Guest Author - Tracey-Kay Caldwell
Presidential candidate Barack Obama has launched his own social networking site, MyBarackObama.com. Like MySpace and Facebook, MyBarackObama.com allows users to create a profile, including uploading a photo to share with other users. Users can set up their own blog and write about their campaign experiences. They can plan and attend events. It provides a way for them to meet and connect with other supporters.
The internet is making it easier than ever to become involved in the process of electing your government representative. Every candidate has a website making it easy to become a volunteer and raise funds for the candidate of your choice. However, Obama has gone a step further, modeling his site after social networking site that are popular with young people.
Once you register with the site you will taken to your dashboard that will have a link for you to set up a profile. You choose a screen name that will identify you to others, you list your location, identify whether you are registered to vote, identify issues that are important to you, list your favorite quote, choose whether others can search for you, and upload your picture. However, one of the more interesting aspects of the profile is where you are asked to write a short statement about why you support Barack Obama. From a political standpoint, this is important. We often like a candidate but have really thought about why, we haven’t figure out how to articulate that support in just a couple of sentences. Once they have formulated a statement they likely to repeat that state to friends, family, coworkers, when asked why they like Obama.
On your Dashboard, the left will have your profile, complete with your picture staring at you, below that you will find a link to your blog to record your campaign experiences. The middle of your dashboard has a My Network section that allows you to read messages others have left for you, compose messages for others and invite other to join MyBarackObama.com. Below that, you will see the My Fundraising section. The site says that, “Your own personal fundraising page will put the financial future of this campaign in your hands. You set your own goal, you do the outreach, and you get the credit for the results. You personal fundraising page can include your own photo and testimonial, and a thermometer that will show your progress toward your goal in real time.” Howard Dean taught Democrats how important the internet can be to grassroots fundraising. Empowering supporters to raise funds and get credit for them can be powerful motivator for them to set up fund raising events.
On the dashboard, below fundraising is My Events. This section shows the events you have created and those that you have committed to attend. But more important is the section below that, it shows the events near you. For those who have never been to a political event, this can be just the invitation they need to become an active campaigner. In the My Events section was a Obama Supporters Group, meeting at local restaurant. The site provided the details of the event, the time, the host, even a link to a map to the event. All you had you do was click the attend button and you are now committed to attending your first political event. There couldn’t be an easier way to join a campaign.
On the dashboard, below the My Events section, is the My Groups section. Clicking on this link will take you to a My Groups page. On the page you will see a list of groups you have joined, as well as groups that were created recently, that were updated recently, groups with the most members, and with recent blog posts. You can search for members by their screen name; you can search for groups by keywords, by zip code, groups that our local or national; or you can start your own group.
It will be interesting to watch the site and see if it can attract non-traditional supporters to become active in the campaign. Every Candidate is experimenting with the best way to use the internet to generate support for their campaign. If this works for Obama, it will not be long before other candidates follow him with their own social networking sites.