Tag Archives: texting

Obama’s 2.9 million texts create online frenzy

from the Christian Science Monitor’s The Vote Blog

By Jimmy Orr

Obama’s now-legendary text message announcing the selection of vice presidential candidate Joe Biden has been discussed ad nauseum — including here.

Why bring it up again? We know now just how many text messages were sent out.

The folks over at Nielsen tell us that 2.9 million texts were sent out. It sounds impressive. And according to Nielsen, it is:

“The V.P. message was sent in the late hours of Friday night and is, by many accounts, the single largest mobile marketing event in the U.S. to date,” a release from Nielsen read. “While much has been said of the timing and the scoop by news outlets, Obama’s V.P. text-message still ranks as one of the most important text messages ever sent and one of the most successful brand engagements using mobile media.”

Online political pundits agree. This was a success. And if you signed up, get ready for more says the Obama campaign. Nick Shapiro, a spokesman at the Obama campaign told ABC News:

“Moving forward, we’re going to continue to keep our supporters engaged with our valuable two-way communication tool,” he said

This valuable two-way communications tool spawned an enormous amount of media coverage, not to mention the viral conversation it started.

The Obama text underground…

The text event generated a life of its own. Enter “Obama text message” into Google and 983,000 results pop up. It’s a lot of reading but, in short, there are forums, web pages, articles, and even videos discussing the issue.

One of the most entertaining is an account of a fictitious lawsuit against the Obama campaign from an unemployed bricklayer named Manley Scott. In the fictitious (repeated for emphasis) account, Scott didn’t receive the text and filed suit. The article comes complete with fictitious quotes from Senator McCain and FOX News anchor Sean Hannity:

“First he says he’ll send Manley a text message, then he changes his mind and doesn’t,” said Sean Hannity of Fox News, “this kind of flip flopping is proof Obama is not ready to be President.”

“Textgate is a classic example of why Obama is not fit to be commander in chief,” said John McCain from one of his many houses. “When we should be bombing Iran, he would be fiddling with one of those new fangled cell phones, trying to order some arugula.”

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Filed under Barack Obama, Election 2008, Joe Biden, new media, ObamaBiden08

Tech & the convention – now Obama’s got Biden emailing

from The Christian Science Moniter

By Jimmy Orr | 08.24.08

Barack Obama’s new running mate has joined the online campaign by sending out his own email today which links to a “personal” video from the Senator thanking supporters and giving them a chance to know who he is.

“Hi, this is Joe Biden,” he says.  “I want to thank you for the way you’ve welcomed me into the campaign.  I’m deeply honored to join Barack and the millions of supporters like you in this movement you’ve put together.”

Biden’s email, the video, and of course, the much-discussed text from Obama are part of an online campaign that is getting a lot of attention.

The “old media”

Never before – at least in the U.S. – has there been a more talked-about text message.  On Friday night, when the vice presidential speculation had hit a frenzy, some bloggers seemed to be laughing at the mainstream media’s struggle to keep up.

Marc Ambinder, a political blogger at The Atlantic posted a message entitled “Triumph of New Media over Old Media” that simply stated, “Wolf Blitzer on the Situation Room begging viewers to stay tuned so CNN can bring them coverage of a text message.”

Well,  as it turned out, the mainstream media was able to get the scoop on Obama’s selection before the actual text went out.  But only by a couple hours.  (Obama’s vice presidential selection “cone of silence,” however,  was more impressive than Rick Warren’s).

This was, after all, the first time a presidential campaign choose to deliver the announcement via the “new media” (texting and emails to supporters) rather than going to the mainstream media first – regardless of how it played out.

There have been complaints by some people who say they didn’t receive the text until late yesterday.  Some are saying they haven’t received it at all.  But the Obama campaign is saying the distribution of the text message went very well.

Just how many people signed up anyway?  They aren’t telling.  But the number “three million” is bandied about often.

It ain’t the text, it’s the contact info

If you are focused on the text message itself, say online strategists, you are missing the boat.  Andrew Rasiej, the co-founder of techpresident.com, a web site which tracks how the presidential candidates are using the web, says getting contact information of supporters was of paramount importance.

The text campaign “was very effective in achieving its primary goal which was to build up Obama’s already massive database of supporters and develop yet another way they can be reached and mobilized during the final run up to the election,” Rasiej said.

What will the Obama campaign do with these cell numbers?

“[They] can start to mash all the data they have collected from multiple places, such as their e-mail list, their … contributors, their donors, and now these cell phone numbers, with voter files and … give themselves the potential to identify key activists who might volunteer to make calls, canvas, or help with GOTV (Get out the vote),” Rajeiv said.  “This info will also help them identify people who are still making up their minds or haven’t fully committed, and the campaign can redouble its efforts to make the final sale.”

The 3:00 am call

What about the fact that the text message came in the middle of the night?  Did it lose a personal touch?

Phil Noble, the director of Politics Online, said he doubted there were many people who stayed up staring at their cell phones waiting for the text.

“I don’t think folks expected that Barack himself keyed in the message on his Blackberry and sent it out,” Noble said.  “But signing up for the alert and then getting the word directly to your own mobile is a lot more personal than seeing it in a newspaper some kid threw up on your front porch. Beside, many of the younger text generation don’t read newspapers anyway.”

Noble said the text campaign was part symbolic and part substance.  It signaled – and delivered – a new way of communicating with people that will pay dividends far past the initial text message.

“Obama’s use of the new tools is not like a single silver bullet that has one big impact,” Noble said.  “Instead, what they are doing is using the new media to reach a whole new generation the way they want to communicate, over and over again. Every time the Obama campaign touches these folks in the new media and they respond back, it’s another strand of connectedness that eventually forms a strong web of connectedness and activism, and that is very powerful.”

What’s next?  The word is Senator Biden will be challenging John McCain’s yet-unannounced running mate to a duel in World of Warcraft instead of a vice presidential debate.  But that’s just an email that’s going around…

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Wired: Media beat Obama to the punch

Best-laid plans: Media beat Obama to the punch


from Wired News

WASHINGTON (AP) — Sen. Barack Obama’s pledge to supporters that they would be the “first to know” his running mate turned out to be a savvy but unworkable communications strategy.

The Democratic presidential candidate got scooped by the media on his own announcement, done in by dogged reporting, loose-lipped party insiders and the limits of technology.

But all was not lost. He amassed a huge database of cell phone numbers and e-mail addresses for the fall campaign.

Obama’s plan to use text messaging to announce his choice was a first in politics. He had promised supporters that by providing cell phone numbers and e-mail addresses they would be “part of this important moment” – the revelation of his choice for vice president.

The text message announcing Biden as Obama’s pick began filtering across the U.S. at 3:02 a.m. EDT Saturday, when most people were asleep. By then, it was old news, by today’s standards. The media had reported the pick more than two hours earlier.

Michael Silberman, a partner at online communications firm EchoDitto, said the campaign gambled when they made such a high-stakes promise and find themselves in a precarious situation where they could risk a great deal of trust with supporters.

“For Obama supporters, this is like finding out from your neighbor instead of your sister that she’s engaged – not how you want or expect the news to be delivered,” Silberman said.

The campaign won’t say how many people signed up to receive the text message, nor will the small Washington, D.C., company that handled the imposing chore.

“It’s a big number,” said Kevin Bertram, the 37-year-old founder and CEO of Distributive Networks.

The 16-employee firm, which built the text messaging system, has higher-paying clients. According to Federal Election Commission records, it has received about $130,000 from the Obama campaign, not including August.

But no account has a higher profile, Bertram said.

“We have seen some text campaigns in the many hundreds of thousands of opt-in mobile users over the past couple years, all in the consumer products-services realm,” said Verizon Wireless spokesman Jeffrey Nelson. “This is the first massive effort in the political world.”

He said the scale appeared similar to Olympics updates, which occur several times a day.

CTIA, the wireless industry’s lobbying organization, says in the month of December alone, there were more than 48 billion text messages sent in the U.S.

The real test for Distributive Networks was speed.

“It’s a pretty big challenge, because we’re under a strict time constraint to get all those messages out,” Bertram said.

Simultaneous delivery of millions of text messages is impossible. The messages must be routed to the carriers, which themselves may have bottlenecks.

Bertram said it took about 15 minutes for the bulk of the messages to get through the system. Meanwhile, the campaign posted the veep choice on its Web site.

The Obama campaign has worked closely with Bertram’s company, asking for added features in the text messaging campaign – like the ability to text supporters based on their ZIP code, a capability that allows for targeted voter-turnout campaigns.

Once the Obama campaign composed and sent the message, it was largely an automated process. The instant the campaign pushed the button, the message text flashed on Bertram’s laptop.

The CEO said he was “nervous, confident, relieved and sleepy all at once” as he watched the text message move through the system.

“Mobile marketing” is a relatively new phenomenon in politics, but one the Obama campaign has capitalized on it like no other.

People can sign up for text and e-mail updates on specific issues. They can get news on campaign appearances, receive discounts for campaign merchandise and even download Obama speech sound bites as ring tones.

It’s also an effective fundraising tool. Anyone who signed up for the notification on the campaign Web site was taken to a page where they could make a contribution.

Overall traffic on Obama’s Web site hit an all-time high Saturday. The Obama campaign said more than 48,000 people watched the live stream of Obama and Biden’s first joint appearance from their Web site. By about mid-afternoon, more than $1.8 million had been contributed online.

Messages can also act as a call to action, encouraging people to call their friends and encourage them to vote or donate to the campaign. The list of cell numbers is similar to campaign snail-mailing lists, but more personal and more valuable.

Of course there is a potential for burnout. Recipients, who pay to receive texts, will not tolerate spam.

“We don’t send a message to anyone who hasn’t initiated contact with the campaign and opted in,” Bertram said. “You have to have a very light touch. If you send someone 10 messages a day, they are just going to say, ‘Stop.'”

—-

Associated Press Writer Nedra Pickler in Denver contributed to this report.

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Ways the Obama Campaign Embraces New Media Tools

Text messaging could help Obama’s turnout

By KEN THOMAS –

WASHINGTON (AP) — When Barack Obama announces his choice for vice president, the real payoff may come during the next few months — one text message at a time.

Obama’s campaign plans to break the news of the Democratic candidate’s vice presidential pick to people who have signed up to receive e-mails and text messages from the campaign. It should give Obama’s team access to tens of thousands of cell phone numbers that could be used to mobilize voters under 30 on Election Day.

“What Obama is creating is this army of individuals, these grass-roots activists, who are out there trying to change the world in 160 characters or less,” said David All, a Republican strategist who specializes in technology.

Obama’s electronic outreach is the most prominent example of a larger movement by members of Congress and political campaigns to present their message and connect with voters through text messaging on cell phones, social networks such as MySpace and Facebook, and the microblogging site Twitter.

In Congress, some Republicans turned to Twitter in their protest of the Democrats’ energy policies on the House floor. When the House recessed in August, microphones on the floor were turned off, the TV feeds to C-SPAN ceased and the lights dimmed, but the Blackberries worked.

“Our voices can’t be shut down,” Rep. Pete Hoekstra, R-Mich., typed on his Twitter site during the GOP protest.

Hoekstra said using Twitter during the protest “really opened up my eyes” to the site’s potential — the number of people following his postings grew from 10 to nearly 500 by the end of the day. His Republican colleague, John Culberson of Texas, uses Twitter a lot and has more than 3,000 followers.

Obama’s campaign has used the Internet to boost fundraising, building upon Howard Dean’s Web strategy in 2004, but the campaign’s use of text messaging has the potential to mobilize voters in a new way.

Obama’s campaign has encouraged supporters to sign up for e-mails and text messages and sent text messages to voters on the days of key primary contests. The messages also helped encourage supporters to attend local events and tune into Obama television appearances.

On the Web, Obama’s Twitter site now has more than 60,000 followers, who receive updates from Obama’s town hall meetings and links to his Web site.

Nick Shapiro, an Obama spokesman, declined to release the number of cell phone numbers and e-mail addresses the campaign has amassed. He said the text messaging has been “valuable because not everyone sits in front of a computer or a television.”

Republican John McCain’s campaign, meanwhile, has not highlighted text messages, concentrating on more traditional e-mail messages to supporters, outreach to bloggers, Web-based advertising and YouTube videos. McCain’s recent “Celeb” ad, which compared Obama to Britney Spears and Paris Hilton, has received about 2 million hits on YouTube.

Brian Rogers, a McCain spokesman, said the campaign’s Web strategy was aimed “at getting votes on Election Day and communicating the messages that we feel are important to our supporters.”

All, a former communications director for Rep. Jack Kingston, R-Ga., said he remains concerned that McCain’s campaign and many Republicans are overlooking the potential of text messaging.

“Text messaging is really powerful. If I have a text message, I can forward that text message to over 100 people in my cell phone list,” All said. “It’s going to be read by every single person — have you ever not read a text message?”

Allison Dale, a University of Michigan graduate student who has studied the impact of text messages on voting, said Obama’s campaign was shrewd to give prospective voters a juicy piece of information — the vice presidential pick — in exchange for their cell phone number.

Cell phone numbers can’t be obtained in a directory, she noted, and the Obama campaign should be able to collect tens of thousands of numbers this way. But she said it was unclear whether the database will be heavy with political junkies or people who would be inclined to vote under any circumstances.

“We’re still sort of at the beginning of figuring out what you can do with the text messaging,” Dale said.

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