That was the foundation. "We made a conscious effort to focus on building up his social media following and the 'Brown Brigade,' a new social networking organization," Luidhardt says. The Brown Brigade was created on the Ning social network platform, which provided a key way for volunteers to come together, coordinate and organize, entirely on their own.
The campaign Web site was designed for these kinds of people, those already favorably disposed toward Brown, and for the purpose of turning favorability into footwork. "We didn't try to explain the policy positions or try to win over undecided voters. It was about building up the online supporters," Luidhardt says.
Turning Enthusiasm into Action
And turning them into frontline organizers. There simply wasn't enough time, or money, for traditional, on-the-ground, town-by-town organizing, Luidhardt says. The goal was to support his online supporters in organizing themselves, and recruiting them for specific, key campaign operations such as VoIP-based phone banks, including an innovative technique that let volunteers make VoIP calls from their own homes to targeted voters, with scripts, hints, follow-up details all captured by software.
Prosper Group's software was loaded onto a server, creating instant phone banks for hundreds of volunteers at a rented hotel conference room, or via home broadband connection. Display-screen phones ran customized call scripts, had the ability to track online metadata about the calls and features to minimize some of the tediousness of constant calling. The techniques were used in last year's Republican gubernatorial victories in Virginia and New Jersey.
Too often, Luidhardt says, candidates see and treat their Web site as an online brochure, with position papers, policy statements and photographs. "My experience is that the single most common characteristic of anyone visiting the campaign Web site is that they are supporters: they go because they want find out how to help or how to contribute. A lot of candidates waste way too much [Web] real estate trying to win over people who aren't even coming to the Web site," he says.
The Brown online resources were designed to move visitors to find a local campaign office; join the candidate on Facebook; join the Brown Brigade; contribute or volunteer for a phone bank; tweet their followers; or post in their blog. The target audience for the Brown online campaign was the relatively small number of activists "who put in all the hours and work and contributions to fuel a campaign," Luidhardt says.
About 1 million visitors found their way to the Web site. The Brown Brigade grew to 7,000 volunteers willing to work, friend, tweet, blog, phone and contribute. Ten thousand people volunteered for the "Phone from Home" campaign, who called at least one other prospective vote on Brown's behalf.