Collaborative online tools for political campaigning

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You don’t need to be a big national campaign to use the myriad suite of free online tools. With the analysis of the Brown victory in Massachusetts continuing, it is emerging that this state-level campaign made extensive use of Google Apps:

But something else has Google reps particularly chuffed: how much the Brown campaign, they say, relied upon Google’s full suite of tools, including their free online collaborative apps. Brown’s new media director Robert Willington tweeted, for example, “Where would our #masen campaign be without google docs? scary thought.” The Brown campaign, said the company, relied upon Gmail Chat to communicate. And then, says Google, there was their election-day voter protection hotline, run through — you guessed it — Google Voice.

Google’s collaboration applications are truly amazing for campaigns of all kinds (as I’ve written here). The more dispersed the campaign is, the more useful they are, but even in an office environment, the multi-user, simultaneous editing of documents and databases is well worth the loss of a few bells and whistles from MS Office. Google Voice is unfortunately not yet available in Australia, but tools like Google Chat and Gmail are very powerful collaboration tools – allowing campaigners and organisers in the field to communicate in real time with staff back in campaign.

The Republicans in Mass. also used Google’s advertising features extensively:

Google reps are reporting that the campaign dropped $145,000 on a “network blast” that saturated the Internet with Brown ads in the final days of the campaign, and all told the campaign spent some $230,000 on YouTube ads and overlays, visual ads, and in-search advertising.

For local political campaigns, the kinds of strategic targeting you can achieve can be pin-point. Google allows you to go local – in fact their entire advertising business relies on relevance. Aspiring local political candidates would do well to strongly consider targeted local online advertising (not just on Google, but Bing which has 10% of the share compared to Google’s 60%, and on Facebook and MySpace as well). The key is targeting:

The ads, delivered using the “Google network blast” or “surge” tactic, include messages specific to each region; ads targeted to people living near Plymouth, Massachusetts, encourage supporters to “Volunteer in Plymouth.”

Online advertising is relatively inexpensive – you can control your marketing spend to as much or as little as you want. A local campaign with relatively few dollars at the start can have a “slow burn” while they fundraise. (Of course, online advertising should be in addition to coreflutes, letterboxing leaflets, streets stalls, door-knocking, and all the other traditional campaigning techniques.)

[Democrat candidate] Coakley’s side — thinking that it had the race sewn up — didn’t invest in a Google Ad strategy until new media strategists from Organizing for America got involved in the race

Ignore online advertising at your peril.