The 2008 Presidential Race Online & Personal

Change of plans. In my last blog post I said Oneupweb will soon release, via our website, our new study about the 2008 Presidential race and how it’s being fought online. Instead, I’ll be introducing it in updated installments in my regular blog posts.

As I reported last time, initial data indicated that candidates from both major parties were heavily immersed in social media by the end of September. Here’s a look at what they were doing.

Social Tools & Activities

It has been a contest of sorts – who can appear the most in-touch with the online social landscape. But it’s as if they were buying a car based on the radio rather than the engine. The search engines, to be specific.

Although the engines are now indexing social media, there’s a lot more to optimizing a website than including next generation media content. And we found in late September that neither of the parties’ leading candidates was even minimally optimized for any keywords other than her or his own name. Few candidates registered a top 10 page listing for any issue in any of the four major engines we studied. Only one, John McCain, was positioned for another candidate’s name.

Some things have changed since September.

Dark horse Ron Paul has emerged as the online fundraising champion through a sophisticated use of social media and a sometimes fanatical group of supporters who are posting so frequently that some major blogs have refused to take further postings from the group.

Paid advertising, which we’ll discuss next time, is being used to supplement the lack of natural search with some interesting results.
According to ClickZ, Barak Obama’s camp has preemptively asked to have their ads excluded from some sites. Adotas reports that other candidates have found themselves in some places they found embarrassing (conservative Mitt Romney had ads run on Gay.com; John McCain ads appeared on a liberal blog site.)

Accusations of online dirty tricks and black hat tactics are starting to appear, many revolving around Ron Paul supporters. And it’s reasonable to expect an upcoming online free-for-all as things heat up.

Now, while you candidate spin wizards are planning your next foray into online marketing, may we modestly suggest that somebody go back and get the basics right. How about a little SEO, folks, so when searchers look for an issue near and dear to your candidate’s heart, your website might appear a little nearer the top of the listings.

More to come.

Update: Read Part Two in our ongoing series about the 2008 Presidential Campaign online: McCain Buys Hillary. Mitt Buys A Bunch. Others By Stand.