Previewing the 2012 Presidential Internet Race

So, despite a few announcements, the 2012 race hasn’t really started in the minds of people who don’t watch C-SPAN (yes, I am aware of all the organizing/fundraising happening). But I thought it was time for a little pre-game commentary on the technology battle ahead, which will, of course, be more important than in 2008. Will the Republicans get creamed again by the special forces that work for OFA?

As we all know, the Organizing for America people (behind President Obama) kicked ass in the technology race of 2008. Why?

– The campaign put a lot more people and money on the job. (They also had many technology volunteers under the radar who made many contributions.)

– They had better platform technology than McCain, who had a clumsy Microsoft platform and no innovation. OFA had a tricked-out Moveable Type setup with lots of customizations and add-ons. Everything they used was open source, and that’s where the innovation is.

– OFA/Obama 2008 took some chances, especially with the sub-sites (The “MyBo” stuff) that allowed people to have their own setup on their servers and voice their own opinions. (I am friends with the techie who built all that.)

Since that drubbing, the GOP now (incorrectly) thinks it has reached parity with the Democrats, because, well, the non-technical right-wing bloggers say so (whatever!) and because the RNC has dumped some serious money into this. (They don’t realize that the OFA nerds are going to move the goalposts.)

So what are we looking for in the early phases of 2012?

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– Innovative Facebook applications

The candidates aren’t doing much there. (Cain has gone a little further than the others.) It will be important for candidates to buy and build third-party applications to their Facebook pages. Yes, the new FB Fan Page design and FBML phase-out has caught the third-party people off-guard, but the vendors are getting settled. OFA did develop that Facebook-based vote committment/sharing tool for the 2010 election – I think we will see much more of that.

– Mobile

Of course, campaigns will need their operatives to have mobile applications while traveling. But the real test is how much horsepower they can place in the hands of their supporters.

– Location

Foursquare’s efforts for the 2010 campaign were just a taste of what is to come. Campaigning is very location-dependent, and there are tremendous opportunities to give supporters tools, and support GOTV efforts with all of the big players. Expect some of the things we saw at SXSW this year to go political.

– Going around the new internet journalism establishment

The fact-checking sites are getting stronger and more popular. We also now have an entrenched group of political sites and bloggers. Just as candidates wanted to get around the MSM, we will start to see candidates using Google bombing and other content farm/SEO tactics to get their opinions directly to the public online – going around the new gatekeepers.

– Volunteer Economics

I am pretty sure we will start to see the Democrats using reward points and competitions among supporters. How do I know this? Because this fantastic feature is in (see description here) – and those guys are in the orbit of the OFA guys. This is one area where I think the Republicans need to get their act together. (I am aware of the RNC API – I am on that mailing list – this is a beginning and has taken too long to get going. It is unclear what the roadmap is.)

– More Crowdsourced Video

I believe we will see a lot more supporter-created video and even commercials that make it to TV. We might even see the new YouTube channels idea (once it gets rolled out) result in campaigns able to field 24×7 programming, thanks to their supporters. It will be interesting to see if this reduces or changes what they do on television.

Stay tuned

Well, this is all I wanted to cover now. I will keep people updated on this competition as things really get going. (And if someone knows the Romney people, tell them that I was impressed at their tracking/social bling all over their wordpress announcement site – and that they had better hire some people who don’t own a tie if they want to compete with OFA.)

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