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Reflection on Millennial Makeover

Michael Hais first describes in Millennial Makeover: Myspace, Youtube and the Future of American Politics, the patterns of realignment we have seen in political history. Not associated with the specific elections, but more reliant on a shift in political alignment based on the ‘era’ following waves of one sided political majority. In the beginning of the 20th century we saw a swap from states that were primarily blue turn red, and red to blue. The foundation of this information sets up the book to describe the shift we that is occurring in the current state of the politics as we shift to political within an online arena. In the book we begin to see how waves of followers turn to the web, which influences their viewpoints on political issues.

In a section of the book called, “Technological + Generational Change = Realignment,” Hais begins to explain the political shift that is taking place in a more present time. A major point that stood out when reading this chapter was, “But without the emergence of new generations with new attitudes and beliefs, as well as a passion for using these new technologies, neither the telegraph and telephone of the nineteenth century, nor the broadcast media of radio and television in the twentieth century, nor even this century’s internet and mobile communication capabilities would be able to make any real difference in American politics. To understand why America’s political cycles exist and will persist, it is particularly important to understand the cycles of generational change that underpin and ultimately produce political realignments.” I believe this sets the framework for how we understand and identify the newly emerging viewpoints of a newer generation that is just now uncovered in recent elections and appears to be wielding the masses.

From multiple viewpoints realignments are viewed as occurring due to cycles  of political alignment and birthrates, as well as towards political figures and their characteristics in regards to leadership and speechmaking. As we move through the eras, the media takes a greater role in disseminating information to the public, which largely had an impact on political opinion as we are seeing today with the Internet and how voters access information.


A Look at “The Argument”

Following twelve years of Republican rule, Matt Bai followed the newly formed group of “progressives” who were tapping in to new technologies online from all over the country. They were breaking in to the age of blogging, which began a shift in politics to a more tech heavy environment, which everyone would have to adapt to. In his book, “The Argument; Billionaires, Bloggers and the Battle to Remake Democratic Politics” Bai dives into the political sea of these new progressives spreading across America.

The book opens with a look at Election Day in 2004, in which Bai describes the events of day from an insiders perspective, recounting the events that take place unheard of to outsiders. Known to few, the conversations that take place through this day were also shifting online. Bai introduces Jerome Armstrong, who was one of the first to start online political blogging. On election day, Armstrong received over 100,000 blog hits after receiving poll stats and knowing how to reach out and grasp an audience that would be looking for this information before media received the news and announced it through television.

Bai moves on to discuss the power of the list and knowing who to contact first when news hits, how having a list of respondents for mass e-mail can be key to spreading information quickly. He uses examples of MoveOn.org, a movement that began with the Clinton scandals, at a time when impeachment sounded like a good idea to a large conservative population. MoveOn just wanted everyone to get over the drama and move back to politics. He the moves on to discuss other ways in which we have moved into an online capacity for politic information gathering and dissemination. They key events, told in a tone that oddly resembles Malcolm Gladwell’s writing style (in my opinion). Bai recounts key events and the context in which they took place that moved us into the technological era we are in with online politics.


Looking to Past Campaigns; Mobilizing a Generation and Organizing for America

Mobilizing Generation 2.outlines seven keys elements of the “2.0” virtually dependent reality we currently thrive in. Those elements, outline as chapters are blogging, social networking, video and photo sharing, mobile phones, wikis, maps and virtual worlds. To some, these may seem obvious as the term “web 2.0” is really up to how the user chooses to define it. This book refers to the world we now live in, the next phase of the web, being referred to as 2.0 or second edition. We are even hypothesized as to be moving quickly into web 3.0. From my experience in CCT, web 2.0 has been referred to as the ability for users to interact and share personalized data, text or graphics in real time. To some or most, their definition is a mixture of the two. In Mobilizing Generation 2.0, each element (or chapter) is broken down into a series of examples, tips and steps as to how one could use the tool to generate mobilization of youth in a digitally dependent world.

Personally, I was drawn to the mobile phone and virtual world chapters. Mobile phones will definitely be playing a central role in upcoming elections, as I’ve mentioned in previous posts. It’s been used in the past for petitions, event recruitment, and the timeliness of this medium is heavily discussed as in a n example of the Asthma U.K. text-alert campaign that warned asthma suffers about high pollen days, and times to avoid being outdoors to bring along some remedies. When applying information from this chapter, it is clear that (published in 2008) this book does has not yet realized the potential of smartphones. With smartphones we can connect not only through text messaging but through mobile applications, which can be used to store and collect much more information as well as connect individuals through mobile mapping and messages without tapping into text messaging.

When first investigating Mobilizing Generations 2.0, I was a bit skeptical as to how virtual worlds could be used in mobilizing a generation, as they don’t seem very mainstream or have the ability to mobilize people to vote or become active towards a cause. I then learned of examples where media coverage can be taken into the virtual world, connecting and engaging supporters is possible. Maybe not on a large scale population frame of mind, but on a global scale.Users have sold virtual items for charity, but I still don’t personally see how this can translate into a large enough impact into todays economic environment to make a difference.

A more recent piece, Year One of Organizing for America, was written post Obama Campaign and features a wealth of information about the permanent field campaign in the digital age and was written by Ari Melber. It looks at a number of arenas where digital campaigning came into play and how people were mobilized. Organizing For America (OFA), is what Obama’s campaign was referred to. The report focuses on the first year of OFA in 2009. The first area that was looked at was Community and Reform and looked at areas of politics where people could become engaged and support Obama and where they could begin to reform.”Obama’s post-election effort provided a separate, nonpolicy organizing track explicitly focused on fostering community,” as the OFA was more focused on community and indirect contact with supports. The image of engagement was there, but the actual interaction with OFA was less obvious. OFA was thought of as being a non-political, but governmental campaign to support issues directly affecting america and not the elections, although they were a secondary triumph as the majority of issues that were sided with under OFA were democratic. It effecting increased volunteerism and had a clear strategic agenda.


The Importance of Measuring Your Media

Dr. Alan Roseblatt published two articles on FrogLoop.com in October 2010, which to this day remains relevant. In the first article, Measuring the Impact of Your Social Media Program, he discuss the critical assessment of Return on Investment, for both non-profits and advocacy campaigns. For social media campaigns/programs, the ability to measure your engagement can be crucial to the success of your campaign. It allows you to determine what works well and what can be altered. In Measuring Social Madia Reach, Rosenblatt looks at the audience size, hashtags, impressions, and an analysis of your followers/fans. He opens the article by discussing how influence is comprised of three main categories of metrics: reach, engagement and driving traffic to your website.

“Simply put, reach is about the size of your audience and how many people see your social advocacy messages. Reach features your largest success metric number—the number of people who see (potentially) your message. Since more people will see your social media posts than will click on any links within them, it is imperative that the posts contain your key message points. That way, just reading the posts will deliver value to your audience and to your programmatic goals,” opens Rosenblatt when discussing reach. This leads to his second article, Rules of Social Media Engagement, in which Rosenblatt discusses ways in which to track what’s trending through social media (ie. re-tweets and hashtags). He looks at top websites that offer link shorteners and the ability to track who clicks on and shares your link, such as bit.ly or hootsuite.com. By far, the largest takeaway from this duo of articles, is his Final Thoughts on Metrics of Success, “The metrics discussed here provide a good set of indicators to help you identify the general performance of your social media program. But in and of themselves, they leave out some important performance metrics. For example, you still want to know if you are improving your brand recognition and reputation, are you creating enduring memes and raising public awareness of your issues, and did the policy you pushed for pass or fail as you hoped it would. These remain important metrics, but inevitably are the most difficult to use. They are easy to measure, but attributing causality to your social media program will be as difficult as saying a commercial caused a person to buy a product. You can correlate them to each other, but assigning the causal relationship is tough”.

From these articles, we learn the importance of hashtags, where to find out what they mean, why they’re being used and how you can start trending. We also learn some metrics of measuring engagement and reach and how those figures can help drive traffic to your website. Finally, we’ve learned that the resulting affect of measuring social media performance is that these statistics generated can be used to influence those that allow the social media manager to continue engaging users for an advocacy group or non-profit, which in todays environment may carry the largest benefit due to the earned media, costing little to nothing for these groups that already have little funds to allocate to campaign advertising.


The Obama Campaign: Success in Online Fundraising

In the article “How Candidates Can Use The Internet To Win In 2010” by Colin Delaney is like a “how to” guide for online campaign developers. He discusses first how the Obama campaign utilized their online presence to reap the rewards of online donations and what worked well for them, outreach. He then goes into tools, the timing of asking for donations and resources one can use, online reach, fundraising/mobilization and concludes by putting all these pieces together. Delaney is clearly an expert on a number of topics related to political campaigns, specifically online. He also wrote an piece, which was the onset of a series of articles, titled, “Learning From Obama: Lessons for Online Communicators in 2009 & Beyond,” which discusses similar points as to how the Obama campaign used the internet and social media to rally voters and obtain donations.

“On MyBarackObama.com, or MyBO, Obama’s own socnet, 2 million profiles were created. In addition, 200,000 offline events were planned, about 400,000 blog posts were written and more than 35,000 volunteer groups were created — at least 1,000 of them on Feb. 10, 2007, the day Obama announced his candidacy. Some 3 million calls were made in the final four days of the campaign using MyBO’s virtual phone-banking platform. On their own MyBO fundraising pages, 70,000 people raised $30 million,” this quote clearly from Delaney Learning From Obama article shows the magnitude of what Obama was able to do online, and he was the first of the presidential candidates to take advantage of this open space to reach voters.

In Lessons From Obama, Delaney points out how we can learn from Obama’s success and touches on a few main points, these points are elaborated also in his article Winning in 2010:

  • Start early
  • Build to scale
  • Innovate where necessary; do everything else incrementally better
  • Make it easy to find, forward and act
  • Pick where you want to play
  • Channel online enthusiasm into specific, targeted activities that further the campaign’s goals
  • Integrate online advocacy into every element of the campaign

In the upcoming election year, we will definitely see these social media tips incorporated as well as elements incorporated that may not have been anticipated in 2010, such as the heavy use of smartphones and cellular donations.

One of the key elements discussed in Lessons From Obama, that I personally feel stuck out was Delaney’s view on Constituent Relations Management and the importance of this within the online presence. Too easily, I believe web managers are driven to think of getting the donations and being done with the customer with a simple “thank you, come again”. What worked, as Delaney pointed out, is that with CRM the user is able to break down the list of followers by gender, demographic, location and target specific user. This in turn, makes the user appear as though the candidate knows who they are would reach out to them personally in this targeted outreach. Staying in touch with supporters is also helpful as Delaney states, “Staying in touch with supporters via cell phone text messaging, it’s been the “next big thing” in online politics for several years now – and it still is”.

To further emphasize the importance of Obama’s fundraising success, check out this info graphic from Xplane.com (click to enlarge):


Mobilizing the Mobile Campaign Strategy; Driving Force for the Upcoming Election Year

In the MobileActive.org Strategy Guide for Using Mobile Phones in Advocacy Campaigns, we were introduced to a number of examples and a case study of countries around the world incorporating mobile phone usage to engage and gather support; allowing people to easily take action and join a cause. Through this guide, we were able to apply the tools and guidelines for using and monitoring a campaign strategy to upcoming 2012 election campaigns that will definitely be integrating mobile applications and SMS text messaging to track, reach, update and mobilize voters. In the article, Trend to Watch in 2012 – The Rise of Mobile by Katie Harbath, published on techPresident, Harbath describes why the use of mobile devices were not incorporated as heavily in past elections, because they simply rose to popularity after campaign strategies were implemented and it was much more difficult to understand, create, implement and measure a mobile campaign halfway into an election.

MobileActive.org outlined a number of helpful guidelines for creating a mobile strategy after outlining how these guidelines were used in past campaigns such as with “Oxfam UK in April 2006 who provided additional data. The organization contacted 2,000 supporters via SMS text message to recruit volunteers to help write content about local events for their website. 10% responded back, providing their email address for follow-up”. We can only expect results to be much more aggressive with campaigns in the United States for the election year. Harbath gives similar examples stating, “For us at the National Republican Senatorial Committee our first ventures into mobile were the launch of an iPhone app in May 2010, the first of any of the party committees to do so, and the building of a very simple mobile version of NRSC.org. With very little statistics out there on what the political online mobile community looks like I wanted to start gathering some data so we were making intelligent decisions on using mobile and not just flying blind. While our iPhone app didn’t get used as much for uploading and sharing user content as I hoped it would, it was accessed over 26,000 times in five months by people watching our videos or looking for information on the candidates. I think a candidate using an iPhone app would see even more use by its visitors, especially presidential candidates”. These results are not surprising.

In the guide published by MobileActive.org, some of the steps for a successful mobile advocacy campaign are:

  1. Set goals and plan your mobile advocacy campaign
  2. Identify a vendor to run the campaign
  3. Develop a marketing plan to reach your mobile constituents
  4. Craft the mechanics of your campaign and your mobile messaging steps
  5. Set up your system to get your mobile data into your in-house database
  6. Decide on your campaign closure and evaluation activites

These are all great steps to follow with any type of marketing campaign; the simply break down into set goals, identify methods of monitoring, develop marketing plan, create marketing material, methods of storing data and set the timeline/sequence of events. Determining a timeline and sequence of events for constituent outreach is definitely a great tool in allowing the implementor to determine where they are in the progression of the campaign. Both articles gave great outlines for campaign strategizing and development.

The upcoming election year will no doubt have the most engagement of any campaigns past. In the most recent presidential elections, we saw the mobilization physically of more people and the activity online, however, we had not yet adopted the mobile application use that we will definitely see next year. The engagement was there, but the ease of contact and engagement was less progressive than it will be next year. Live tweeting sessions, facebook groups/events and mobile applications will most likely lead the way for campaign strategies during election year.


Rapid Change in Online Group Dynamic (Filtering to Come)

As discussed in my previous post, Here Comes Everybody: The Power of Organizing Without Organizations, a book by Clay Shirky, is based primarily around the internet and group dynamic within the context of organization, mobilization and cohesion within a global reach of individuals through online communities and outreach. The book opens with an example of how drastically the masses of people can come together to support a cause they feel passionately about, even if the subject has little affect on the grander picture within the lives of those participating in the debate over Ivanna’s stolen cellphone.

The book moves in to cover topics surrounding media outlets, social dilemmas, institutional challenges and the pace of user generated content. Within media outlets he states that how our media world is shaped has now shifted so that it is cluttered with the output of those qualified and unqualified informers and potential influencers. I have to agree, at some point, those that are exporting information to others and don’t have viable information can be doing harm online, but the wealth of information we now have makes it difficult for some people not to be informed.

Shirky describes the loss of social capital and how don’t necessary hold others to a certain standard within our social lives. In the mid-1900s, social structures were built on interactions and less on our online space, we built relationships based on who we had access to and made sure those were strong relationships, building circles. Now, we’re building circles online through spaces such as Google+, where they literally call them “your circles”. When we take a minute to think of this, most people have forgone joining clubs and organizations due to their satisfaction with connecting with those that they find online and supporting global causes rather than hyper-local causes.

The challenge of institutions, due to the collective actions of the masses, is the cost at which these actions are worked out, there virtually is none. People can act online, completely bypassing the institutions money making ability to coordinate actions. They then lose the control of the collective. Talent and why people contribute their time is, or the motive, is now taken out of real time and put online, which makes it much more difficult to track for institutions, they lose the ability to know why people are joining causes, if the institution is not currently online using extensive tracking methods. In our Internet Politics class, Simon Owens discussed InfoGraphics and the ability for those to be tracked by bloggers and web-producers, but on a much smaller scale, the motive of those sharing may be skeptical to larger institutions without the ability to hire PR agencies.

Finally, I’ll discuss what Shirky refers to in one of his earlier chapters as “Publish, Then Filter”. Shirky is describing the action of amateurs online to publish irrelevant information with editing or filtering what they are stating, they are simply putting it out there for all to see. This is an interesting concept, because most people (myself included at times), don’t think about who might attain what we are putting online and what some of the consequences of publishing this data can be.

Overall, Shirky’s book was relatable and defined some interesting concepts that can be easily understood by non-techies. The social behavior of organizing large groups without the interference of grand organizations is rapidly changing. The way we come together, connect and motivate others has taken on much different roles than past years due to the rapid alteration in our abilities to use the internet.  In the future, we may see that their will be communities online that attempt to build offline relationships in a more successful manner.