Political campaigns to leverage mobile more in 2012
Mobile outreach as part of political campaigns is not a flash in the pan and will only increase in the 2012 presidential election, said a panel of experts speaking at a Feb. 14 Brookings Institution event in Washington, D.C.
"I think this is a part of the fundamental transformation of...more people carrying around devices like this all the time and getting a lot of information off of them," said Katie Harbath, associate manager for policy at Facebook.
Half of American adults are now on some social network, said Aaron Smith, senior research specialist at the Pew Research Center's Internet & American Life Project. In May 2011, about 35 percent of the U.S. adult population had smartphones and Pew surveys over the last few weeks show that number is now close to 50 percent.
This increasingly mobile- and social- networked voting population has also changed demographically.
"In 2008 to 2010, in terms of political activity, what we saw with Facebook and social networking sites was a move from the sort of young, sort of Democratic-leaning Obama supporters who really dominated the scene in 2008 to older, sometimes more conservative Tea Party-leaning folks who really became much more active in the 2010 process," said Smith.
According to Harbath, people over the age of 50 are driving social media use on phones because "it's easier for them to use an iPad, an iPhone, or an Android device than it is necessarily a computer." They're also using Facebook on the go as a way to check in with their kids and family.
The Republican National Committee is tapping into this growing demographic of networked sharers though its text messaging program. The RNC shares videos over text message, with a link in the text message to share it on Facebook and Twitter.
Because mobile capabilities have "grown up," says Scott Goodstein, founder and chief executive at Revolution Messaging, people expect more from text messaging programs. They want breaking news and alerts on their phones.
Harbath said during the Scott Brown (R-Mass.) campaign last January, candidate Martha Coakley would conduct a radio interview and Brown's team would blast a text message to supporters. The message would provide the phone number to call in to the station and suggest questions to ask Coakley.
"It was a great way to immediately mobilize supporters and all of a sudden she would be flooded with questions that she didn't want on that radio show," said Harbath.
- watch an archived webcast of the event