Activism in a Mobile World

Why go mobile?  Michael Stein, Katrin Varcias, and Katie Harbath outline several compelling reasons:

  • Speed: people likely have their phones on them almost all the time
  • Widespread use: in some developing countries, more people use mobile phones than have internet access
  • Young people: are early adopters and enthusiastic
  • Targeting: campaigns can be targeted to specific venues/events
  • Varied content: mobile phones allow for convergence with other media like email, images, videos, and sound

What’s most important to Harbath is that people remember that mobile is much, much more than text messaging.  And while text messaging campaigns have been highly successful (Like Greenpeace Argentina’s “Zero Waste” campaign and the SEIU International Justice Campaign), she stresses that people’s view of mobile needs to include mobile browsing and app use.  In her view, “2012 could very well be the year of mobile for political campaigns.”

Stein and Varcias offer several best practices for mobile campaigns:

  1. Understand your audience: this is true for all communications
  2. Work with a mobile vendor: it makes life easier, period.
  3. Plan your mobile strategy earlier: so that it can connect with larger campaign strategy
  4. Have a clear call to action: mobilize your supporters!
  5. Identify your needs: so that you can evaluate success
  6. Get creative: the realm is changing quickly, so change with it
  7. Gather as much data as possible: metrics are crucial
  8. Share your data: so that others may learn from your experience.

Harbath shares several interesting tidbits in her Tech President blog post.  For example, “voting locations” was the best performing search term for mobile searches, which increased drastically on Election Day.  Click through rates increased on that day as well.  Another interesting trend prediction is QR codes on pieces of direct mail— as this becomes more and more prevalent (some USA TODAY stories now feature them), I would certainly expect this.  Additionally, she predicts “Apple genius-like people” roaming throughout large events to gather email addresses or take donations with smartphones— iPads can only improve the functionality of this idea.  And seeing how mobile advocacy ties into geolocation tools will be interesting in future elections on the local level.

Overall, I think Harbath, Stein, and Varcias’ experience speaks to the sometimes-overlooked value of mobile.  As Harbath points out, mobile is just one piece to a digital strategy, which should also include social media, email, video, online advertising, and website strategy.  As mobile continues to be a useful fundraising tool,  I predict that it will become more and more prevalent in campaigns.


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