Dean’s Tactically Ran Campaign

Howard Dean’s campaign for the Democratic nominee in the 2004 presidential campaign marks the start of studying how Internet can be used in political campaigns (Hindman p.127).  Dean’s campaign introduced this method of an interactive website by allowing user generated content, rather than simply posting their brochure online.  The problem with Dean’s online campaign though was that it was being declared successful by tactical measures rather than strategic metrics as Dave Karpf points out leads to failure.

As a review, tactical measurements online count the number of online signatures, visits to the website, blog posts, etc (Karpf p. 151).  These measurements were very successful for Dean’s campaign: supporters were able to create blog posts, the website was heavily viewed and publicized, and it went through extreme viral growth (Trippi).  This made the campaign appear to be successful from the outside, but that hype was short lived once the primaries began.

At the point of the primaries, the lack of strategic measures took the lime light.  These are what measure success (Karpf p. 151).  Dean failed to win in the first primaries, which was unexpected for him and he was not ready to combat the loss (Shirky p.8).  His tactical measurements did not pull enough weight to win the elections and therefore the success they were hoping for did not occur.  That is where a campaign goes wrong: Tactical measurements are not what win; strategic measures (what actually produces the win) are.

Even though Dean raised large amounts of money online and appeared to have supporters, it still failed (Hindman p. 125).  When people sign up for things online, they don’t always feel obligated to follow through.  What ways are we seeing now from candidates that gather support online and maintain it to the polls? What are the strategic measures that work today?

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