It’s clear that both candidates have been advised that “social media” is going to be very important, with their various web based videos, their blogs. Even Hillary’s tagline “let the conversation begin” seems to have come from some breathless political strategists mind as they heard that “blogs were conversations”, but has obviously never written a blog before. Additionally Hillary’s blog has no entries in it, just an invitation to sign up and write a “blog post” for them, weird, i’m sure people want to hear what they think, surely they’ll get plenty of “man on the street” feedback from the comments.
Interestingly Barak Obama’s latest web based feature is my.barackobama.com which is essentially a social network for Barak Obama supporters. An interesting strategy, rather than using existing technologies like Howard Dean did, like friendster and meetup, Barak’s camp has decided to build their own (although no one knows who they hired at this point). It’s certainly not new to have constituents sign up to get access to tools for fundraising and organizing but this is the closest i’ve seen to a candidate branded social network.
As I was browsing both Hillary’s site and Obama’s I found an enormous contrast between the sign up screens that was worth noting. Obama’s sign up screen provides a really good overview of what your going to get once you sign up. Hillary’s on the other hand seems to be more about what you’re going to do for her. Another interesting contrast is Obama’s asks for a lot less information, he doesn’t need your mailing address, just your zip code, and by providing that your immediately presented groups and events in your area. Asking people for information in a sign up form is always a negotiation and in this case it seems Obama’s sign up screen is superior in communicating what your going to get and only asking for what they need. Hillary’s on the other hand is ambiguous about what your going to get and is really asking for information they want to help them market to you better, as opposed to what they need to serve you better.
In the end people are not going to switch loyalties based on sign up screens, but conversion rates matter. How many more of his supporters is Obama going to sign up and get engaged in the process? Political campaigns have always been a co-creative activity where they rely on the passion and activity of their supporters, but the internet, web2.0, and social media are amplifying the impact that those supporters can have, and the better the candidates “employ” those supporters the better.