. When I was learning computer science one of The most effective skill a political activist or the memes we heard was that “computers are high campaign staffer can have is the ability to not be speed idiots.” That is still true today. Of course, a stranger. The best way to do that is to reach out the Artificial Intelligence crowd disagreed, but to people who you already know – your neighbors, they could not build an alternative to prove that friends, colleagues and congregation. If you’re the rule wrong. The evolution of computers has been only person on the block that has a big snow blow- to complement the human mind effectively. Com- er and you do everybody’s sidewalk, then you’ve puters are good at storage, retrieval, hierarchy, and gained a lot of positive points that you could utilize calculation – things the human mind sometimes later on. The same is true if you are the family that struggles with. On the other hand, the human mind lets others swim in your pool, or use your extension is great at pattern matching, meaning, serendipity, ladder: people will grow to respect you and listen and creativity – things that computers have not yet to you. During campaign season, you will be more begun to do. Don’t substitute one for the other, use effective than the guy down the street who only them as complements to each other, and end up talks to his neighbors every two years during politi- with 1+ 1 > 2! PERSON-TO-PERSON-TO-PERSON | cHaPter ten | Page 51
  • 56. institUte for Politics, deMocracY & tHe internet cal season. When the helpful neighbor rings some- Trying to extend the reach one’s doorbell, they are invited in and the channels of your organization? for the flow of information and influence are wide Close your triangles! An open triangle open. exists when there is an opportunity to introduce two people by the third person who knows them both. Often, closing those triangles can lead to benefits, like With human beings, birds of a feather productive new relationships or a more flock together. Even though the In- expansive geographical reach. What’s ternet allows us to access and talk to a more, anyone can do it. Close triangles diverse population of people all over around you wherever and whenever you the world, we still look for people see an opportunity. You and your com- munity will benefit. To read more, see with similar backgrounds. my Networking Weaving blog at http://www.networkweaving. com/blog/. With human beings, birds of a feather flock to- gether. Even though the Internet allows us to ac- cess and talk to a diverse population of people all over the world, we still look for people with simi- lar backgrounds. We feel comfortable with people who are somehow similar to us. They don’t have to be exactly like us, but there has to be enough similarity to allow us to open up to them. People we have shared experiences with, who have helped us, who have taken an interest in us, are those we consider “one of us.” It is these folks, who we have included in our social circle, that have the great- est influence on us – on the things we do and the choices we make. The new mantra for political activism – be a good neighbor! Page 52 | cHaPter ten | PERSON-TO-PERSON-TO-PERSON
  • 57. institUte for Politics, deMocracY & tHe internet IDENTITY FORMATION IN ONLINE SOCIAL NETWORKING WEB SITES by Mara Johanna Veraar Democracy in Action “The difference between spam and constituent communication rests on one’s ability to confirm the identity behind the online persona taking action.” Introduction: Identity Formation on The importance of truthfulness is also evident Online Dating Web Sites when individuals participate in social networks based on their online identity. Individuals can use Ten years ago, the idea of online dating conjured these networks not only to date, but also to learn up images of pedophiles, pathetic old men and about advocacy issues that are important to them, lonely housewives looking for love. That specter align themselves with a political party, and subse- has given way to a more realistic landscape. “No quently take action, while at the same time rallying longer the icky, desperate realm of those who are like-minded peers to effect social change. looking for love and can’t find it elsewhere, today’s over-friendly sites feature postings from young ur- Without a network of supporters to validate ban professionals all over the continent,” a recent the individual’s call to action, his or her advocacy scholar noted. 15 attempts can become lost or overlooked. For that Similarly, until recently, online political activ- ists were depicted as a mob of basement-dwelling, pimply-faced social misfits – which does not reflect the results of academic research from groups like the Institute for Politics, Democracy & the Internet. Democracy in Action (www.democracy- The world of online dating, however, provides an inaction.org) develops online advocacy instructive look at building trust online and offers tools for nonprofits. important lessons for political groups. The task of truthfully creating an identity within cyberspace is increasingly becoming an important aspect of a person’s online interactions. When in- dividuals create profiles on dating Web sites, for example, they are in effect constructing online ver- sions of themselves. Dating sites that have come to the forefront are those that have succeeded in creating believable profiles of their members. 15 Jonathan Durbin, “Internet Sex Unzipped” Maclean’s Mag- azine (http://www.macleans.ca/topstories/life/article. jsp?content=20031006_66602_66602), October 6, 2003. PERSON-TO-PERSON-TO-PERSON | cHaPter eleven PERSON-TO-PERSON-TO-PERSON | cHaPter ten | Page 53
  • 58. institUte for Politics, deMocracY & tHe internet What is Web 2.0? phenomenon not squarely but exponentially. The The term was coined by O’Reilly Media best example of this, called Reed’s law, is seen in and MediaLive International. In short, the huge success of eBay, an early adopter of this Web 2.0 refers to second-generation In- idea.16 On eBay, the social capital of receiving posi- ternet services that will provide users with tive feedback from other users makes a seller more more interactive social networking tools. trustworthy and desirable, thereby allowing him or So, for example, while online publishing is her to sell more items. Sellers who do not partici- Web 1.0, participation is Web 2.0. For pate in the rating system, are new to eBay, or have more information, visit the many negative feedback do not ‘belong’ according to resources of O’Reilly Media at Reed’s law and are therefore not able to sell many http://www.oreilly.com/. items. Online Identity and Accountability Offline, people are able to display their social reason, the difference between spam and constitu- connections in various ways. Parties are places ent communication rests on one’s ability to confirm where they introduce their friends to potential em- the identity behind the online persona taking action ployers, attempt to climb socially by chatting up through online advocacy tools. Therefore, increased a high status guest and arrange friends who they ability to confirm the validity of and strengthen on- think would be a good match. Meeting new people line networks increases the effect that such online within a social setting where mutual friends are political and social action has. present provides a context and information about This chapter explains identity formation and the new individual. Online, accountability is lost and how this process changes in online spaces, draw- therefore, different mechanisms have been created ing examples from Match.com and Friendster. How out of a desire to mimic offline social connections. does lack of physical embodiment change the abil- By displaying their social network, an individual is ity to truthfully participate in identity construction? verifying their identity through their social and po- What is online identity anyway? Answers to these litical connections. This is useful in combating the questions become increasingly important as much identity deception, which is rampant among online of politics, non-profit space, popular culture, and users. The ease with which users can create false postmodern identity as a whole continues to be de- accounts and pseudonyms makes identity verifica- fined by computer mediated communication. tion problematic. Identity Construction and Social Networks Each time individuals interact, the potential ex- Meeting new people within a social ists for them to exchange information about people setting where mutual friends are whom they both know. The way in which each indi- present provides a context and infor- vidual is linked to his or her friends, acquaintances, mation about the new individual. In co-workers, and family is a Web of social networks political action, the validity of advo- that can be charted. Individuals find community and reinforce their identity through these networks. So- cacy groups and their supporters can cial networks function as sources of emotional sup- be questioned without evidence of port, information about jobs, avenues for advocacy, validity. and allegiance with politically like-minded friends. Currently, we are experiencing the explosion of social networks in cyberspace due to the increase of user-driven, or Web 2.0 sites. Through these In political action, the validity of advocacy sites, the users help create the content of the Web groups and their supporters is open to question, site. The individual’s ability to use these sites as absent evidence of their trustworthiness. For this an outlet for their creativity, political leanings, and reason, displaying connections helps to ensure the search for people who share their interests is what cooperation of the individual creating the profile. drives the success of the Web 2.0 movement. By linking a profile to their friends, individuals are risking their reputation. They are much less likely to The ubiquity of communications technology act unacceptably if socially sanctioned by their per- and the growth of social networking sites are on a sonal network. Lastly, displaying social networks positive feedback loop. The ability for individuals in the network to form groups and gain the social 16 Howard Rheingold, Smart Mobs: The Next Social Revolution capital of belonging drives growth of the Web 2.0 (Cambridge: Basic Books, 2002). Page 54 | cHaPter eleven | PERSON-TO-PERSON-TO-PERSON
  • 59. institUte for Politics, deMocracY & tHe internet Friendster (www.friendster.com) is an online social network with more than 30 is a risky proposition. With Friendster, you meet million members. But it’s not all dating. people through people that you already know and The site also has more than 150 govern- trust. So it’s like having an infinite social network” ment and politics groups. (www.friendster.com). Users build trust through a combination of fac- tors: helps to create common ground among users of the site. Individuals can find clues about the user’s • Demographic information – The bulk social position, political interests, schooling, and of the Friendster’s profile. This includes economic standing from the social network being the member’s screen name, gender and displayed. status (which asks the user to select whether they are single/divorced/sep- arated/in a relationship/married/in an Friendster and Identity Construction open marriage). Members then choose Online, identity cues are sparse but they do ex- who they would like to meet out of men, ist. People become attuned to the nuances of e- women, or men and women. Age, oc- mail addresses and signature styles. New phrases cupation, location and hometown com- evolve that mark their users as members of a cho- plete the demographic information. sen subculture. Virtual reputations are established Besides creating the foundation of their and impugned. By looking closely at these cues, at identity, this information allows users how they work and when they fail, we can learn a to search throughout the Web site for great deal about how to build vibrant online envi- other members who fit their criteria. ronments.17 • Descriptive prose – This includes a The Evolution of Online Dating Sites person’s interests, and who they want to meet on Friendster. Ten years ago, online dating, which began as an alternative to the personal ads found in newspaper • Friends and testimonials –The Friend- and magazine columns, revolutionized matchmak- ster Web site identifies the benefits of ing because it allows the individual to supply vol- publicly articulating one’s social net- umes more information than the standard four line work as being able to “stay in touch print personal. Online dating services require their with your friends, find and reconnect members to create profiles which showcase their with old friends, see how your friends personality by including their favorite movie, their are connected, be reminded about most embarrassing moment, sexual preference friends’ birthdays, meet new people and occupation. When individuals create profiles through your friends, have fun brows- on dating Web sites, they are constructing their ing people who share similar interests” identity by utilizing the tools provided by the online (www.friendster.com). space. Friendster.com started out as a dating site and has evolved into a phenomenon somewhere be- tween the social networking game The Six Degrees of Kevin Bacon and an extremely lucrative social ar- chitecture system that has investors panting. The site was built to compete with Match.com (the eco- Fakester Politicians nomic giant of the online dating world) and various It could happen to you. If you, your can- other dating sites. didate, or your organization has been in the public eye for anything longer than While it is no longer accurate to say that users a split second, you could be a victim of log on to Friendster simply to find romance, how- unauthorized profiles. People may have ever, the site still operates under the same profile logged onto a site and created a profile software and users often still use the site as a dat- without either your knowledge or your ing service. Friendster was created on the assump- permission. It’s not a rare occurrence. In tion that friends-of-friends are most likely to be August 2005, the Minneapolis-St. Paul safer, more accountable dates than total strangers. Star Tribune reported that at least 14 gov- “We all know that meeting people out in the wild ernors have fake profiles.1 17 Danah Boyd and Judith Donath, “Public Displays of Connec- 1 Brady Averill, “Fake MySpace profiles pose a di- tion,” BT Technology Journal, 2004, 22(4), pg. 1. lemma for politicians,” StarTribune.com (http:// www.startribune.com/587/story/612223.html), August 14, 2006. PERSON-TO-PERSON-TO-PERSON | cHaPter eleven | Page 55
  • 60. institUte for Politics, deMocracY & tHe internet Match.com is one of 30 online dating sites worldwide. It claims to have more the personality test is a set of questions designed than 20 million members. In a 2004 sur- to assess the personality of individuals. “The test. vey of 1,001 American singles, Match.com . . is the most scientifically grounded and cus- found that single voters favored Kerry and tomized personality assessment on the Internet” opposed both same-sex marriage and the (www.match.com). The test takes approximately war in Iraq. For more information, visit 10 minutes and asks questions ranging from how http://corp.match.com/index/newscen- you act when you are stressed to how friends per- ter_main.asp. ceive you. Once the test is complete, it is included on the profile and users are able to search for other profiles that match their personality according to the tests results. By supplying witty answers for Often users attempt to collect as many testimo- users to choose from, Match.com makes it more nials as possible as a form of social capital, a pro- difficult for one’s true personality to come through. cess which, like Ebay, demonstrates Reed’s Law. The Subsequently, the profile created is considerably actual usability of the testimonials as solid charac- less personal than face-to-face encounters. ter assessments is minimal, and most users view them as a fun addition to the Web site. However, when asked about the importance of friends and A Winning Strategy: Building testimonials, one interviewee stated that testimo- Accountability nials gave “insight into the person,” and she “would On Match.com, the accountability of the profiles trust someone more if they had some friends and that individuals create remains questionable and the testimonials as opposed to just having a profile. It blurred line between canned responses and original shows involvement and that they want to be a part comments is still problematic on Match.com. How of the system (Anonymous).” can a Match.com user have any assurance that the Thus, an articulated social network is very im- profiles he or she is contacting for potential dates portant to identity creation for Friendster users. En- are not to some degree fraudulent? The subtleties compassed in this are links to friends, the search- of face-to-face interaction that Goffman attributes able aspect of the network and friend testimonials. to identity formation are not being accommodated The social network allows users to verify their iden- in online form through Match.com. There is no real tity, ensures cooperation and helps create a com- solution, and more specifically there are no articu- mon ground among users. Without the inclusion lated social networks. of the social network, Friendster’s profile creation Friendster, on the other hand, which is a much system would lack depth. The system more ac- less comprehensive site in terms of profile con- curately mimics offline social relations and public struction, has achieved the ability to checkpoint the performance discussed by Goffman. profiles that are created within the system publicly through the social network. It has achieved this by using these factors: Match.com: The Static Giant The second Web site highlighted for this article is at the head of countless competitor sites. The • Profiles resemble real-life identity. Web site is bright and inviting, filled with various – Users are able to use their social quizzes to assess your personality, Match.com networks to help create their identity, trips to go on and special features for contacting which more closely matches real life other users. Match.com claims to have more than identity construction. 910,000 subscribers and more than 20 million • Friends and testimonials help verify members. identity. – They also combat identity Online dating has profoundly changed since deception, the hallmark problem of Match began in 1995. Early on there was a clear online dating. Furthermore, they en- stigma, and people would lie about meeting online. sure the cooperation of individuals who Now the company is seeing people order Match. participate on the Web site. Individu- com T-shirts and even put its logo on wedding als who are linked to friends through cakes.18 their social network are less likely to abuse other users through spam and Instead of relying on friends and testimonials, inappropriate e-mail messages, thereby Match.com has three identity construction services helping to ensure online safety. Also, if that help make it so successful in its matches. First, two users decide to meet, they are less likely to behave badly for fear of social 18 Scarlet Pruit, “It’s Valentine’s Day Every Day,” PC World, sanctioning. Febrauary 14, 2003. Page 56 | cHaPter eleven | PERSON-TO-PERSON-TO-PERSON
  • 61. institUte for Politics, deMocracY & tHe internet • The social network builds common ate identity on online dating Web sites helps to ground. – Users feel a sense of com- make Internet software more functional, as with munity, and this allows them to search articulated social networks that have transcended through the network for allies, shared online dating and are being used in all facets of on- friends and common hangouts. line communication. • Users develop accountability. – Being accountable for one’s Internet actions empowers the individual and allows The landscape of e-activism is chang- them to better comprehend the effects ing, and its forefront is the social net- that their online actions bring. They are work. More than ever before, the lines able to use the system more effectively between social action and political to meet their own needs. Furthermore, action are disappearing as online pro- they remain in control of their personal space and identity within the largely files become centers of identity that unregulated territory of cyberspace. encompass more and more aspects of an individual’s daily life. Ultimately, the two Web sites display differing approaches to identity formation and are both suc- cessful in their niche. What sets Friendster apart is the unprecedented ways that its users have altered the original intentions of the system to make it more usable. Through this, Friendster and the social net- Further Reading working system have become better avenues for identity construction than on a profile that, while detailed, lacks the accountability and public perfor- Boyd, Danah. 2002 Faceted Iden- mance this concept allows. tity: managing Representation in a Digital World. Masters Thesis, Program Friendster and similar articulated social net- in Media Arts and Sciences, Brown working Web sites set the bar for the future of com- University puter mediated communication. Simply mimicking offline environments when presenting social inter- Boyd, Danah. 2004 Friendster and Pub- action spaces online is not enough and often fall licly Articulated Social Networking. Paper short because, as we have seen, interactions online presented at The Conference on Human are vastly different. Friendster is an example of how Factors and Computing Systems, Vienna, an online space provides users with a platform for April 2004. creating usable interactive social software that is built on the foundation of offline identity formation Donath, Judith. 1998 Identity and Decep- theory but encompasses the boundless, indescrib- tion in the Virtual Community. In Com- able aspects of the Internet. munities in Cyberspace. Kollock P., Smith M., eds. London: Routledge Donath, Judith and Danah Boyd. 2004 What sets Friendster apart is the Public Displays of Connection. BT Tech- unprecedented ways that its users nology Journal 22(4): 71-82 have altered the original intentions Lawley, Elizabeth. 1993 Computers and of the system to make it more usable. the Communication of Gender. (http:// Through this, Friendster and the social www.itcs.com/elawley/gender.html) networking system have become bet- ter avenues for identity construction. Miller, Hugh. 1995 The Presentation of Self in Electronic life: Goffman on the Internet. Paper presented at Embodied Knowledge and Virtual Space Confer- From Online Dating to E-activism ence, University of London, 1995. Online dating Web sites act as a beneficial cul- Rheingold, Howard. 2002 Smart Mobs: tural checkpoint for the changing popular concep- The Next Social Revolution. Cambridge: tions of self in an increasingly computer mediated Basic Books world, a checkpoint that political activists would do well to take into consideration. An understanding Turkle, Sherry. 1995 Life on the Screen. of the interrelated aspects of how individuals cre- New York: Simon & Schuster PERSON-TO-PERSON-TO-PERSON | cHaPter eleven | Page 57
  • 62. institUte for Politics, deMocracY & tHe internet Conclusion tivists, seeing whom they associate with and what The repurposing of Web 2.0 sites for political motivates them. action and advocacy is possible through the social Indeed, many non-profits have created their own networks they help create. Just as with Fakesters nodes on social networks by participating in Web on Friendster, these networks are building links be- sites traditionally geared for online dating such as tween like-minded individuals while verifying their Friendster and more recently, MySpace. The land- identity. With the influx of online political action, scape of e-activism is changing, and its forefront having avenues for this type of user-verification is is the social network. More than ever before, the crucial to differentiating between constituent com- lines between social action and political action are munication and spam. Knowing who your activists disappearing as online profiles become centers of are and what they like, for non-profits, is invaluable. identity that encompass more and more aspects of Through the online network, they’re able to list- an individual’s daily life. build while reading about the interests of their ac- Page 58 | cHaPter eleven | PERSON-TO-PERSON-TO-PERSON
  • 63. institUte for Politics, deMocracY & tHe internet TAKE ACTION, GET ACTION Using the Power of Love to Drive Activism by John Hlinko Grassroots Enterprise For most of the period from 1995 to 2002, my place? Why not try to engage activists – using the work consisted of trying to get people to take ac- world’s oldest form of engagement? tion using the Internet. As time went on, I couldn’t help but notice that for every one person online in search of activism, there were literally hundreds “Activists of the World, Unite! Literally.” online in search of dates. It’s understandable, of Thus was born ActForLove.org, an online dating course. Let’s face it: animal attraction is a power- community geared specifically towards progressive ful force. And no matter how far we’ve advanced in activists. The recipe was simple: the fields of science, philosophy, and the arts, when 1. Use an online matchmaking component it comes down to it – human beings are basically as the heart of the site, and gear it spe- just well-dressed monkeys. Animal attraction still cifically towards progressive activists. reigns supreme. 2. Feature progressive actions on the site. Finally, in early 2003, I had an epiphany: why 3. Use the site infrastructure and revenues fight the tide? Why not combine the attraction of to generate support for worthy causes an online dating site with the power of an online and organizations, and even to set up activist network? Why not give people the oppor- new cause-oriented efforts altogether. tunity to “take action” and “get action” in the same 4. Use incredibly cheesy (but viral) puns to make up for the lack of a marketing budget. Since ActForLove’s founding, nearly We weren’t naïve – we knew full well that num- 40,000 people have registered, taken the ber one would be the biggest draw by far. But we plunge, and gone looking for love. The also knew that if we could use that draw to bring in site regularly receives over 100,000 page legions of potential activists, some of them would views a week – and often several times stay for a while longer, look through the causes that. – and become actual activists. Welcome to the Era of the “Dot-Orgasm” Since its founding, nearly 40,000 people have registered, taken the plunge, and gone looking for love. The site regularly receives over 100,000 page views a week – and often several times that. On the romantic side, there have indeed been a number of matches. And the common thread of shared activism has proven a nice ice breaker for otherwise awkward first dates. Equally interesting, PERSON-TO-PERSON-TO-PERSON PERSON-TO-PERSON-TO-PERSON || cHaPter twelve | Page 59 cHaPter eleven
  • 64. institUte for Politics, deMocracY & tHe internet however, have been the non-romantic connections. The most notable of these thus far was Draft- On a number of occasions, couples who had no ro- WesleyClark.com. Launched in the spring of mantic spark whatsoever still found shared passion 2003 – just as ActForLove.org was getting started on the activism front. What otherwise would’ve – DraftWesleyClark.com was initially supported been a bad first (and last) date instead morphed on the same back-end system – and virally spread into an activism inspired friendship. via the initial pool of ActForLove.org members. Six Of course, connecting activists is but one of the months later, this “spin-off” effort had grown into a ways that ActForLove.org has spurred the “take national campaign, with 50,000 volunteers, $2 mil- action” part of the equation. The site has also fea- lion raised in pledges, and an unbelievable amount tured actions from a range of progressive groups, of media coverage. from the National Breast Cancer Coalition to the Another example is StemPAC, launched in ACLU to the Sierra Club to a slew of other, much 2005 to fight back against elected officials holding smaller grassroots groups. up the promise of stem cell research. By that time, ActForLove.org has also provided direct finan- ActForLove.org was receiving far more traffic, and a cial support to a range of worthy entities. Initially, few prominent links on the site were able to jump we directed this support towards much larger orga- start StemPAC almost immediately. Within just nizations, such as Oxfam and Disabled American the first few weeks, StemPAC had grown to one of Veterans. For the most part, however, we have tar- the most heavily trafficked sites in support of stem geted support towards much smaller organizations, cell research. and in particular – progressive blogs. Why progressive blogs? Very simple – we don’t Oh Yes – the Puns have a lot of money to spend, and we want it to go Throughout all of our work, we have tried to as far as possible. Giving a few hundred dollars or keep the same spirit of fun and lightheartedness, even a few thousand to a huge organization might even when the issue was quite serious. be a drop in the bucket. However, giving that same money to a progressive blogger might be the dif- For example, in 2004, when a liberal Canadian ference between “rent” and “no rent.” Accordingly, magazine joked that Canadians should offer to we’ve been proud to sponsor (generally via Blog marry Americans to rescue them from a second ads) close to 100 progressive blogs, ranging from Bush administration, we joined together to form mega-blogs such Daily Kos and America Blog, to just such an effort – the “Oh, oh, OH, CANADA!” ones that are far smaller (at least for now). campaign. On another occasion, when we offered grants to small, start-up progressive organizations, they were known as “SHAGG” awards (i.e., “Spectacu- Giving a few hundred dollars or even larly Helpful ActForLove.org Grassroots Grants”). a few thousand to a huge organiza- And of course, there’s the ActForLove.org blog tion might be a drop in the bucket. – “Bloggie Style.” However, giving that same money to a Yes, they’ve been painful, but they’ve been pain- progressive blogger might be the dif- ful for a reason – they work. They’re what our tar- ference between “rent” and “no rent.” get audience was clamoring for. After years of be- ing beaten over the head with political messages, many progressive activists are simply suffering from “outrage fatigue.” There’s nothing like humor Further, sponsoring these blogs via blog ads has – even painful humor – to overcome that, pierce the been a fantastic way to grow the ActForLove.org veneer of cynicism, and yes – spur some real nice community at the same time. Consistently, we are viral spreading. told that our blog ads have received click through It’s been a wild ride, it’s been a fun ride, and it’s rates that are far above average. (See? We told you a ride that’s just getting started. But ActForLove. animal attraction was a powerful thing.) org has already taught us one key lesson – if you want to reach someone’s brain, you might want to The “Act for Love Child” – Home Grown try aiming for the heart. Campaigns Or maybe even a few feet lower. Through the ActForLove.org backend infrastruc- ture, and through the revenue generated by the site, we have been able to launch new activist efforts al- together. Page 60 | cHaPter twelve | PERSON-TO-PERSON-TO-PERSON
  • 65. institUte for Politics, deMocracY & tHe internet HOW AN E-MAIL CAMPAIGN CAN TAP INTO SOCIAL NETWORKS by William Greene, Ph.D. Founder and President, Rightmarch.com “E-mail is a more immediate medium than paper.” – Rick Levine, The Cluetrain Manifesto Over the past few years, the political left has we sent our members over five million e-mails. been extremely successful at using online tools to Hundreds of thousands of those e-mails were for- create virtual communities, and these online social warded to friends, and over 250,000 recipients networks have garnered an enormous amount of took an action on the Web site, www.RescueTerri. media attention. com, such as downloading flyers to print and dis- Conservatives on the political right have begun tribute at church or in the neighborhood, or con- to catch up. Rightmarch.com, for example, has tacting the Florida governor’s office or the state leg- learned to use e-mail to cultivate influencers, who islature. These figures do not begin to measure the share our messages with others by forwarding our viral impact our network had on media coverage or e-mail or talking to people in their communities on the public. and churches. This was particularly true of one of the most Why E-mail? galvanizing issues of 2005: the Terri Schiavo case. First, we found that we have higher response You may recall that after several years of legal wran- rates when we engage people through e-mail, and gling, Terri’s husband, Michael, won the right to re- move a feeding tube from his wife, who had spent more than 15 years in what the media described as a “persistent vegetative state.” Rightmarch.com worked on behalf of Terri’s Rightmarch.com was founded in 2003 family and the Terri Schindler Schiavo Founda- as the conservative response to Moveon. tion to raise money to cover lawyer bills and travel org. costs. Then, when events took a political turn, we transitioned from online fundraising to a large scale, around the clock battle in order to create a network of supporters, win public opinion, and change legis- lation. Terri died on March 31, 2005, but not before our combination of online fundraising and grass- roots activism ensured that hundreds of thousands of conservatives and pro-life Americans were able to come together with a single, very loud voice in support of saving Terri’s life. Over the course of the months-long campaign, PERSON-TO-PERSON-TO-PERSON PERSON-TO-PERSON-TO-PERSON | | cHaPter tHirteen | Page 61 cHaPter twelve
  • 66. institUte for Politics, deMocracY & tHe internet e-mail has such a strong viral effect. When people 2. Quick response to news and current receive our e-mails, they often forward them on to events. – Influencers pride themselves their entire contact lists. We even see those e-mails on being the first to hear about news. coming back to our personal e-mail inbox after they We used e-mail to respond to events in have made the rounds online. the Florida legislature and governor’s Second, we know our audience, and we know office quickly, with an element of ur- how to use written communications that appeal gency that drove people to take action. to their backgrounds and ideologies. Most of our This had a strong viral affect because members are older with more work experience. the entire country was tapped into the They are politically conservative, and they are opin- Terri Schiavo case every night on the ion makers in their communities. In fact, a large news. concentration of conservative influencers is online. When these conservative influencers share e- 3. Easy online actions. – Each of our e- mails, very quickly name recognition of a candi- mails drove recipients to our Web site date – or an issue, as in the case of Terri Schiavo to take actions: – shoots up. Our Terri Schiavo campaign spread to a. Contact the Governor, Speaker of hundreds of thousands of people quickly, building the Florida House, and the Presi- like a snowball. dent of the Florida Senate. b. For Florida residents, contact your How We Built Our Network: state senator and state represen- tative. 1. A larger-than-life cause that touched c. Travel to Florida to protest the mo- our constituents. – In the case of Terri ment Terri’s feeding tube was re- Schiavo, the cause was greater than the moved. moment, and it tied into the greater d. Donate now. culture of life. We built a community around these shared values, and we 4. Shareable information. – We gave our used our e-mail communications to supporters talking points and shareable reiterate these common beliefs. In our information, including an e-mail tool on e-mails, we called our actions an “im- the Web site to invite others to join the portant battle plan.” Thus, the death of network and information about hotel Terri Schiavo was more than just one reservations in Florida. event: it was an attack on the values of the pro-life community. We used lan- guage that our supporters found com- By using our Web site and e-mail to engage our pelling, including an impending dark- audience, placing the situation in the larger context ness, an emphasis on pro-life values, of the culture of life, creating a sense of urgency and battle imagery. We also had a vis- with language that spoke to the values of our sup- ible pro-life spokesman, Randall Terry. porters, and making it easy for them to take direct and meaningful actions, we helped keep the na- tional spotlight – and public attention – focused on a tragic situation that might otherwise have been a one-day story. Page 62 | cHaPter tHirteen | PERSON-TO-PERSON-TO-PERSON
  • 67. institUte for Politics, deMocracY & tHe internet TAKE IT OFFLINE How One Person Can Reach One Thousand by Brad Fay The Keller Fay Group, LLC “Consumers today are less responsive to traditional media. They are embracing new technologies that empower them with more control over how and when they are marketed to. They are making purchase decisions in environments where marketers have less direct influence (in store, word-of-mouth, professional recommendations, etc.)…. We need new channels to reach consumers. Brands that rely too heavily on mainstream media, or are not exploring new technologies and connections, will lose touch.” - Jim Stengel, CMO, Procter & Gamble Companies are trying to connect with you. They that those 30-second television spots they’ve been know you probably work at a computer terminal all pushing on you for the past few decades just are day. They know that when you watch television, not working as well as they used to. you probably tune in to cable or perhaps even Instead of talking at you through the television, watch your favorite shows online. They also know major advertisers are trying to connect with you in a new way: by engaging with your friends and fam- ily, and by talking with rather than at you. This tac- tic is called word-of-mouth marketing, and it based on personal relationships, one of the most valuable The Keller Fay Group (www.kellerfay. currencies in the market today. com) is a marketing research and con- sulting company dedicated to word of Yes, advertisers are turning to the oldest form mouth marketing. of marketing known to humans: personal recom- Word-of-mouth marketing is based on the concept that personal recommenda- tions are a form of advertising because it gives a brand, company, or in this case, a candidate’s credibility. The point is to get other people to generate as much buzz as possible. PERSON-TO-PERSON-TO-PERSON PERSON-TO-PERSON-TO-PERSON || cHaPter foUrteen | Page 63 cHaPter tHirteen
  • 68. institUte for Politics, deMocracY & tHe internet Did you know? sites, such as MeetUp and LinkedIn. Relationship capital, or the ability to influ- • The overuse of intrusive advertising ence people in your social network, is the techniques, such as television and radio result of emotional bonding over time.1 commercials, pop-up Internet ads, and billboards. 1 Constance Porter, “Commercializing Social Net- • Competition for consumers’ time and works of Consumers via Paid Word-of-Mouth Marketing Programs: Opportunities for attention. Value Creation or Value Destruction,” • Fragmentation of audiences and con- Centrality Journal (http://www. centralityjournal.com), May 29, 2006. stituencies. • Distrust of traditional advertising and marketing. mendations from one trusted friend or associate In addition to these factors, the political world to another. Word-of-mouth marketing is all about has undergone a number of other changes. These sharing messages within a social network. It’s a include voter backlash against negative campaigns, method that political organizers and grassroots declining trust in politics and elected officials, the door-to-door volunteers have been using for ages, cost of television advertising and the rise of single perhaps without even knowing it. And it’s effective: issue voters, who require extra attention and culti- about a half-century ago, Columbia University pro- vation through microtargeting. fessors Elihu Katz & Paul Lazarsfeld discovered that word-of-mouth is seven times more powerful at convincing people to switch brands than advertis- ing in newspapers and magazines. Roper Reports found the average num- That’s why you don’t want to leave your word- ber of people citing word-of-mouth of-mouth marketing campaign, political or other- as an important source of ideas and wise, to chance. In fact, word-of-mouth marketing information has grown tremendously has become a manageable, measurable tool. It from 67% in 1977 to 92% today. ranks second only to e-mail as the most popular online marketing technique, and it packs a powerful marketing punch. As recently as February 2006, Procter and Gamble reported that when one moth- In order to meet your goals – from fundraising er recommends a product to another mother, that and volunteer drives to get-out-the-vote efforts advice reaches up to 1,000 other moms19 through – you need to adapt to the new marketplace. Think other conversations in their social networks. about the marketing activities that your organiza- tion runs on a regular basis. If you’re a political Roper Reports has been following these trends campaign, then you probably focus on grassroots and surveying consumers for the past three de- marketing. If you run an advocacy group or locally- cades. They have found the average number of based non-profit, then you might focus on market- people citing word-of-mouth as an important ing within your local community. You might even source of ideas and information has grown tremen- have a plan to reach the influencers in your com- dously from 67 percent in 1977 to 92 today. That’s munity – people who share their opinions about a right – 92 percent! brand, political candidate or idea with their vast so- cial networks. Political word-of-mouth marketing The Marketplace of Ideas Has Changed targets and cultivates these influencers as messen- In an article I recently wrote for New Politics gers, mouthpieces and even evangelists for your Institute, titled “Word-of-Mouth Politics 2.0: Now campaign, organization or issue. Powered by the Internet,” I highlighted some ma- Note, however, this word of caution: you can- jor trends in social society and business that are not buy word-of-mouth support. Shill marketing changing the way that ideas spread. Many of these or stealth tactics will cause backlash against your trends have profound implications for politics: organization. The only true way to build a sustained word-of-mouth campaign is by engaging people • The power of the Internet to efficiently with true affinity for your candidate or cause. Being transmit opinions from one person to authentic and transparent is not just the right thing many another people. to do – it’s also the most effective strategy.20 • The rise of “social networking” Internet 20 The Word of Mouth Marketing Association has published a code of ethics that strongly condemns both stealth and shill 19 Financial Times, February 18, 2006. marketing, among other unethical tactics. Page 64 | cHaPter foUrteen | PERSON-TO-PERSON-TO-PERSON
  • 69. institUte for Politics, deMocracY & tHe internet Word-of-mouth marketing can also be a good fundraising tool. IPDI’s latest study, Small Donors and Online Giving, found that You cannot buy word-of-mouth sup- 90 percent of large donors (people who port. Shill marketing or stealth tactics gave more than $500) to the 2004 presi- will cause backlash against your orga- dential candidates were asked to give by nization. The only true way to build a an e-mail, phone, or in person. For more sustained word-of-mouth campaign is information, visit www.ipdi.org/publica- tions. by engaging people with true affinity for your candidate or cause. ate messages that will cascade out to their social The Secrets to Successful Social Networks networks. Fast forward a few months from now, when you Finally, the third key to successful word-of- have taken the advice of many of the authors in this mouth politics is to use your online efforts to en- primer and are developing a strategy to leveraging courage offline activity. Offer your supporters a tool online social networks. One of the most important box of other ways to advocate on your candidate’s lessons to remember is to target influencers online behalf: tips for writing letters to the editor, talking and then put them to work in the offline world. points, events to bring their friends to, links to other groups supporting the campaign, and conference Political campaigns all look for the same kinds calls they can attend as individuals or in groups. of people: the influencers, the leaders, the network- ers. However, people with true influence aren’t necessarily the ones who have big jobs or reputa- Take Online Word-of-Mouth Offline tions. They are the everyday people who build sets The Keller Fay Group recently found that Ameri- for the elementary school play, coach tennis, orga- cans talk with each other about politics and public nize the annual church carnival, or help the local affairs eight times a week, per average – and this arm of the Red Cross. Your target is anyone with a is outside the campaign season. Among the group network of people friends and colleagues, the kind of influencers we call Conversation Catalysts™ that of influencer who changes minds or keeps people number goes up to 25 times per week. Believe it informed about public affairs. or not, most of those conversations happen face to You can find at least one influencer on every face, not online. We found that more than 70 per- street, in every town across the country. cent of word-of-mouth marketing occurs the “old That’s the first big lesson: you don’t have to fashioned” way: face-to-face. search far and wide for influencers. They will come The most powerful method for utilizing word- to you. In fact, chances are good that every visitor of-mouth techniques over the Internet comes in to your Web site is an influencer. If you want to en- the form of e-mails written between friends and gage influencers and tap into their vast social net- even includes commercial or political content that works, then make it easy for them to sign up with is forwarded by one friend to another, particularly your organization. And, make it easy for them to when it is accompanied by a personal endorsement share your message with others – from e-mail to or comment. In other words, the Internet has the Web videos to content on your Web site. ability to accelerate peer-to-peer communications, Another key lesson is to look beyond the tradi- both in terms of speed and reach. But power to in- tional political world for influencers. Many of your fluence is decidedly old fashioned – a message to most effective potential influencers are leaders in you, from a person you know and trust. fields such as youth sports, fraternal organizations, hobby clubs, school, work associations, and neigh- borhood programs. These social networks have a profound implication for your campaign: once you The Internet has the ability to accel- engage influencers in your campaign, you can de- erate peer-to-peer communications, pend on them to share your message and a per- both in terms of speed and reach. sonal endorsement with the many people in their social circles. To leverage these networks, make sure that your online (and offline) communications with influenc- Thus, it follows that the best word-of-mouth ers are not overtly partisan or offensive to people strategy integrates public and private Internet tools from another political ideology. Your goal is to cre- with offline communication. The best strategy is simply to listen and pay attention, then make it PERSON-TO-PERSON-TO-PERSON | cHaPter foUrteen | Page 65
  • 70. institUte for Politics, deMocracY & tHe internet no-brainer easy for influencers to do what they do Further Reading best: advocate. Ed Keller and John Berry. The Influentials. • Know what makes influencers tick. – Listen to their conversations. Moni- The Institute for Politics, Democracy & tor “public spaces online, such as blogs the Internet. Political Influentials and discussion boards. Online in the 2004 Campaign. • Talk to them. – Every time you commu- (www.ipdi.org/publications) nicate with your influencers – whether online or offline – ask them to share the message, and make it easy for them to do so. Finally, create a two-way conver- sation with them by having volunteers or staff respond to their e-mails. • Know what they do. – Most of the con- versations that influencers have with their friends and family take place of- fline. Give them online tools, such as e- mail or Web site content, that they can take offline. Remember, word-of-mouth does not begin and end on the Internet. A good word-of-mouth cam- paign harnesses the power of an influencer’s offline relationships and behavior. Savvy campaigners know how to use the Internet as a tool to initiate offline, face-to-face activity and conversations. Page 66 | cHaPter foUrteen | PERSON-TO-PERSON-TO-PERSON
  • 71. institUte for Politics, deMocracY & tHe internet MOVING IDEAS A Higher Order Social Network by Alan Rosenblatt, Ph.D. Internet Advocacy Center and MovingIdeas.org While most examples of social networks involve Networking Online and Offline communities of individuals networking with each Moving Ideas also organizes offline events for other, the Moving Ideas Network (www.Movin- members to meet each other face to face. Every gIdeas.org) is a social network of progressive non- other month, members are invited to gather for profit organizations, many of which are themselves offline events, ranging from brown bag discussion social networks of activists. Like individual-level lunches to networking happy hours. Events with social networks, Moving Ideas provides a platform speakers will occasionally be Webcasted, so mem- for its members to share their ideas with other bers outside the DC metro area can participate. members through a variety of channels. The dif- ference is that the ideas and resources shared are Giving Moving Ideas members online and of- the collective products of an organization, and they fline opportunities to connect with each other is an are shared with other organizations, as well as indi- essential part of our community. Ideas exchanged viduals visiting the Web site. And like some social online lead to deeper conversations and connec- networks, Moving Ideas provides opportunities for tions when members meet offline. And offline its members to connect online and offline. meetings spur a frenzy of online follow up. These Think of the Moving Ideas Network as a pro- gressive hub of networks. To some degree, each member organization is its own social network, albeit with varying social networking opportunities and tools for their individual members. Moving Did you know? Ideas is the hub that connects these networks to The Moving Ideas Network has each other. This allows member organizations to over 180 member organizations share intellectual capital – policy research and ad- that participate in discussion boards, vocacy campaigns – with other members, as well as post issue papers, attend events, and take with the activists who want to stay connected the actions that will help other member orga- progressive, non-profit community. nizations. Moving Ideas members can post research pa- pers, policy briefs, and action alerts. Members can contribute guest blog articles. As the community grows, members will get more opportunities to cre- ate profiles, contribute more content, and make connections with each other and with individual activists who visit the site and subscribe to the site’s newsletter and RSS feeds. Members can also participate in special discussion forums featuring guest discussants from member organizations. PERSON-TO-PERSON-TO-PERSON | PERSON-TO-PERSON-TO-PERSON |cHaPter foUrteen | Page 67 cHaPter fifteen
  • 72. institUte for Politics, deMocracY & tHe internet connections are bound to increase coordination more intellectual capital with each other. and collaboration between and among members in A network hub allows any organization’s activ- future campaigns. ists, as well as its staff, to connect with many other organizations and activists with related and rein- Why a Hub of Networks? forcing agendas. Out of this multi-layered network comes a deeper sense of connection among the In the long run, a hub of networks like Mov- broader advocacy community and more opportuni- ing Ideas has the potential to create greater social ties to generate local, as well as national actions. capital among progressive non-profit organizations Further, the deeper our cross-organizational con- and their leaders, as well as linking the activists and nections, the more likely a collective of organiza- the leaders to each other. Social capital may be the tions and activists will transform into a social move- most powerful resource for the people to use in the ment, which must occur if progressive officials who pursuit of public interests. Because the free market implement progressive policies that can effect real inevitably under-produces public goods, like clean social change are to be elected. air, and to some extent affordable housing, these policy interests must be championed by the people and executed by the government. Rather than try to outspend the opposing private interests, the people A network hub allows any organi- can mobilize to act for change: in other words, to zation’s activists, as well as staff, to use their social capital. This can take many forms. The people can spend their social capital by dem- connect with many organizations and onstrating, writing letters to policymakers and edi- activists with related and reinforcing tors, signing petitions, spreading the word to their agendas. friends and family, participating in boycotts and boycotts, and recruiting more activists. In the 1960s, E. E. Schattschneider wrote that the masses will always be underrepresented be- From a Hub of Networks to a Movement cause they lack organization and financial capital. A quick look at the recent political history on the Network technologies now place organizing tools right shows that a conservative movement emerged in the hands of the masses, even if not every single in the 1980s and steadily took over the Republican person, addressing his concern about organization Party. Using direct mail, talk radio, and now the In- and finances in one swoop. Where Putnam would ternet, according to Richard Viguerie in America’s say we were bowling alone, we are now virtually Right Turn, conservative advocacy groups captured bowling together in the ether with our friends and the hearts of a large chunk of the American people fellow activists. Then we play soccer offline. Then and turned them into a movement. These move- we organize e-mail campaigns. Then we e-mail our ment conservatives captured the Republican Party, friends and tell them they should do it, too. Thus, first electing Ronald Reagan to the presidency and social capital is converted to political capital. then gaining a majority in the House and Senate. In this way, the hub can increase the synergy of In order to compete, progressives must transi- progressive communities to transition from being tion from a collection of separate and occasionally a collection of separate organizations to a progres- cooperative issue advocacy networks into a syn- sive movement; a movement that can more effec- ergistic community of communities, a hub of net- tively affect social change than single issue com- works that can match the conservative movement munities acting alone. with a progressive movement. The Moving Ideas A hub of networks devoted to public interest is- Network has the potential to help achieve this type sues can create interlocking memberships of activ- of collaboration across organizational boundaries. ists that provide the vast amounts of social capital Moving Ideas was adopted recently by Care2. necessary to counteract the interlocking director- com, a Web community of about 6 million grass- ates and vast amounts of financial capital often roots activists, Cultural Creatives (individuals who used by private interest groups. Regardless of how care about sustainable lifestyles and social justice), much progressive organizations collaborate, their non-profits, and socially responsible businesses. members will share interests with many advocacy As Care2 and Moving Ideas integrate in the coming groups and are likely to belong to many of them. By years, the potential for solidifying the connection exposing these activists to many organizations pur- between non-profits and constituencies with social suing progressive policy goals, Moving Ideas helps networking tools Care2 offers is strong. organizations recruit more activists, while sharing Page 68 | cHaPter seventeen | PERSON-TO-PERSON-TO-PERSON
  • 73. institUte for Politics, deMocracY & tHe internet BUILDING A NETWORK OF POLITICAL ALLIES How the Environmental Movement is Learning to Leverage its Network of Allies by Gideon Rosenblatt ONE/Northwest “By working in harmony, a network raises the effectiveness of each individual node while raising the collective effectiveness and value of the entire network.” The environmental movement is at a critical three primary organizational types. The essay then juncture in its history. While it can lay claim to nu- examined new possibilities for cooperation and col- merous and important achievements over the last laboration between these different organizational four decades, recent setbacks in the United States types. show that its hard-fought accomplishments are still The concepts outlined in that essay have a wide all too vulnerable to changes in the political winds applicability to other kinds of social and political caused by pressures from special interests. networks. In particular, the connected-yet-inde- Immunizing society for the long-term against pendent actions of individual parts of any move- such harmful influences means integrating a new ment can accomplish extraordinarily complex and set of values into our social fabric on a scale not wonderful actions, just as a beautiful symphony seen since the shifts that accompanied universal emerges from the synchronous playing of violins, suffrage and the broadening of civil rights. Environ- flutes, horns, and percussion. And by working in mental security requires a similar shift in society’s harmony, a network raises the effectiveness of behavioral patterns by harnessing the broad-based each individual node while raising the collective ef- social and political forces capable of applying both political and economic pressure. This is the task facing the environmental movement at the outset of the new century and it is likely to require a very different environmental movement from what ex- ONE/Northwest is a non-profit support- ists today. ing the environment and grass roots orga- In 2004, I wrote an essay called “Movement as nizations through the use of technology. Network: Connecting People and Organizations in the Environmental Movement” that outlined a new framework for thinking about the environmental movement. It envisioned the environmental move- ment not as a vague concept but as an actual en- tity – a vast network made up of interconnections between people and organizations whose whole is greater than the sum of its parts. To reduce com- petition and improve coordination between orga- nizations within the network, the model proposed PERSON-TO-PERSON-TO-PERSON | PERSON-TO-PERSON-TO-PERSON | cHaPter siXteen cHaPter seventeen | Page 69
  • 74. institUte for Politics, deMocracY & tHe internet fectiveness and value of the entire network. In this cess for these organizations are carefully defining sense, the Movement as Network model reminds audiences and listening closely to their needs. Be- all of us working on individual issues that we belong cause these groups define themselves by constitu- to something greater and far more powerful than ents whose interests are rarely one dimensional, we could ever amount to by ourselves. they tend to span issue areas and occasionally ex- With this goal in mind, let me describe the three pand beyond a strict focus on the environmental. distinct organizational archetypes within the Move- Solution Organizations define themselves not ment as Network model. only by the issue they focus on, but also by their particular approach to solving it. Some may solve problems with hands-on field research; some by Three Organizational Roles playing watchdog to a particular government agen- The 1990s were a time of economic upheaval cy. The range of issues and solutions is extremely as U.S. financial markets pressured industry after varied, which goes a long way toward explaining industry to restructure itself to become more effi- the incredible diversity of the environmental move- cient. Specialization is one of evolution’s key tricks ment. Collectively, these organizations define the for eking out efficiencies and profitability is the pri- mission of the network by identifying the problems vate sector’s natural selector. Over the last decade th