Location, location, location

The 2012 Presidential race is still a couple years away, but the early contenders are already beefing up their online efforts.  That makes it a good time to start asking what the 2012 online campaigns will look like.  The National Wildlife Federation is doing some cool things with location-based technology, and the contenders to the Oval Office would be wise to take notice.

Between social networks based on where you’re at (Foursquare, Gowalla) and the GPS-enabled smartphones that make these applications portable, location data will be important eventually to the campaign that invests the intellectual resources in it.

E-commerce dawned in the late 1990s, and in 2000 John McCain became the first candidate to raise significant amounts of money online.  In 2004, the internet offered a way to link people with common interests; the Howard Dean campaign (and later the Bush Campaign) responded with programs that helped activists find each other and organize local events.  In 2008, MySpace and Facebook allowed people to easily share content with friends; the Obama campaign’s online efforts were based around that same concept of virality. Successful campaigns change to reflect internet trends.

A campaign might use any number of location-based tactics.  Activists could be alerted to events in their area.  A campaign could offer contests for volunteers using Foursquare to check in at  headquarters or to recruit friends to attend rallies and other activities (not the least of which is voting).  Advocates could request campaign materials (like lawn signs) or instantly share stories through smart phone applications.

There’s no guarantee that the first campaign to take advantage of this technology will win, of course – McCain, Dean, and more recently Ron Paul  all proved that success online doesn’t always translate to the ballot box.  But for those looking for emerging technologies to gain an advantage, this is one place to be.

(Get it?  Place to be?  Location?  Aw, shut up.)

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