Week 8

In the chapter of his book entitled The Open Source Campaign, Trippi discusses the 2004 Howard Dean campaign and cites it as a major landmark in the use of the Internet in campaigning. Trippi describes the strong online presence of the campaign and the different digital resources used to raise money and foster support for Howard Dean. Trippi describes how pairing Meetup.com with the GetLocal software helped Dean supporters find each other and meet more effectively. After, the campaign developed DeanLink which really got the users more involved and amde them feel as though they had a personal stake in the campaign. Blog for America also played a key role in spreading information and opinions among constituents, revealing campaign and strategical weaknesses, surveying voter attitudes, and contesting opposition. From this we can see that the Dean campaign utilized archaic forms of social media and discussion forums to raise voter awareness and collect a significant amount of money to help the Dean candidacy. Here I see parallels to Rheingold’s ideas about new forms of communication creating new ways to solve collective action dilemmas and help create change. If the Dean campaign had improved and innovative communication that could help solve dilemmas in organizing people like collecting donations and spreading ideas, why was he unable to perform well once elections came around?

I submit that the Internet presence of Dean was unsuccessful in producing results because it only reinforced Dean supporters who had the strong desire to find more information about the campaign and did little to sway voters who were undecided. Meetup.com, GetLocal, and DeanLink helped Dean supporters to talk to other people with similar views, but aside from the occasional trolls with opposing views, there was little done to attract new people to the campaign. Technological limitations and a lack of understanding of the strategic benefits of the medium are reasons I see for why the campaign wasn’t successful. Because the supporters did not use the medium to solve the real dilemma of the election, getting a large number of supporters to actively campaign for and vote for Dean, the campaign failed and Dean lost.

My question to the class is: If you were a campaign manager today, how would you use the Internet and Social Media to persuade undecided voters to vote for your candidate?

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7 Responses to Week 8

  1. Based on the failures of Dean’s campaign, if I was a campaign manager today, I would make sure to only use Internet and Social Media tools as a way to create an interactive sphere with the candidate and voters. Specifically, I would not solely use a digital campaign for everything, as we learned that Dean’s campaign was far too dependent on it, but rather, I would use it strategically to allow those who are undecided to learn about my candidate through reading blogs, looking at the candidate’s website and finding out about activities, rallies and informational sessions to which they could find out more. I would not advise my candidate to do any kind of fundraising or donation services using the Internet, as we learned if the server crashes, a lot of money would be lost. I also would not advise my candidate to use the Internet/Social Media as a way to initially gain supporters. I believe that once supporters are established, digital add-ons would be beneficial to grow support and allow for conversations to spread among undecided voters.

  2. Mickenzie says:

    I really enjoy your question, it is intriguing and engaging. If I were a campaign manager, I would focus on the facts I know about undecided voters. The majority of “undecided” voters tend to be highly educated, as uneducated voters tend to be easily swayed. As a campaign manager I’d utilize the social media that this demographic tends to dominate. I would utilize Facebook and Twitter as these are the two most associated education and usage of social media.
    Using these mediums I would connect undecided voters to pages and information about my candidates postions on policy and proposed policy. These are the topics most interested by an educated demographic.

  3. It should be without question that candidates and elected politicians should use social media to raise awareness of (and, to a lesser extent, organize) forums for voters in physical skills. But as much as organizing and consolidating collectives, the most successful social media campaigns keep voters informed about the candidate and familiarize them enough with the candidate and other supporters to make them feel as if they are part of a movement but never make voters as if they are being advertised to. If I were the manager of a digital campaign, then, I would shift away my focus from press releases recounting what the candidate said in a speech that day or whose endorsement he received and instead focus on employing preexisting online social networks online to deliver my candidate’s message. I would generate hashtags like #tcot that voters would feel proud of tagging onto the end of their tweets and design Facebook cover photos like the ones President Obama’s campaign has to boost the informal networks my candidate’s supporters are already organically building.

  4. farleyan says:

    I completely agree with the idea that a solid reason for the Dean campaign’s failure is due to the fact that these social media sites only attracted supporters of the campaign, and didn’t necessarily get undecided or opposing voters to contribute and learn about Dean. To answer your question, I think getting these kinds of voters to join the discussion is a difficult thing to do – why should they follow a campaign that they’re uninterested in or opposed to? I guess I would start with social networks that have an inherently diverse demographic with regards to the political spectrum, and encourage the users that I know are supporters to “retweet” or “share” messages from my campaign. This would hopefully lead to their friends and followers learning more about my campaign through people that they know and trust. But this is not at all a science, especially because digital world trends change so quickly that it’s hard to keep up with how people behave on a day-to-day basis. Great question!

  5. christinab3 says:

    I believe the Internet has many amazing opportunities for political campaigns,therefore if I were a campaign manager today I would use the Internet as a major part of my campaign. Learning from Dean, I would not base my entire campaign around it. I would use it to fundraise and increase name recognition through social media. I would make sure to not rely on social sites to do all the work for me and instead, I would make sure to have professionals scout out locations and gauge the amount of supporters.

  6. Travis Gonyou says:

    I think that you made a great point when you said that organizational possibilities are greater with the internet as a campaign tool. Failing to recognize this was the mistake, as you’ve stated, with the Dean campaign. The future is ambiguous with using the internet as a tool and I’m not sure that it is an effective tool for persuasion. The closest that campaigns have come to has been online advertisements on search engines, website banners and social media sites. Especially with the ability to personalize and micro target, these messages can reach the core people that yet might be undecided. The most effective use thus far of social media has been organization of supporters and facilitation of fundraising, which is completely within the realm of supporters. Once campaigns recognize this and base their tactics off of this knowledge, it will be a viable resource.

  7. kcarney91 says:

    If I were managing a media campaign today, I feel there have been developments that have assisted with personalization and keeping individuals involved and commenting on the campaign on topic. I think the major flaw in the Dean campaign was that they had no control over what individuals were doing while on their social networking sites, which created a movement versus a rallying point for a candidate. I think it is essential to use social media as a tool to advocate your candidate and personalize their content to interested supporters and voters. It also should be used as a forum, but it is essential to maintain a form of two way communication between potential voters and the candidate to keep discussion on topic and effective to promote the candidates views and positions to give them the best chance to use the media properly and rally supporters and get crucial votes.

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