I just posted over on the shiny new echoditto blog. There are going to be many interesting and evolving discussions there, so I’m keeping my fingers crossed for some solid debates.
Here’s my most recent contribution to our ongoing exploration of the intersection of politics and the Internet. It’s a short opinion piece that goes a little something like this:
We (“here at echoditto”) are big believers in open-sourcing best practices—whether they be ideas or software. In conducting these open dialogues (ie. on this blog), do we risk limiting the logegevity of the very techniques we’re discussing?
Yesterday morning, Carey, Tim, and I participated in an online fundraising discussion sponsored by GWU’s Graduate School fo Political Management and the Institute for Politics, Democracy, and the Internet. We really weren’t sure what to expect, but it’s always interesting to hear other people talk about the issues we spend our days thinking about.
The take-away message was that successful online fundraising campaigns all share three things. Everything about these campaigns is…
(2) URGENT, and
(3) SIMPLE (ie. message is easy to comprehend and site/email is easy to use when donating)
All of this may have been newsworthy to the newly initiated, but those of us in the room who had been experimenting with online campaigns for the past year spent a lot of time scanning Blackberry’s and flipping through free copies of Campaigns and Elections.
As I listened to all these best practices and tips being transferred from panel to audience, I couldn’t help but wonder if we’re going to soon reach a plateau or saturation point out there as everyone begins adopting the same styles and techniques.
That is, if every campaign and organization that sends bulk email begins putting a real name in the “from” field instead of the name of their institution, what impact will that have on the entire email-sending community and the overall success of that technique? Howard Dean’s campaign–kindly referenced 1.2 million times during the discussion and in the accompanying report–enjoyed a first-mover advantage when we began speaking with people and supporters in an authentic voice and actually invited supporters to take part in the fundraising process as they did with the rest of the campaign. Since few other candidates or organizations were speaking earnestly and in a real, personal way to their membership, Dean emails were unlike any others in recipient inboxes.
I would argue that this slow transition in online marketing, fundraising, and communications from dry, faceless communications toward the personalized, person-to-person appeal is only going to help us collectively realize the full potential of the Internet. With only 63% of Americans connecting to the Internet, our online ocean is growing each day here and in the rest of the world. We are not, therefore, in danger of saturating a tiny, exclusive audience with too much personalized email from an ever-increasing number of organizations.
As these best practices continue to become institutionalized and codified as “S.O.P.” for the Internet, candidates and organizations will be under even greater pressure to distinguish themselves through an authentic voice. This healthy competition is good for the communicators and good for the public. We’ll see an overall improvement in the qaulity of people’s experiences online when their time online better resembles the emotional intricacies of their more real, offline world.