San Antonio mayoral race and Web 2.0
Tomorrow Texas Public Radio will run a story about how the candidates running for mayor of San Antonio are using the Internet and social media. It should be an interesting story in an election following one of the most successful campaigns to leverage these tools, the Obama campaign. Lessons to be learned from that campaign are that if a candidate can successfully use the tools offered they can stand to benefit from getting the message out and raising incredible amounts of money. The question is how much these campaigns understand that aspect and are willing to take the time to leverage it.
From what I’ve seen so far none of the candidates have the concepts down completely but there are aspects of it in all three campaigns. To start with all three do have websites up and running and can take contributions online with Castro’s being the first. However it took a while to find Cibrian’s website and Google searches didn’t help so I’m not sure I have the right site. I did find her city council site, a Recall Diane site, and several stories about her activities during the past council term. DeBerry did have problems getting her website started and it is possible that speculation of her intentions to run might have been a sign of the slow launch. Shortly after that speculation a website appeared and the mayoral announcement followed.
Both Castro and DeBerry-Mejia are using Click and Pledge, a national campaign donation management system based in Blacksburg, VA. It’s easy to use and provides a good method for capturing critical information necessary for campaign finance reports. Cibrian appears to be taking the simple route and using PayPal’s payment system. This could become a challenge for her when it comes to campaign finance reporting as critical information such as occupation and employer are not captured.
Regarding capturing e-mails for future contacts only Castro and DeBerry-Mejia have that concept down. Both have been leveraging those e-mail lists to distribute information to their supporters. Castro has taken the next step of adding a donation link in every e-mail. That was a highly successful move by the Obama campaign that netted millions of dollars in small donations for his campaign. Making it easy for small donors to contribute is critical for campaigns these days as the aggregate numbers show that a candidate has strong grassroots support by the large number of donors and the small average donation amount. Castro succeeded on this point and it got him press after the latest reporting period.
Finally comes the question of blogging. DeBerry-Mejia is the only one that seems to be taking advantage of this messaging tool and has published a blog updated periodically. You can subscribe to the blog through RSS and get updates when they happen. She’s using WordPress, a widely used blogging tool that this site is built on also. What is even more interesting is that she seems to allow comments even if they appear somewhat critical. Not many people are commenting on her site so I’m not sure if anyone is really reading the blog. Castro should stand a blog up as he seems to have a lot of information to provide on issues. It’s not clear if his web team can stand this up as his site is running on Cold Fusion and the tools may not be there to create one.
Both Castro and DeBerry-Mejia are on Facebook with Castro using his personal profile and DeBerry-Mejia using a group. Something to note on Facebook is that when your circle of fans reaches 5,000 or more if you are using your profile or a group you lose the ability to send messages to the friends. That’s why many move to a page instead such as TPR and the Fiesta Commission. Cibrian is missing from Facebook and I’m not sure she even understands what it is.
In general I don’t think any single candidate gets Web 2.0 completely but DeBerry-Mejia seems to have the edge with Castro running second, only by the fact he doesn’t have a blog. Cibrian is the least of the three and that may become a detriment to her as it shows she is not connected with technology. These days your online presence signals your understanding. It’s critical especially for the Gen X and Y voters.
Update 2/3/2009 – Cibrian does have a more robust mayoral website that was designed by RiverView Productions. The web design firm leadership includes former media personality Sonny Melendrez and appears to be primarily focused on personality promotion. Cibrian’s site needs to get boosted in the Google searches since it doesn’t come up in any recent searches but that should change over time as more people link to it. To further update in capabilities it provides the ability to collect e-mail addresses for updates. The launch appeared to have occurred last week based on dates on the site.
She is following Castro’s lead of polling the visitors on the issues but with only four votes prior to my visit this morning it’s apparent not many have visited the site. The issues are pretty limited also. There is still no blogging on the site and it shifts as you click on links indicating a variance in the styles and layout, something a good web developer would avoid.Sorry, there are no polls available at the moment.