March 22, 2012

A caution against over confidence in progressive tech dominance

Filed under: Politics, Technology — kgilnack @ 6:02 pm

In a recent post on Campaigns & Elections, Colin Delany, the founder and editor of Epolitics.com, posits that the GOP has a shallow bench when it comes to digital talent.

I’m psyched to have Lauren Miller here in Mass. helping Elizabeth Warren make sure Scott Brown is only a half-termer. And I do think that Democrats have benefits by attracting more young, tech savvy people to their cause and developing that talent, with the added benefit of many nonprofits employing and empowering typically more progressive younger folks to maintain their social media.

Howard Dean pioneered online organizing in campaigns, Obama and BSD perfected it, and all across the country progressives have been leveraging tech for longer and more effectively than their GOP counterparts.

BUT, it’s been 12 years since the digital component of campaigns came on the scene, and I think it would be a huge mistake for Democrats to expect they still have a significant edge in technology.

When I joined Twitter almost four years ago, conservatives had a highly utilized hashtag, that pretty much every conservative I follow uses (don’t worry, there aren’t many). At the time there were three competing options, and I still couldn’t tell you of a one-stop hashtag for picking up news of interest to progressives.

Republican Presidential candidate Ron Paul’s grassroots supporters were the first to start “moneybombs,” and this remains a tactic I see used far more prevalently by Republicans than Democrats.

In the 2012 GOP Presidential Primary race, we’ve already seen plenty of web-based ads, and some pretty sophisiticatged microtargeting. Already we’ve seen some pretty sophisticated microtargeting in this presidential primary race . And I believe moneybombs originated, or at least are leveraged more with conservative candidates.

If you look on Twitter, in news and blog comments, Examiner articles, etc., you’ll see that conservatives have found very clever ways of creating AstroTurf as well as creating organized communities. They’ve found strategies for building up loud voices that amplify their messages and drive action/money, and have gotten very adept at online ads.

Even when Scott Brown was a nobody, he staffed up with some folks like Rob Willington who put mobile apps to work,  designed great websites, fostered excellent engagement and fundraising via social media, and leveraged Google ads and realtime results brilliantly (even if arguably unethically).

Plus there are (probably somewhat smaller, but perhaps potentially better funded) Republican digital strategy shops like this one growing and advances on the platform side of things.

We’ve already seen Scott Brown’s team parrot Obama’s Truth Squad and I wouldn’t go into this cycle underestimating his team’s prowess, or that of any others in races across the country.

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