2012 Elections: the Mobile/Emerging Tech Preview

Barack Obama may have recently announced his general social media strategy for his 2012 campaign, and even became the first president to Tweet live during a Town Hall meeting just the other week; but there is certainly much more to emerging technology platforms than social media, just as there is more at stake during these troubled times than one might care to ponder.   So wrestling and merging such animals will be absolutely crucial for anyone hoping to win the next round of elections, and therein will lie the true test of  political skill in the tech era.

Clouds.Tablets. Particularly, Mobile.  These are today’s prime arenas for anyone, particularly politicos, interested in distributing a message and connecting with people directly.  Misuse them, however, and one risks alienation.

So just how will winning tech strategies emerge as the 2012 elections gear up?

To ponder this, one might first re-visit some of the efforts of the last presidential election.  While President Obama may have made headlines having his team do things such as place ads within digital video games and deploy SMS codes in 2008, the average tech-savvy citizen today has been dazzled by more and more advanced levels of engagement since that time, particularly from the entertainment/media industry. So the okie-doke, neither in campaign messaging nor digital strategy will suffice for 2012. It’s no longer edgy just to use technology.  Most tech-savvy consumers have been there, done that so this campaign season will call for innovation and creativity not typically exhibited by politicos who like to think they have a techie-bent.  Even the best CMO’s are still experiencing the learning curve so in politics this time around there will, no doubt, be many voids, mis-steps and outright errors to watch. After all, no one wants to be the candidate, for example,  with a digital mis-step that encourages a “schlacking”  across the Twitterverse similar to the situation behind a prominent consumer brand not too long ago.  And it’s not an easy space to manage particularly with even just a few of the trends in tech.

For example, Tablet purchase is projected to grow to 18% by 2012, up from 6% in 2010 (which means a tight and thorough digital game will be required due to the nature of how consumers interact with such devices and the emphasis on image and text).  In addition, Vint Cerf, one of the “fathers of the Internet”, just recently commented about the dramatic impact Clouds will have on exponential scale increase of the Internet. This may mean interesting implications of engagement through Cloud branding.  But it is the mobile platform that presents a particular opportunity.  Mobile devices now outnumber that of desktop/laptop computers.  And if Nielsen Mobile is correct is reporting that  83% of those mobile phone owners who are registered voters, it’s game on for 2012.

But Team Candidate will have to have to have a firm grasp on who they are talking to and what approach best resonates with sets of mobile end-users if strides are to be made.  Some fascinating stats were revealed during a post-election nationwide survey of adults just after the 2010 mid-term elections by the Pew Research centre’s Internet & American Life Project which should have mega implications for 2012.  The survey found that:

  • 14% of all American adults used their cell phones to tell others that they had voted.
  • 12% of adults used their cell phones to keep up with news about the election or politics.
  • 10% of adults sent text messages relating to the election to friends, family members and others.
  • 6% of adults used their cells to let others know about conditions at their local voting stations on election day, including insights about delays, long lines, low turnout, or other issues.
  • 4% of adults used their phones to monitor results of the election as they occurred.
  • 3% of adults used their cells to shoot and share photos or videos related to the election.
  • 1% of adults used a cell-phone app that provided updates from a candidate or group about election news.
  • 1% of adults contributed money by text message to a candidate or group connected to the election like a party or interest group.

In all, Pew found that the mobile political user group is more male than female, young than old, better off financially than less well-off, and better educated than less well-educated. But some of the most interesting findings were that African-Americans are also more likely than whites or Hispanics to be in this group. 

Given the above, what are some possible strategies?  Naturally the candidates will try to use mobile to educate, engage and enable,  but if the one-size-fits-all-constituents manner used in the past, it’s an utter waste for a platform tailor-made for customisation. Let’s see how and if such tactics as:

  • Mobile video
  • Mobile advertising
  • Mobile transactions
  • Location-based tools

are not only fully and seamlessly integrated into the complete campaign efforts but also on both nationally and local level. 

Our nation is going through major changes.  Many citizens feel displaced and alienated as a result of economic trauma. Simultaneously we are witnesses a browning of country coincide with a shift of movement from cities to suburbs.  Disruption reigns, politics as usual is over. Thus, candidates’ digital teams will have to be creative, intelligent and actually diverse this time around in order to really develop outstanding engagement. There are many ways to use technology as a path to victory.  But who will actually get it right? As they say on Bravo, let’s watch what happens.

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