Considered one of the longest campaigns in American history, beginning nearly two years prior to the election day. The 2008 race for the White House is crowded and full of interactive PR, social media, new internet marketing, new avenues of media revenue and voter attraction.
Diverging from previous campaigns where a candidate was considered progressive if they had an online presence, in 2008 it is imperative for a candidate to have a focused online strategy. If a candidate lacks complex online marketing strategies and an army of social networking minions applying web 2.0 efforts they are behind the curve and if they don’t have an online presence they might as well concede the race.
Largely pioneered by Howard Dean in 2004, the battle for voters online has become a hotly contested one. Each of the major Democratic and Republican candidates has established a web presence and has made it a vital part of their campaign, garnering record online contributions to their campaigns (Hillary Rodham Clinton, John Edwards, Barak Obama, Rudy Giuliani, Mike Huckabee, John McCain, Ron Paul and Mitt Romney).
Primary results aside, Congressman Ron Paul is leading the charge in this web 2.0 world: in two months, a user video for Paul caught 16,000 views, making it the sixth most popular of 2007; he’s got a Twitter feed and a Justin.tv lifecast; 5,589 fans on Facebook; and a staff that makes a clutter-less or seizure free MySpace page. Yes, Ron Paul has it all 2.0 and it’s translating into dollars. On Guy Fawkes Day, he set a record for one-day fund raising by a Republican, gathering $4.2 million from online sources. Six weeks later he hit $6 million in one day.
If we look at the other side of the coin. The Democratic Senator Obama raised $6.9 million—more than a quarter of his total—over the Internet from more than 50,000 online donors, a base of supporters his campaign hopes to cultivate into regular givers. Obama is also setting records because the campaign contributions that he is receiving are coming from small donations online and adding up to big dollars. His campaign said 90 percent of the online contributions were for $100 or less. Not to mention the user generated “Obama Girl” and the viral support it generated for him. Remember the Sopranos video spoof Hillary posted on her site that went totally viral? Some might argue it was a first of its kind and that it is more valuable than bigger budget TV ad’s.
In what is shaping up to be a huge year for youth turn out, having a strong online presence is vital to reaching possible like minded individuals. Perhaps the electoral college is proving necessary after all. With it being harder to get the attention of everyone, the candidates are having to reach further into the web 2.0 fabric to garner support.
I’m sure that in this age of information the other candidates are learning from each others campaigns, and they are trying to get as much influence in as they can before the Nominations in late August and early September. Which will finally bring closure to a marathon run for election day.
Paul or Obama may go the way of Dean, but their efforts illustrate two things: creative and serious investments in social media sites get seen and these online forays into social networking can provide major returns. Marketing Companies, SEO specialists and eCommerce capitalists looking to cue into the same markets should take a strategic long look at the ways these candidates are implementing web analytics and social marketing to gather up the support it will take to bring their parties nominations and a hopeful new address at 1600 Pennsylvania avenue.