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Web 2.0 For Local Races?

BY Micah L. Sifry | Wednesday, May 30 2007

Ben Katz of CompleteCampaigns.com writes with a really good question: How much should lower-level political candidates try to adopt the multi-faceted internet strategies of the presidential campaigns? Here's his email:

I've been enjoying reading your updates on TechPresident about how Presidential campaigns are using web 2.0 tools such as MySpace, YouTube and Digg.

And while I find these very exciting for the Presidential campaigns, I keep coming back to the same question: How does this impact the rest of politics? Do these tools have any impact on the 1,000 congressional campaigns, 5,000 legislative races or approximately 500,000 local campaigns?

Does it make sense for a legislative campaign to setup a MySpace page, when the Presidential candidates are only averaging about 5 friends per legislative district? Will it help or hurt a Congressional campaign to setup a page, if they only have a handful of friends?

For the past 7 years, my company, CompleteCampaigns.com, has been working to make it as easy as possible for candidates at all levels to use technology to manage and run their campaigns. We were one of the first to offer an integrated web-based CRM & accounting package to campaigns, to utilize AJAX to make a political web application behave more like software, to offer integrated broadcast email tools, to allow distributed phone banks and an API for data submissions.

However, the technology is changing as fast as we can keep track of it. So I thought I'd pose the question to you, your contributors and your readers: What tools, technology and Web 2.0 companies should congressional, state and local campaigns be looking at for 2008?

My quick answer to Ben's question is this: Campaigns at all levels of politics risk ignoring these new tools and practices at their peril. The biggest difference between a congressional or city council race and the presidential campaigns is that voters obviously pay less attention--in aggregate--at the local level and thus there is less spontaneous self-organizing energy for a campaign to tap by engaging supporters on big social networking platforms.

But, conversely, it doesn't take as many passionate volunteers or muckraking bloggers to make or break a campaign at the local level, either. So while I wouldn't invest energy in trying to get my supporters to "digg" a story about a congressional race, since it is not likely to be as interesting to a national readership as a national candidate, I would still make sure to establish a presence wherever large numbers of potential supporters are congregating online, be it MySpace, Facebook, or a popular blog hub like DailyKos.

What do you think?