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The WFP's Networked Google Play

BY Micah L. Sifry | Thursday, August 17 2006

My friends at New York's Working Families Party have launched a smart way to engage their members in a very net-centric way of rolling out their online advertising this fall--they've emailed about 18,000 of the most active members of their 58,000 state list to ask their help in picking the best Google search terms to use in focusing attention on Congressional campaigns.

Writes WFP online organizer Steve Perez, "We want help shaping our strategy. We need to know what phrases people are likely to use when they search for election information. So here's the question - if you wanted to know more about the Congressional race where you live, what would you type into Google?"

Perez is smart; he's tapping into the power of his activist network to fight a net-war for attention. And at the same time he's educating his activist base about a new tool in modern media battles, the search engine. He writes:

As the election draws closer, people are going to go online to find more information. They'll go to Google to search for information about the local candidates and who they want to support - and if we figure out the right search phrases they will see an ad telling them who the Working Families Party has endorsed. They'll find out more about the WFP and our endorsed candidate, and we're one step closer to winning the election.

This is the fastest-growing, and some say the most effective, form of online advertising. That's why Google ads are emerging as a key way to reach people looking for more information about the Congressional election. This is an ad war we need to compete in.

Here's what I like best about Perez's approach. He ends his email with this note: "The more people we have thinking about this, the more and better ideas we'll come up with."

Yes! The people who used to be called the audience, or in this case, the people who used to be called the base, can be fuller participants in political campaigns--if we'll just open the doors and experiment.

Perez tells me that so far he's gotten about 100 replies with suggestions (though, interestingly, no comments on the WFP blog where he also posted his email's text). It will be interesting to see if he can figure out how to extend and nurture this conversation with WFP members in other ways.