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  • July 2008
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So one more class and then you’re free from the oppressive burdens of my class. No special reading this week to maximize your final project time, but here are some suggestions from Amber about tips she found:

1) Search: Do not rely on solely on the first 10 results on Google (I’ve found some really relevant information on the 10th+ pages of search, which probably means I need to do better with key words.)

2) Finding top bloggers in a state: Find at least one or two top bloggers and ask them for a list of the other top bloggers. (You can always click through their blog roll, but some of them might have extensive blog rolls.)

3) How a state is using social media: This was a bit time-consuming, but I visited (most of) the official websites of the counties within the state of Virginia to see if the counties were using social media at all. (I’m still a bit stuck on the “metrics” part because the social media thing is still so new.)

4) Widgets: My latest blog post talks a bit about widgets and provides websites where you can create your own (and play with them etc…), if you decide you want to do something on widgets for the final project.

Anyone else have ideas/tips? Leave them in the comments.

Almost There!

I’m not going to assign any additional reading this week because you’ve got your final projects. The important thing is to let me know which you’re choosing instead of a quiz: three additional blog entries on politics/tech or ten additional points on your final project (making it 40 percent of your final grade). Email me by Monday and, if you’re choosing more blogging, I’d suggest getting on top of that ASAP.

Blog about anything of interest, tech-wise this week.

Microtargeting: You

So there’s not that much additional reading this week because I want to give you some time to work on the project.

As a tip for a project, check out e.politics’ guide to online campaigning as well as EchoDitto’s “Insights” page, where you should pay particular attention to the staffing guide and the budget matrix.

Also: Here are links to the AU Online Video Fair Use policy that I mentioned in class.

Reading-wise, tackle Applebee’s America and then flip through some of these datamining and microtargeting resources. And don’t overlook my article on datamining and microtargeting in the current issue of Wired. Feel free to write on any subject but if you’re stuck try this: How well do you feel you fit the stereotypes of your party ID? Could you be microtargeted (or macrotargeted)?

Your Final Project

Here’s your mission if you choose to accept it—and I hope you will because your final grade depends upon.

Answer the following scenario: You have been hired to design a social media and online strategy for a general election candidate for the U.S. Senate of the party and in the state of your choosing.   This candidate may actually exist in real life or may be fictional.  If the candidate you choose to strategize for is fictional, you will have to choose two or three issues (i.e. education, energy, immigration) that you think will play a role in the election and the candidacy in order to do a successful survey of the state’s social media landscape. You have an unlimited budget but you must justify your choices, staffing, and strategy based upon the readings, case studies, examples, and websites we have examined thus far in class.

Your strategy must include no fewer than five different “Web 2.0″ platforms, including but not limited to social networking, blogging, gaming, Google ad campaigns, podcasts, vlogs, online viral videos, wikis, Wikipedia, and anything else you’ve stumbled across that interests you.

The ideas need not be budget-constrained (i.e. even though games or Facebook widgets can be incredibly expensive to build, you may include them). For each idea, you must outline and include the following characteristics: (1) the tool’s purpose; (2) the intended audience; (3) the social component; and (4) how it fits into your larger strategy.

For instance, if you’re building a game, who would you want to play the game, what would the game play be like, and what’s the game’s intended message? If you’re building a Facebook widget, what would it do, what’s the social component that would make people put it onto their Facebook pages, and how does it advance the your workplace or cause, and/or educate people as to your position? If you’re building a Google Adwords campaign, who would you hope to draw into your website, what search terms would the campaign be built around, and what’s the hook/language you’d use to get people to click on your ad?

You must also justify your choices—for instance, why would a social networking site make sense for your intended candidate? Why would you choose a video podcast instead of an audio podcast? Why would you choose Vimeo as your videosharing site instead of YouTube? Why create a wiki instead of a blog?

If you’re using something like a blog, you must think about and answer these questions along these lines: Who will write on it? What’s the voice? How often are you looking to post? Would you include comments? Why or why not?  Will the blog require extra staff? What’s your goal for the blog?

All of these justifications and arguments and choices are your opportunity to demonstrate to me what you have picked up out of this class. You must cite readings, statistics, and case studies from class to get a top grade. There’s a big difference between not being budget-constrained and making smart choices. We’ve certainly looked at many examples in class of candidates who haven’t done social media well—and how that is more dangerous than not doing it at all. This memo is your chance to think through all of these concerns and trade-offs and make smart choices that demonstrate your understanding of how social media works in today’s campaign world.

You must also include a survey of the existing Web 2.0 landscape for your  chosen state and candidate. This will count as the field report project from the syllabus. In it you must answer the following questions at a minimum: Who are your opponents in the race (both the candidates and the state parties)? Your online friends/allies/potential partners (Is there a union that has a real strong blog/website in your chosen state?)? What are the leading authorities on your chosen issues online (both locally and nationally)? What lessons can you draw into your own projects from the successes or failures of allies/competitors?  What are the top blogs in your state both progressive and conservative? Who are those bloggers, what are they interested in, how could your candidate appeal to them?

For the competitive surveys, I’m going to be looking for at least 15 social media sites spread across at least three of the four following areas: Blogs/Microblogging, Wikis, Social Networking (including both sites and groups), and general social media (Vlogs/Podcasts/Citizen Journalism/Audio/Video). If you have picked a subject that doesn’t get you 15 sites in three areas, you need to change your definition or pick a new topic.

Write up a brief description of each site, classify it, the URL, any traffic details or size numbers you can track down, as well as some analysis of the level of engagement.  Give specifics—don’t just tell me that Facebook or MySpace are the most popular social networking sites on the Internet, figure out how much activity there is in the profiles you were examining, your groups, or fan pages. Remember the concept of the long tail! Don’t forget some of the resources we’ve used like TruthLaidBear and Quantcast. Here’s an example entry for a Facebook group that I belong to that would be useful if I was planning a strategy for Vermont:

Site: Vermont State Society Facebook Group
URL: http://harvard.facebook.com/group.php?gid=8156815255
Type: Social Networking Site
Traffic:  22 members in group; Facebook ranks 15th on the web according to Quantcast
Description: This largely inactive group supports Vermonters in Washington and members post job listings and news stories of interest to it. It is an open group which anyone can join with a single administrator. No one other than the administrator has posted to it.

If I was writing about Vermont, I would also want to see what the major media outlets in Vermont were doing online—do they have blogs or online videos that I would want my candidate to participate in? I would also want to make sure to note that Democracy for America is based in Vermont and has a strong online presence. Beyond that I would want to note who the existing senators are and how they’ve engaged in social media, ditto for the governor, House Speaker, and any other major statewide officers.

Your plan, complete with competitive survey, should be written in the form of a memo to the campaign manager (in this case, me), outlining your argument for engaging in social media at all, each tool you’ve chosen and why you’ve chosen it, the potential applications, and your goals for growth. Are you planning to use this as a communication tool, a fundraising tool, or a field/get-out-the-vote tool? Why?

While there is no set page length, I would be very surprised if you could accomplish all of the above in fewer than eight pages with normal spacing and font sizes.

Your final project plan must be ready for class on July 28th.

As the syllabus says, your final project is worth thirty points (the 20 points of the project plus 10 of the social media report), i.e. thirty percent of your final grade. The grading will be divided into the following:

Competitive Survey: This section will be worth ten points (or two points for each three sites you survey). I will look at the applicability of those sites to your larger project as well as the research you’ve done to examine who your competitors/allies are in this particular field.

Project Outline: Twenty points; ten points of the grade will examine your overall thinking and justification, your citations and case studies, statistics, and arguments for engaging in social media. The other ten points of the grade will focus on the specific tools you’ve chosen, how you’ve justified them, how you’ve thought through the challenges (i.e. staffing, comments, etc.) and how they fit into the larger strategy. You will the be graded on how realistically your plan is outlined, how fully you demonstrate comprehension of the Web 2.0 landscape and its various tools, and how clearly you establish your goals and objectives. I want to specifically emphasize the first and third criteria, because those can get lost in the rush of fun tools.

Any project plans not turned in on July 28th will be docked five points (half-a-letter grade on your overall course grade). Any project plans turned in by August 1st will be docked ten points (one letter grade on your overall course grade). Projects will not be accepted after August 1st and, if you have not turned in your project by Friday the 1st, you will not be able to pass the class. This is a real world scenario and, in actual campaign life, late pitches aren’t accepted.

Please email me if you have questions. We will also discuss this more in class. Make sure to put some good thought into how you approach this. This is your chance to really wow me with how much you’ve learned.


Next week’s distinguished guest will be James Kotecki, he of EmergencyCheese YouTube fame. Here’s a little interview I did with James last year, before he joined Politico. He IS new media.

Your blog assignment for the week: Was Kotecki, prior to joining Politico, a journalist? What’s the difference between what he was doing in his dorm room and what Chris Matthews does on Hardball? Is there one?

Stay tuned to this blog later this week for more information on the final project.