Walter Mondale scored big in 1984 when he challenged issue-speak Gary Hart with the famous “Where's the Beef?” line.

Today in some circles (circles not heavily populated by folks who will actually vote in great percentages in 2008), the twenty-month-to-go presidential campaign is already generating a great deal of online noise (er, buzz).

“I've got more MySpace friends than you do. Na, na, na-na,na!”

Does all this early online buzz matter? Yes and no. But it's like trying to measure the true value of carbon reduction credits.

Until actual online voting is a mere click away, online buzz must trade at a discount. As a starter, how about 100 units of buzz equals 1 unit of real world impact?

Here are some thoughts on how online buzz might translate into demonstrable real world impact, improving the “Buzz Exchange Rate” (BuXRate, for short) in the process:

  • Buzz causes such a stir that mainstream media effectively kill a presidential candicacy — e.g., citizen with cell phone camera catches candidate making racial slur, posts it on YouTube, mainstream media completes the slaughter.

[I can imagine the “reverse buzz” effect on this one: a candidate shows so little online savvy and appeal that the campaign implodes as the mainstream media picks up the beat: “Would you trust “the button” to a guy who can't master MySpace?” Take your pick of Republican candidates on this one! My choice would be Brownback.]

  • Very significant campaign contributions are raised online — e.g. as I write, Clinton and Edwards are faced-off in a $1 million online fundraising contest, with Edwards in the lead (more than most non-disaster relief nonprofits raise in a year at this point).
  • Indeed, a late-entering candidate becomes fiancially viable overnight by raising $100 million in a month — watch Al Gore for this milestone.
  • On-the-ground event and volunteer organizing is seriously accelerated, amplified and effectively managed via online social networks — e.g., Obama has been impressive on this score, with online supporters generating significant crowds at live rallies.
  • Twice the numbers of under-30s vote in the 2008 general election than in 2004 — the verdict will be out awhile on this ultimate metric, though we might see some early evidence in the primaries.

Until these kinds of real world things begin to happen on a sizable scale, buzz is buzz and beef is beef … and the BuXRate remains 100:1 in my book. What about yours?

Tom

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