While most of our authors so far have regarded the Internet as a tool that could revolutionize political participation, this week’s readings started to suggest some limitations. In Dave Karpf’s “Measuring the Success of Digital Campaigns,” for example, he proposes that measurements of success on the Internet can be divided into two categories: tactical measurement, which merely counts the number of page views/Twitter followers/petition signers that your campaign has reached, and strategic measurements, which determine whether or not your online efforts have helped you to realize your overall goal. He goes on to say that campaigns need to measure their efforts strategically as opposed to tactically, as simply looking at the statistics attached to your content often says very little about whether or not you have made any difference.
In the second article of Karpf’s that we read for the week, “Macaca Moments Reconsidered: Electoral Participation or Netroots Mobilization?”, he makes the argument that cable news pundits often overstate the value of embarrassing YouTube videos in a candidate’s campaign. While the videos might get a lot of hits (making them tactically successful), they often reach political news junkies instead of voters in that candidate’s district (making a campaign to remove them from office strategically unsuccessful). He also claims that in these cases, YouTube isn’t necessarily being used in the grassroots manner that is often associated with the website. Videos of embarrassing gaffes are usually caught by professional journalists and spread by political insiders – while your ordinary citizen might view the video, he has very little to do with producing or spreading the content. This would seem to suggest that ordinary citizens aren’t driving Internet revolutions like they’re commonly thought to be; but then again, Pasek’s article “Realizing the Social Internet? Online Networking Meets Offline Social Capital” found that an individual’s online social networks – largely consisting of ordinary folks – can have a significant impact on their political knowledge and civic engagement.
Do you think tactical measurements have any significance in determining a campaign’s strategic success? With all of the YouTube videos you’ve watched, Twitter accounts you’ve followed, or blog posts you’ve read, have you ever been inspired to real action about a candidate or issue? Furthermore, do you place more value on the opinions of political insiders or your Facebook friends when selecting what content to view?