By Matt Hill
Political campaigning has incorporated a new form of outreach to potential constituents – mobile technology. With the rise of mobile applications and global positioning systems (GPS’s), President Barack Obama and challenger Mitt Romney will attempt to attract voters as well as encourage them to vote on election day through their location aware mobile devices.
In 2008, the Obama campaign excelled in utilizing technology in order to connect with young voters. For example, he announced his Vice Presidential nominee, Joe Biden, via text message to those who had signed up on his website to receive mobile alerts. Obama supporters were “in the know” before even the mainstream media had been informed. By doing this, the Obama campaign told its supporters how much it values the relationship and the importance of keeping in touch.
Leveraging the handheld devices of Americans is one of the holy grails of political campaigns. The ever hard to reach 18-29 demographic is more mobile than anyone else. Both the Obama and Romney campaigns realize this as they accelerate their bids for President in 2012. Although there are a number of restrictions on how campaigns can send text messages to mobile devices, in general, American voters can expect their cell phones to be targeted by political campaigns this year.
So how exactly will mobile devices and new technologies alter the political campaign landscape?
First, candidates will be able to send text messages outlining their positions on issues as well as encouraging their supporters to vote. However, campaign media specialists have yet to discover the best way to appeal to Americans using only a 160-word SMS (Short Message Service). During Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s run for the Democrat nomination in 2008, chief media strategists bluntly texted voters, “Hello, will you please vote for me?” This failed approach has evolved into much more subtle and emotionally laced pleas. During the 2012 Republican Primary, Newt Gingrich’s campaign used a combination of conservative themed-ads and attacks on President Obama in hopes of gaining popular support in Alabama.
Secondly, access to personal cellular devices gives campaigns yet another platform to ask for donations and sell merchandise. With their Smartphone, constituents and fundraisers can now easily pay or collect money, using devices like Square. Downloading ringtones, such as this Presidential song, http://www.barackobama.com/ringtone remains a popular way for the public to show their support for their favorite brands or teams, which in this case are the campaigns themselves.