What Will the Future of Mobile Messaging Mean for the Future of Get-Out-the-Vote Operations?

BOTTOM LINE UP FRONT: Let's take time to think about how we can get ahead of the strategic curve in the long term while coming up with tactics to win in the short term.

Hat tip to Katie Harbath for tweeting this news item: "Three-Quarters of the World's Messages Sent By Mobile"

"According to TNS Global, 74% of the world’s digital messages were sent through a mobile device in January 2009, a 15% increase over the previous year.

"As for developed countries, the PC e-mail remains the most popular message method, but its use is waning.

"In Japan, 40 out of 100 e-mails sent are from a mobile device. In North America, 69% of those using e-mail on their mobile phone use it daily, high compared with 43% worldwide."

I've written previously about the Pew Internet & American Life Project's "Future of the Internet Report," which has two interesting observations: (1) the mobile device will be the primary connection tool to the internet for most people in the world in 2020, and (2) the divisions between personal time and work time and between physical and virtual reality will be further erased for everyone who is connected, and the results will be mixed in their impact on basic social relations. The National Taxpayers Union put things to practice recently, launching a text messaging advocacy service, a creative tool to enhance that organization's grassroots operations.

Rebuilding our party doesn't only mean taking an inventory of every tool that's available and seeing how those tools fit campaigns and party organizations today; it also means seeing what the trends might be 5, 10 or 20 years from now and creating tools that can put us ahead of the curve. I do not have the proper fusing of sufficient technical skills with amazing creativity that many programmers and coders do ... which is why Code Red has been launched.

So despite my relative technical ignorance, I think a few observations need to be made about how campaigns might be affected, and where can campaigns might go, with increased use of mobile messaging. Yes, all parts of the campaign will be affected from communications on down. But increased use of mobile devices by voters to get most of their information will have a special impact on GOTV operations:

  • Voter identification, persuasion and GOTV efforts will have to be more integrated. With personal and work time being merged as well as physical and virtual reality, campaigns and party organizations will have to embark on a long term, on-going voter identification efforts to see when and how often they receive messages and Internet content.
  • With social networking sites and programs going mobile, GOTV messages will have to balance simplicity with engaging material. GOTV messages won't only come in the form of SMS and MMS. These alerts will come via Facebook and Twitter as well, where more and more this social networking activity takes place on iPhones and BlackBerries. Sending simple information on polling locations as well as early and mail-in ballot voting will have to become more easily searchable on any mobile device. Voters will also want a quick and easy way to engage with the campaign or party organization if they want to: a mobile version of an "action center" will have to be developed.
  • As more and more messages are sent via mobile devices, the tools developed by campaigns and party organizations might need to expand horizontally to include different versions for different devices. The Obama app for the iPhone has somewhat started this thought. As the web will play a greater role in helping campaigns organically enhance their grassroots activism, those with different devices will need different versions of tools to suit their personal needs when receiving GOTV messages and spreading those messages to their neighbors, co-workers and family members.

Those are just some of my thoughts. I may be right. I may be way off base. How do you think campaigns will change with increased use of mobile devices?

In the meantime, RebuildTheParty.com reminds us all about the basics of GOTV ... Go Tedisco! 

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if only the gop wasn't so dead set against

rural broadband... ya?



Every few years we get this breathless nonsense about the use of new technologies in campaigns. Howard Deans' online fund-raising was of course pre-dated by Republican efforts a decade earlier. Now its SMS and the mobile web. The bigger story, which of course was ignored in favor of focusing on the shiny new gadgets the Dean campaign was using, was why was Dean attracting so many contributions? It wasn't because the request for funds came in an email or was read on a website, but because something about Dean's message resonated with voters. You can send SMS messages until the cows come home, but if what you are saying isn't resonating at some level, you've just wasted your time. Focus on the message.