Monday, November 8, 2010

MyScottSpot and the Brown Bag Movement

Governor-elect Scott Walker convincingly defeated Tom Barrett on a political platform promising job creation, conservative fiscal policies and change for our state. While Walker obviously mobilized Wisconsin’s older conservative base that seemed to be deactivated for the past decade, he also rallied young conservative voters who tend to be in the minority.

For the past couple of months, I’ve closely followed Wisconsin’s increasingly polarized – and emotionally charged — political races. For this class, I chose to observe and participate in Scott Walker’s online community of political activists and campaign mobilization platform, My Scott Spot. This pseudo-facebook-like micro site incorporated an intuitive navigational structure that encouraged participation beyond cyberspace. In addition, I followed then Milwaukee County Representative Scott Walker on Twitter and joined his Facebook group. If nothing else, it’s obvious the Republican Party learned a thing or two from President Obama. From the mobilization efforts to “branding” strategies, Scott Walker’s campaign was reminiscent of the Democrats’ efforts in 2008.

After I established my presence on My Scott Spot by creating a username, submitting my cell number, syncing up my profile information with Facebook and requesting some conservative friends, I started to feel involved. Every day I received text messages reminding me about events, emails encouraging me to make phone calls, new friend requests on My Scott Spot and updates on other social media platforms regarding Scott’s everyday activities.

The integration of mobile technology was an interesting surprise. After the 2008 election, many critics exploited the Republican Party for its failure to incorporate new technologies and inability to mobilize young voters. While it was excessive in the days leading up November 2, I felt the mobile integration was an effective flow of communication that spanned across all supporters.

In addition, My Scott Spot had a lot of unique features that incentivized participation, which as we have learned, is a determining factor in whether or not public mobilization efforts end up being successful. Depending on your activity — i.e. make 50/100/150 calls, get 5/10/20 new people to join the movement, order yard signs, attend an event, etc — you gain exclusive membership “titles.” In addition, the campaign encouraged activity by offering exclusive opportunities to meet with Scott, spend time with campaign leaders or weigh in on issues. It seems, to me, that these were efforts that appealed to the old and young alike.

The most interesting observation of Walker’s political campaign was how he branded himself, I think. My Scott Spot was a platform that fell under the large umbrella of “The Brown Bag Movement.” The Brown Bag Movement stems from Walker’s central campaign messages and illustrates his claimed connection to the everyday people of Wisconsin.

“Two ham and cheese sandwiches on wheat with a little bit of mayo in a brown paper bag,” Walker consistently told audiences at rallies.

Weird? At first, sure. But think about who Walker needed on board, 100 percent, if he wanted to gain momentum. He needed to prove to hard-working Wisconsinites that not only was he one of them, but he was there to work for them. Paralleling this campaign message was a massive bus with a Brown Bag on the side that traveled the state preaching his policies.

While this surely appealed to voters around state-wide, his online efforts are what probably helped him win the election.

As I noted before, Walker had a strong presence on social media and utilized new technologies. These forward thinking strategies positioned Walker as someone who was trendy, more in tune with younger generations and capable of connecting with individuals who might otherwise feel disconnected with conservatives.

Jason Mattera’s book, Obama Zombies, harshly criticizes Obama’s 2008 campaign for “brainwashing” younger generations. He claims that the President’s mobilization efforts encouraged young voters to mindlessly unite (like "zombies") in record numbers and head to the polls in support of a candidate they knew nothing about. What he failed to recognize, however, was that these mobilization strategies were ground-breaking, innovative and just the beginning of a new wave of political campaigning. A new wave Scott Walker and his Republican partners clearly took note of, and capitalized on, here in Wisconsin and beyond.

Additional observations I made while doing my political campaign experience:
-Mayor Tom Barrett had similar strategies but didn’t start campaigning hard until the last two months.
-Scott Walker and Tom Barrett both sent out personalized messages on Twitter when you followed them.
-Scott Walker’s Facebook page was more complete and really illustrated the type of person that he is whereas Tom Barrett’s seemed a little bit superficial. (Scott had thousands of pictures with “everyday people” from around Wisconsin.)
-Scott Walker used Twitter to establish personal connections with followers. He tweeted about family, friends, opinions, events and more.
-Scott Walker spent a lot of time pushing campaign events and ideas through social media that would culminate in a real-world experience.

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