A call for reasonable expectations on the ā€œImpending Explosion of State-Level Online Politicsā€

By Henri Makembe on 05.26.09


In his most recent blog post, Colin Delany talks about theĀ impending explosion of state-level online politics.Ā Ā  He mentions the rising cost of (local) campaigns and the Obamaā€™s success as the reasons for the surge interest at the state level.Ā Ā  Clearly, I agree with Colin that there isĀ  growth to come in the online politics at the state and level, otherwise I would not have launched this blog. State and local campaigns need to be revamped to go where the voters are.Ā  According to Pew,Ā 55% of the adult population went online to get involved or get information about politics in 2008. However, online politics is not to replace old-school campaigning or fundraising but merely to supplement those tactics and engage a wider audience.Ā  While I fully support and encourage this new movement to bring local politics online, there are concerns that I have about with all the new entrants in the online political world.

  1. Unreal expectation on engagement, fundraising and list buildingĀ ā€“ The Obama campaign set amazing records on engagement, fundraising and list building and to think that similar numbers can be duplicated (relatively speaking) is unrealistic.Ā  They were able to do that because the campaign had a candidate and message that it could sell.Ā  Unfortunately, state and local politics arenā€™t sexy and will not attract the attention or turn out thatĀ  Presidential campaign did.Ā  We only need to look at the latest round of the special elections sicne the November election to see that trend.Ā  Moreover, whileĀ technology and small donations did help Obama, old-school fundraising still well ahead at the local level. Just as an example, while I volunteered for a gentleman in running for a ward seat in DC, we raised money from several hundreds folks online but it was not a enough to match our opponent who raised all his money the old-fashioned way and did not have a functional website halfway through to the campaign
  2. Smaller audience does not equate to diminished production cost.Ā  A blog is a blog. In order a blog to be successful, it needs to be maintained with engaging and thoughtful contend no matter the size of the audience.Ā  This requires staff time and thus is a cost to the campaign.Ā  A YouTube video still has production costs and editing cost attached to it regardless of the number of views it gets.
  3. Internet tools and consultant can be costly.Ā Ā  It has long been the myth that social media tools and other Internet tools are free and requires very little experience to mange these outpost.Ā  While some tools may be free, some propriety tool that may be more effective and you may hours still cost money.Ā  Additionally, good consultants that will provide anĀ integrated strategyĀ to using these tools effectively will cost money.Ā Ā Business week help debunk this myth few months back.

Let me finish my restating that there is a lot of room for growth at the state and local level in online politics.Ā  That being said, our expectations need to be tempered despite Obamaā€™s success in 2008.Ā  The 2010 cycle, we will create a much more realistic set of the expectations because more candidates at both the state and local level will use the tools with various level of success.