As part of my cunning plan to avoid having a life I found myself reading Personal Democracy Forum's "Who to hire" guide. This is a new product which I'm quite seriously considering investing in, giving an overview of the big players in the high tech campaigning market, the products they offer and the way they are percieved.
The thing I first noticed was that Blue State Digital wasnt at the top of the list. As they're the company everyone seems to like talking about I figured that they would inevitably be top 3 at worst. In fact they were 9th. The top of the list is Revolution Messaging, the company run by Scott Goodstein, the brain behind Obama's social and mobile (phones that is) campaigning efforts.
Mobile tools arent something which I have, as yet, used, however I think its fair to say that they are an emerging force. Literally billions of people have mobile telephones and increasingly they are the primary form of communication.
People are, unsurprisingly, not keen to give up their mobile details, something which the Obama campaign struggled to deal with. In the end they resorted to a gimmick, offering up the Vice Presidential pick to their mobile subscribers first. This led to a huge surge in publicity and unsurprisingly an equally huge surge in subscribers.
Text messages are regarded as more 'serious' than emails. People assume that a text message requires immediate action, rather than being something they can push off for a day or two. They are also likely to be read, from start to finish, due to their length. Two things you can't be certain of when sending out an email.
An effective two way dialogue can be set up using text messages. A response from your mass messaging will usually be extremely short, often just a couple of words, making it easier for you to deal with. Rather than emails, where people write back vast reams of material, then become irritated when you don't respond to it.
Mobile is not just text messages however, increasingly you can integrate phone communications with the internet, driving people towards an online form or webpage. Personally I think this could have a dramatic impact on a campaign if you could create a mobile optimisted submission form online, although I've yet to see this being done.
Mobile communication is also a chance for a campaign to reach people when they arent behind a computer and ask them to do something. I am personally concerned that campaigns focus too much on things which can be done at the desk, rather than what can be done in person. Getting people out on the streets, or going to meet their MP or some other esoteric activity, is equally important, but is far more difficult and therefore often relegated.
A mobile campaign is dependent on software which will cost you significant amounts, so for a small campaign its not going to be a lot of use. Also, you need to be certain that your return on investment is going to be worthwhile. So strictly understanding what the strategic aim of the communication would be critical.
The groups who I can really see this technology impacting are larger organisations who are able to wholly mobilise their membership. This would be particularly true of environmental groups for example, who are often able to inspire a great deal of action amongst their membership dedicated to a single cause.
So far I've yet to see this technology in action, but in my opinion it is part of the growing wave of integration between types of communication. Email, text messages, the internet, are all increasingly inseperable and are constantly spawing new combinations which expand and extend the options for campaigns and campaigners to get people involved.