Mike Huckabee is Running the Best Web Campaign
BY Zephyr Teachout | Sunday, November 25 2007
Mike Huckabee's campaign has the most effective online operation of any of the candidates.
If you've been reading this site at all over the last month and a half, this conclusion will not surprise you, but let me recap.
1. He has the best use of video in the year that YouTube matteres the most. He is the only candidate consistently--every day--sharing user-created videos on his blog, the videos that many predicted would dominate this election. The user-created videos are far more irreverent (even tweaking Huckabee himself) than videos other campaigns will share, and they are far more interesting. They compare Huckabee to other candidates directly, mashup images and music. And the videos are popular enough to make people return--and then create their own. No other candidates (except Paul) has signalled that they are open to regularly pushing creative supporter videos.
2. He has done minor blogger outreach since April, to great effect; the twice-a-month phone calls with Huckabee and bloggers (homeschoolers, godbloggers, anyone who wanted to sign up) has paid off handsomely in the last month, as these loyal bloggers--long cultivated--have resisted the big evangelical endorsements of other leaders. If you listen to the calls (dozens are online), they show some politicking, but enough real engagement to both create loyalty and show that he is actually using these calls to listen to ideas. He has not gotten hung up on big name bloggers, but focused on small ones.
3. His blog has typos. This is not in itself a good thing, but evidence of a good thing. A website is not a candidate, and it is not a flyer, but most people encounter websites more like they do an individual than they do a flyer--does it excude some authenticity, does it actually attempt to communicate, or does it try to shut down any conversation except "My candidate is the bees knees." Huckabee's campaign could do better--far better--at sharing responses to issues, and being more transparent, but as the candidates sites go, it feels like it is being written by a person trying to communicate, not a person trying to spin. The typos are evidence that not every blog post goes through several vetting processes. On the Dean campaign, Trippi would vet the posts, but largely AFTER they were up, mad as that may sound--so when I blogged, it was me trying to communicate. And we regularly had typos that were corrected by readers. Some blogs should be typo-free, but a candidate blog with no typos is evidence that it is basically a flyer, not a communication tool.
4. His website is not a Stepford Site. It has big buttons that are about making it easy for users, not slick presentation that are about making it impressive for the webteam. There is no splash page (aka the Stepford Splash), creating an instant corporo-hurdle to engagement before even getting to the site.
5. He encourages independent action. He encourages people to go to Meetup. He encourages the growth of Huck's Army (a very active independent Huckabee forum). He encourages the videos mentioned above. He encourages supporter-driven fundraising days. In a thousand small subtle ways and a few very explicit ways, the website communicates that supporters are expected to lead independent, creative efforts to elect him.
All of this has led to massive rise in traffic (now well above Clinton's and Obama's, only lower than Ron Paul's). And like Ron Paul's supporters' use of the internet, it is helping him in the polls and in support around the country. Unlike Ron Paul, the "help" may lead to winning key states and the primary.
He has shown a sustained effort at using the web as a tool for empowering people, and it shows. So has Ron Paul, but Huckabee is a more important example for many, because it is Huckabee's team--not the supporters--who have led the charge on this.
Huckabee's site has some real flaws, which lead to me to conclude that it is the most effective site, but not praiseworthy. It does not give easy to find information about Huckabee's substantive responses to Pakistan, the Subprime scandal, etc. In other words, it doesn't give citizens the tools they need to judge how he would respond to the current world. These additions--constant, real-time responses to the world--would also lead to more traffic and more attention, as people are more likely to share a site they find useful than one they find cheerleading. But this is not a flaw unique to Huckabee.
Full disclosure: I do not support Mike Huckabee.