The Ascension of Mobile Tracking

March 7, 2011

Mobile phone tracking garnered extensive media attention this past week when the Chinese government announced it would monitor the locations of residents in Beijing in order to alleviate traffic congestion.[i] The announcement generated condemnation from privacy groups and reignited concerns among Internet and mobile users on the safety of their personal information.

In much less publicized announcements, both AT&T and Loopt, a location-based application company, unveiled technologies that will allow businesses to send location-specific offers directly to consumers’ phones.[ii] As CNN explains, Loopt’s Reward Alerts application will send participating smartphone users notifications that a deal is immediately available in their area. AT&T customers will be able to opt in to receiving location-based deals by text message and will either be directed to a mobile website where they can redeem the deal or be told to go to a local establishment.

As traditional forms of advertising continue to decline in influence, location-based marketing offers exciting opportunities for businesses, and subsequently politicians, as we will explain in a minute.  Expansion is inevitable, with only four percent of online adults using “geosocial” sites according to a Pew Research study from December 2010.[iii] This number will quickly escalate as more consumer use smartphones and tablets, such as the iPad.  Foursquare, the leader in location-based subscribers, has more than seven million users, up from two million in July 2010, when we first discussed location-based applications in the article “Mapping Congress.”[iv]

Politically, particularly when it comes to campaigning, location-based applications are a valuable tool for organizing canvassing efforts and alerting supporters of upcoming events.  In addition, by creating a mobile application that constituents can download, campaigns have an additional tool to collect phone numbers, e-mail addresses, and other contact information from potential voters.  On Election Day, campaigns can send alerts to supporters reminding them to vote and pointing them toward their polling location.

Location-based applications have more than tripled their subscriber numbers in the past eights months.  Considering the exponential increases other social media tools experienced in their infancy, coupled with extraordinary sales numbers for smartphones and tablets, it only makes sense that location-based application usage will continue to surge leading into 2012.  Just as businesses and communications service providers are launching mobile advertising and tracking initiatives, incumbents and potential challengers will need to leverage new technological capabilities to maximize campaign and canvassing efforts during election season.




Foursquare Helping Campaigns Get-Out-The-Vote

November 1, 2010

It may be Election eve, but similar to Republican Presidential hopefuls, Multimedia Politics already has its eyes cast on 2012.

It was exciting on Thursday to see Foursquare’s announcement of its ‘I Voted’ badge. Location-based applications will have a significant impact on political communications in the near-future. Combining tools such as Foursquare or Gowalla with existing social media channels will add an interactive element to Members’ media portfolios. And while the badge’s impact may be minimal on Election Day tomorrow, campaigns better pay attention and take notes because come 2012, it could become the most effective GOTV tool available.

Foursquare is partnering with Rock the Vote, the Pew TrustsGoogle, the Voting Information ProjectEngageTwitter Vote Report, and Jess3 to monitor foot traffic at polling locations. The information will be updated continuously on and Foursquare is making it available for anyone to embed it on their own website.

So what does this mean for campaigns? First, simply it is another tool for a campaign to track voter turnout by polling location. Imagine if campaigns were no longer dependent on frequent phone updates from field organizers? In addition, field organizers can track who has voted and avoid having to call them on Election Day. Lastly, campaigns can post frequent updates on their website and social media channels of how many people have voted and encourage those who have not to turnout.

What is stopping campaigns from creating an “I voted for [insert candidate name]” badge in 2012? Citizens may be inspired to vote by seeing their friends publically proclaim who they voted for. Some criticize Foursquare because it only has four million users – hardly a sampling of the population. This is true but Twitter had less than one million users in 2007 and has 175 million today.[1] Location-based applications are part of the future of political communications and politicians who use the applications now will be ahead of the curve come 2012.


Getting Out the Vote

October 27, 2010

Less than one week until Election Day. In order to celebrate, we are going to spend these final days examining original and effective tactics campaigns are deploying to market their final message and drive voters to the polls.

Commit to Vote Challenge

If you are a Democrat then chances are you received this on your Facebook page at some point over the last few days. OFA is sending this message to registered Democrats on Facebook asking them to commit to vote. Users are transferred to the Commit to Vote website on After signing up, users can then challenge their friends to also vote in November. This is social media canvassing at its core.

Road to Victory Tour

Senator Richard Burr (R-NC) has fired up the bus and is travelling throughout the state of North Carolina on his Road to Victory tour. The one-term Republican, and fellow Wake Forest alum, is primarily using video to generate voter enthusiasm – with his website front page saturated in Youtube links. He is also using Facebook to ensure North Carolinians know where they can vote early. The “EarlyVoteNC” icon on his page allows supporters to find their early voting location by entering their address.

24 Hours of Tom

Embattled Freshman Congressman Tom Perriello (D-VA) embarked on a 24 hour, 22 stop tour on October 25. The Congressman tweeted continuously throughout his tour and placed a tour map on his website. The tour generated substantial positive publicity in local newspapers and the coverage continued into the follow day with the announcement that President Obama will hold a rally with Perriello on October 29.

Social Media Canvass

August 31, 2010

Time to Take Canvassing to the Internet Age

Ask campaign managers what the lifeblood of a campaign is and most will tell you the same thing – the field operation.

Campaigns from city council to President rely on robust field operations to generate enthusiasm and drive voters to the polls. But in addition to spending hours scouring precincts on foot, the time has come for campaigns to begin canvassing over the Web.

The idea is simple and virtually cost free. Set a date and time when your campaign staffers and volunteers take to their computers. The goal is to “knock” on as many of their friend’s Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and e-mails as possible, encouraging them to follow the candidate and join the movement.

  • Include a welcome message from the candidate that supporters can forward to their e-mail contacts
  • Disperse an online petition regarding a hot-button national or local issue
  • Set a target of how many virtual knocks your campaign makes in a day

Constituents will certainly respond to solicitations from their friends regarding a specific candidate. The night before the election, volunteers can send their friends a reminder over the Web to ensure they vote.

While some may say this would only attract younger voters, social networking has grown tremendously among internet users of all ages.  According to this Pew report, social networking by internet users ages 50-64 grew by 88% in the last year, equaling 47% of all internet users in that age bracket. And 20% use social networking sites on a typical day, up from 10% last year – meaning a virtual canvass would have a positive impact on supporters of all ages.

Many campaigns are effectively using social media this election cycle, with candidates garnering thousands – if not tens of thousands – of supporters well before Labor Day. By putting that virtual army to work, campaigns can grow their supporter base exponentially, while generating enthusiasm among volunteers.

The time has come for candidates to knock on as many computers as possible.