While visiting the websites of the 2012 presidential candidates over the past few days, one thing in particular popped out at me as a change from campaign websites in previous election cycles. While email list signups have existed on campaign websites for nearly as long as there have been campaign websites, this is the first election cycle where Facebook is now frequently being utilized as alternative way for supporters to sign up for forms on the websites.
Implementing a Facebook signup on a campaign website is advantageous for two significant reasons:
- The first is that anything that makes it easier for people to sign up for the list is a good thing because it leads to increased subscribers. Instead of having to go through and individually fill out each input area in a form, the user can simply click and be signed up in seconds.
- The second benefit is the wealth of information about a user that can be accessed through Facebook. Traditionally, campaign email list sign up forms consist of two essential elements: an email address and location. An email address is required (of course) to send the user an email. A location (generally a zip code) gives the campaign the ability to target different messages based on where the user lives.
A user connecting through Facebook gives campaigns the opportunity to ask and get much more data than the typical email address and location. Campaigns can now get information ranging from their birthday to their favorite books. Data is crucial for success in campaigns, so when this information is collected and tied into something like a voter database, more informed decisions can be made about campaign strategy.
Let’s take a look at the various presidential campaign websites utilizing Facebook as a signup option:
Jon Huntsman’s website asks for some of the most information out of any of the candidates. Currently one of his three splash pages pops up with a map of users’ photos and prompts visitors to “Join Generation H. See your face on our map of supporters when you… Connect with Facebook.” While on first impression it seems like it would only need a picture and location, the app also requests permission to get the user’s email address, post to their wall, and access much more in depth profile information like education, work history, and religious views.
The extra profile information is nice for the to have, but users may be hesitant to grant access to so much information and give Jon2012 the ability to post on their wall. Usually explicit details on what they will do with this permission will eliminate hesitations users may have before granting access.
Herman Cain is using the Wildfire platform on his website as a way to encourage action among his supporters. In addition to basic information and email address, permission is requested for the rest of a user’s profile information.
Continuing in the same digitally progressive vein as in 2008, President Obama’s campaign announced his re-election a few months ago through the web. Visitors to BarackObama.com were greeted by a splash page with a video, a question “Are you In?”, and the opportunity to click “Get In with Facebook” that would connect them with the Facebook app. After granting permission, an update was made for the user that stated “I’m In” and encouraged users to ask Facebook friends if they were in too, which continued the viral nature of the announcement.
Currently BarackObama.com still has the ability to click “Get In with Facebook,” but it is no longer located on the splash page. The Obama 2012 Facebook app requests permission to access the user’s email address, birthday, current city, and the ability to post to their wall.
Also noteworthy: Obama 2012 currently has 46,749 monthly users, a number drastically higher than any of the other candidates.
Similar to Obama and Cain, Pawlenty’s use of Facebook Connect is not just for an email list. Pawlenty’s site features a nifty “grassroots action network” called PawlentyAction intended to encourage online and offline activism. The site collects additional profile information like favorite books, quotes, and a user’s “likes.” PawlentyAction’s heavy integration with Facebook explains the requested permission to post to a user’s wall and access news feed posts.
Aside from accessing the information already publicly available to everyone about the user (here’s mine), the only permission requested is for accessing the typical email and location.
Michele Bachman launched her new website yesterday in coordination with her formal announcement and is currently requesting the same information as Santorum: basic information, email address, and location.
Here are a few examples of how data could be used:
- Getting an email from Barack Obama on your birthday wishing you a Happy Birthday
- Receiving an invitation to a group phone call with your favorite author after the author endorses Jon Huntsman
- Sharing a message on your wall that you just volunteered at the local office for Tim Pawlenty
- Receiving an email from Michele Bachmann with a video of her speaking at a campaign stop at your alma mater
It will be interesting to see how the campaigns will use the additional data. Micro-targeting will be used extensively in this election, so if you grant permission to your Facebook data to a candidate, don’t be surprised when you get messages targeted towards your interests and information based on this data. The possibilities are huge and I can’t wait to see what happens.