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  1. 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. 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. 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 (, Chuck DeFeo (, Brad Fay (Keller Fay Group), Joe Green (, William Greene, (, John Hlinko (Grassroots Enterprise), Heather Holdridge (Care2), Valdis Krebs (InFlow), Mike Krempasky (Edelman and, 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 (, Phil Sheldon (Diener Consultants, Inc.), Michael Silberman (EchoDitto), Ravi Singh (, and Mara Veraar ( 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 For more information about the Institute for Politics, Democracy & the Internet, visit http:/ / © 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. 4. institUte for Politics, deMocracY & tHe internet Page vi | PERSON-TO-PERSON-TO-PERSON
  5. 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 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. 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. 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, 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. 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 ( fordable, tangible way into strategy. thoughts/). Network Centric Advocacy Top Ten Tactics: ( Throughout Person-to-Person-to-Person, our au- net/). thors offer some of their best tips, techniques, and Network Weaving ( 2 Steven Johnson, Interface Culture (New York: Basic Books, blog/). 1997), 2. Page 4 | introdUction | PERSON-TO-PERSON-TO-PERSON
  9. 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,, 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 ( ticians,” ( kx41F17ZJwXRG8Lm0R8nK9), August 10, 2006. story/612223.html), August 14, 2006. PERSON-TO-PERSON-TO-PERSON | introdUction | Page 5
  10. 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 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. 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: • • The e.politics ( blog • discusses online advocacy and online politics, including a how-to folder on us- • ing social networking sites. • • PERSON-TO-PERSON-TO-PERSON PERSON-TO-PERSON-TO-PERSON | | introdUction | Page 7 cHaPter one
  12. 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. 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. 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 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 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’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. 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. 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 (, 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 ( 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. 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, 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 • 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. 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 ( 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. 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. ( 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. 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. 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. 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. 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.” 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
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  27. 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 ( 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 ( html), November 2000. PERSON-TO-PERSON-TO-PERSON | cHaPter foUr PERSON-TO-PERSON-TO-PERSON | Page 23