Barack Obama doesn't know what a widget is, neither does John Kerry, Rudy Giuliani, John McCain, and I highly doubt Hilary Clinton does either. I know, the next question is "what about John Edwards?" Well likely he understands the concept of the widget, especially in light of him announcing his candidacy on YouTube, and I'm sure that Robert Scoble has schooled him a bit as well. Edwards also has a pretty decent blog, for that matter, and his website is full of a lot of social media pieces from Facebook to YouTube, he's actually someone who's learned a lot about the internet in 4 years (or has learned that he needs a savvy internet strategy).
These next two years are going to be interesting ones as Internet Marketing is going to meet Politics head on. There will not be any more casual accidents like Howard Dean. These next two years are going to prove who are the savviest political internet marketers, and it could be one of the biggest deciding factors of the 2008 presidential election.
This place we are in here at the end of 2006, is actually a pretty fascinating place to be right now. We are all witnessing the birth of a new form of political advertising, not by happenstance, but by deliberate forethought. These politicians, are looking right now at John Edwards likely saying "how do I get that?", "how do I beat him at his own game?", "how do I reach more people with my own message?" - more importantly to us "who can I get to do that for me?"
This is the point where Internet Marketing and we as professionals have to step up to the plate. It's not about whipping out a credit card and paying for a PPC campaign anymore. It's about a deliberate, well thought out, marketing strategy that will not only delivery the candidates message or reach people they can't reach through a handshake, but also about energizing the base and asking them to help and participate in a totally different way.
It's true, that the most reliable voters likely won't know what a widget, a blog, or what a viral flash game is, but these really aren't who Internet Marketing campaigns are designed to reach, are they? Those voters are stalwarts to the newspaper and TV, and I'm not saying that this medium of advertising is going away - not by a long shot. However, candidates today, have to look at energizing another sort of base, find another way to reach younger voters. Those younger voters are consistently moving over to the internet and mobile devices.
No, I'm not naive enough to think that Internet Marketing is one thing that's going to push Generation "M" and Generation "Y" to the polls in mass droves. But, by providing a much easier way to access information about a candidate and their message, Generation "X"ers will be influenced and probably more "Y"'s and "M"'s will take notice. And if these groups see the ad online enough - or are passed a "cool widget" by a friend, or given a link to a "great blog", or told "hey check this out" by one of their friends, its more likely they'll remember the name, than some annoying political ad on TV they've seen 20 times already.
I am betting that by the end of Q1 2007, Barack and Hilary are going to be a bit more educated about Internet Marketing, I don't doubt that McCain's looking at some sort of book about this industry already and Giuliani might be out here on the internet reading about it all, too. John Edwards gave them all a wakeup call this week, Internet Marketing & Political Campaigns aren't happenstance anymore.