“That’s one small step for man and one giant leap for presidential campaigns.” The Obama campaign started phase two of a plan to use the vast networks of text messaging to campaign. As people filled into the seats of Invesco Field at Mile High Thursday night, they could not help but look at the giant US map proudly displayed on the Jumbo Tron.

Obama’s Colorado campaign chair Ray Rivera told the audience to text their messages of support and encouragement to Obama to 62262 which, to no surprise, spells “Obama.” As the text messages flooded in, the map began to change. Every text racked up a counter for a city; as more texts came from a city a star grew where their city is located.

The Obama campaign was not just providing a way to let its supporters show their city and state pride, but was building an even larger database of easily accessible phone numbers. Along with building this database it allowed people to enter personal messages that appeared on the Jumbo Tron and give contact information for new volunteers. Later in the night you could even text trivia answers to trivia questions over Obama’s platform issues.

Some might call this idea of text messaging trivial or unnecessary, but this gutsy move just might be what Obama needs to win the election. In 2004 John Kerry lost the election in Ohio, which cost him the entire election. His campaign was baffled; they had registered significantly more voters then the Republicans in Ohio–so what happened? They may have registered more voters, but they failed to get those voters to show up to the polls on Election Day. The Obama Campaign saw that problem and this is their response. People rarely pick up calls, especially robo calls; they will ignore their e-mail even if it makes it through spam blockers, but a personal text message from Barack Obama makes you vote.

A few questions still remain though; will it pay off and how do you keep expanding your database of numbers and how often do you text without annoying your subscribers?

So far the campaign has found new innovative ways to expand their database of numbers fairly easily. Starting with announcing your VP pick over a text message added numbers faster than anyone could count. Rivera claimed a few hours after texting began at Invesco Field that 30,000 new numbers had been added to the database, with one of the largest sects of those numbers being from Colorado.

The campaign would be at the most advantage to rarely use the database for contact information. Using it too much will annoy the subscribers and possibly turn them away from reading them or responding favorably to them at least. On the flip side they need to use the numbers enough that people to not all together forget that they will be receiving texts from Obama. The best use would be to send very important and seemingly private information out over them maybe once every two weeks. Giving the user the feel that they are part of something special, not just an easy advertising space.

Regardless of how well this pays off this year, the Obama campaign has just unleashed a new campaign tool that will not be left alone again. To the question of its success, we shall see on Election Day.

Henry Kepps

Originally posted September 2, 2008 at PolicyByBlog

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