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Viral Marketing For America?
October 8, 2003 10:38 AM   Subscribe

Is Howard Dean conducting viral marketing? [more inside]
posted by Steve_at_Linnwood (30 comments total)

 
According to this article by The Hill about Dean's success and tactics, the former Vermont governor's campaign is conducting viral marketing:
Dean has done other things to maximize his online fundraising punch, like reinvesting money into expanding donor lists and paying “bloggers” or professional Internet surfers to keep the enthusiasm up on his website.
The consensus on MetaFilter has long been a loathing of viral marketing, but is this different? And how much credence can be given to the hype of the first "Internet campaign" if the enthusiasm is self-created?
posted by Steve_at_Linnwood at 10:38 AM on October 8, 2003


Well, let's start with this question: Does Pepsi Blue have its own blog?

...and move on to this one: Might the definition of viral marketing evolve and become more complex when the "product" moves from the realm of physical commodities to that of policies and ideas?
posted by soyjoy at 10:41 AM on October 8, 2003


1. The activity described in the article is not viral marketing.
2. Even if it were, MetaFilter does not loathe all viral marketing -- just inept viral marketing.
3. I look forward to many posts from Steve_at_Linnwood attempting to smear the Democratic candidate(s) over the next 13 months.
posted by jjg at 10:47 AM on October 8, 2003


Is Howard Dean conducting viral marketing?

Um, duh.

Now riddle me this: What is the difference between "Viral Marketing" and "Grass Roots Politics?" Is it Viral because it's Democratic, and Grass Roots because it's Republican, or is there a more subtle distinction that I'm missing? Or is it because blogs are involved? Or what?
posted by hob at 10:51 AM on October 8, 2003


The question, ultimately, is whether Dean's grassroots base is actually astroturf. If Dean is creating the illusion of online support by hiring bloggers to post and/or comment without disclosing their financial connection to Dean, then clearly that's a bad form of viral marketing. If Dean really does have grassroots support, however, then calling his blog "viral marketing" goes a bit too far.
posted by monju_bosatsu at 10:51 AM on October 8, 2003


Is Howard Dean conducting viral marketing?

Well he got you to post about it here ;)
posted by carter at 10:53 AM on October 8, 2003


paying “bloggers”

That does sound like a new one, though I doubt they get much return on investment (unless they're paying off Glenn Reynolds or someone of that stature with actual readership).

MetaFilter does not loathe all viral marketing -- just inept viral marketing.

Personally, I find the Bush campaign's "Letter to the Editor" generator, complete with one-click copy/paste insertion of party talking points to be the most inept viral marketing I've seen.
posted by mathowie at 10:53 AM on October 8, 2003


That's a good question, steve. I basically think Dean is the best candidate and I don't know what "electable" means), but I do think that the answer is probably yes (which clearly sucks in a certain sense), albeit in innovative and grassroots ways. Viral marketing has always been part of politics, and having secret bloggers on the 'roll is a lot cooler than just whispering "hey, John McCain's got him a negro baby".

I think the most vocal monkeys on his blog are there by choice. It seems pretty undeniable that a fair amount of Dean "viral marketing" is going on--I see a lot of Deanspam comments on people's blogs. But I doubt they pay them, because I think these people will do it for free. Freepers don't get paid, and they "virally market" hate and so forth. I just think that this is what "local" organization looks like on the web. We have an easy template available in our minds to see the web in national or international terms, where things aren't really more disconnected than when you're watching TV, but I can only really see something as astroturfing if it is engineered top-down.
posted by Ignatius J. Reilly at 11:00 AM on October 8, 2003


(unless they're paying off Glenn Reynolds or someone of that stature with actual readership).

paging Oliver Willis. Are you being paid? And if so, may we share the $$$?
posted by whatnot at 11:00 AM on October 8, 2003


mathowie:
I think the implication is that he pays the people who hang out in his comments pages all day.
posted by Ignatius J. Reilly at 11:02 AM on October 8, 2003


So I can get a virus from him?
posted by Outlawyr at 11:08 AM on October 8, 2003


mathowie:
I think the implication is that he pays the people who hang out in his comments pages all day.


Speaking of which, when are our cheques going to come in?
posted by Space Coyote at 11:09 AM on October 8, 2003


Speaking of which, when are our cheques going to come in?
Mathowie's running for president now?
posted by jmackin at 11:13 AM on October 8, 2003


Mathowie's running for president now?

Not until I turn 35. Four more years for that.
posted by mathowie at 11:14 AM on October 8, 2003


VOTE MATHOWIE IN 2008

"Because a whole lotta nothin' has gotta be better than the last eight years"
posted by yhbc at 11:20 AM on October 8, 2003


well, someone could actually ASK someone at the dean site. that could work.

i don't think they actually need to fake blogger support though, do you?

matt, i think the thing to do with that copy/paste letter on the bush site is to just Change it around a bit and Then send it off.
posted by th3ph17 at 11:33 AM on October 8, 2003


I think the implication is that he pays the people who hang out in his comments pages all day.

Whose implication? This isn't implied in the article.
posted by jjg at 11:53 AM on October 8, 2003


Dean has done other things to maximize his online fundraising punch, like reinvesting money into expanding donor lists and paying “bloggers” or professional Internet surfers to keep the enthusiasm up on his website.

That is in the linked piece, as well as pasted above. Maybe I'm wrong, but it looks like he is paying people to "keep up the enthusiasm on his website."
posted by Ignatius J. Reilly at 11:56 AM on October 8, 2003


President Bush should be commended for his strong leadership on the economy. He has taken bold action to create lasting economic growth.

The President’s economic growth agenda creates jobs. His economic plan is focused on job creation and helps working families with immediate tax relief. Promoting investment is another critical component in the President’s agenda. Reducing the overall tax burden on small business and eliminating the unfair double tax on dividends spurs investment by individuals and businesses, enabling much needed capital investment and spurring job creation.

President Bush understands that we must save Social Security for seniors and for generations to come. His approach preserves the current Social Security system for those at or near retirement while providing new options for young people.

The President’s plan puts money back into the pockets of working Americans. Accelerating already enacted tax cuts will encourage consumer spending by giving 91 million taxpayers an average $1,126 in tax relief this year, immediately injecting billions into the economy. This issue is just one more example of how our President is providing the courageous leadership America needs.
posted by the fire you left me at 12:07 PM on October 8, 2003


Dean has done other things to maximize his online fundraising punch, like reinvesting money into expanding donor lists and paying “bloggers” or professional Internet surfers to keep the enthusiasm up on his website.

This certainly could mean the campaign is paying people to add comments to the blog, but by applying Occam's razor to this, I think it more likely refers to the "bloggers" who post to the main page of the blog itself (Matthew Gross, Zephyr Teachout, Joe Rospars -- to name the last three non Guest Posters). If the latter is the case, I don't see it as a disingenuous practice at all.
posted by trox at 12:13 PM on October 8, 2003


(Background: I worked for the Gore as the Deputy Director of Internet Ops. I am not currently working for any presidential campaign.)

I'm kind of surprised that people haven't sniffed this out yet. There are political websites up in cyberspace that aren't posted externally, but internally; e.g., Grassrootschmoes for Candidate Smith actually being published or set up by the campaign. Occassionally they're set up by the campaign directly, but many times they're set up exactly as Monju suspects: people are paid by campaigns to pretend they're regular schmoes.

Check it out yourself. Look at the source code. Lookup the Whois info. A vague whois and lack of bio or author name is typically your first clue.

Dean isn't the first Internet candidate. People have been doing this for awhile. I also wouldn't say that Dean is the grassroots candidate -- but he does seem to be the candidate that takes the Internet the most seriously. Anyway -- this shouldn't really surprise anyone. How many people sneak posts into MeFi as part of their viral marketing schemes? It's just more proof that we should be cynical of any media we read, online and off.
posted by jennak at 12:39 PM on October 8, 2003


trox is right. And, Steve? This is a ridiculous post. It's not news that Matt Gross and Zephyr and Joe are paid employees of the Dean campaign. All the article is saying is what it SAYS, not what you're inferring from it. Dean pays bloggers to keep up enthusiasm on his site. What kind of enthusiasm? The kind the Lieberman guy earlier in the article mentioned, the "Rah! Rah!" kind generated by, say, Joe Rospars rounding up the latest anti-Bush and pro-Dean articles each day. If you think Dean has to pay people to post pro-Dean comments in the message boards, you're deluding yourself.
posted by jbrjake at 12:40 PM on October 8, 2003


This certainly could mean the campaign is paying people to add comments to the blog, but by applying Occam's razor to this, I think it more likely refers to the "bloggers" who post to the main page of the blog itself (Matthew Gross, Zephyr Teachout, Joe Rospars -- to name the last three non Guest Posters). If the latter is the case, I don't see it as a disingenuous practice at all.

Good point, trox.
posted by Ignatius J. Reilly at 12:47 PM on October 8, 2003


steve_at_linnwood - Yes. And you are now part of the virus.
posted by troutfishing at 12:58 PM on October 8, 2003


I hear his campaign hires people! These "hirees" get this thing called a "check" which they can easily negotiate (with the help of a third-party non-Dean affiliated bank) to turn into federal currency. With this "dean check turned currency" they buy things such a food, shelter, etc. Then the next day they go back to work!

Dean isn't a virus he's a parasite feeding off his hosts! The never ending cycle of "campaign work" equals "dean checks" which equals more "campaign work" which equals more of these suspicious and highly partisan "Dean checks." Horrifying enough, people who do well in this parasitic system get "promoted" to work with more stress and responsibility soley for more of these "Dean Checks."

Its madness and I'm glad eagle-eyed comrades like Steve_at_Linnwood are here to expose this system of "capital gain for work."
posted by skallas at 10:36 PM on October 8, 2003


And how much credence can be given to the hype of the first "Internet campaign" if the enthusiasm is self-created?

Really dumb.

"Credence?" Here's an idea. Why don't you and the other Bush sycophants take a break from talking out of both sides of your mouths, and report back to us real soon on where "first Internet campaign" falls on the "credence" scale....you know, that scale with calibrated marks for the hype of "the 9/11 Iraq connection", "Saddam can launch his WMDs any second", "these trailers are biological weapons laboratories", "these tubes are the components for newcular weapons", "these drones are sophisticated air attack platforms", "the President landing on an aircraft carrier is NOT a political stunt", "combat operations are over in Iraq", "I want to find out who leaked this", "compassionate conservatism", "no child left behind", and the principled "forget anything we said about Clinton: even if Schwarzenegger sexually assaulted dozens of women, he's our man."
posted by fold_and_mutilate at 7:55 AM on October 9, 2003


people who do well in this parasitic system get "promoted" to work with more stress and responsibility soley for more of these "Dean Checks."

skallas, you're missing the point. Paying people to work on your blog is fine for folks like the Bush administration, but Dean - he was supposed to be different. Every single person who was involved, affiliated or associated with that campaign was supposedly only there because of their love for the man, their commitment to justice, their starry-eyed vision of a city in the clouds, and their wholesale commitment to Dean's bizarre and insidious cult. How discouraging to realize it was all a hoax. Good catch, Steve.
posted by soyjoy at 8:05 AM on October 9, 2003


Sorry, soyjoy, but EVERY campaign has people on the payroll. Whether they are campaign managers, accountants, or web developers. Simply believing in the candidate isn't enough to pay the bills. And while there is too much money in politics already; I, for one, don't want to see the day when only rich people can work on campaigns.

These people believe in the campaign and work hard to support the campaign, but they still have student loans and other obligations which require real money.
posted by terrapin at 9:21 AM on October 9, 2003


EVERY campaign has people on the payroll....

Of course campaigns have people on the payroll. Duh. We need to eat too. (We not completely unfeeling, uncaring robots.) I think the point that's trying to be made is that there's a difference between websites, weblogs, blog comments, etc. that are initiated by the masses and those initiated by campaign staffers purporting to be regular schmoes (or just concealing their paid political status).

A contrived effort and a truly grassroots effort will still have that viral effect, because -- let's face it -- people are influenced by pure numbers. If you get the impression that there are a lot of people out there for Candidate Smith, that subconsciously affects your opinion on the candidate (that he's electable, that he's popular, etc.) But if a staffer at Smith's campaign starts up a Tech Workers for Smith website under a pseudonym or doesn't reveal his employer, and gets all of his fellow staffers to join -- I don't think most people would consider that a "People-powered" effort.

A lot of campaigns do this. Don't think that campaigns haven't gotten wise to the power of the Internet. There are people paid to chat up a candidate in chatrooms, on message boards, in newsgroups, on weblogs. Be mindful of that when you surf the web.
posted by jennak at 12:04 PM on October 9, 2003


Sorry, soyjoy, but EVERY campaign has people on the payroll.

arggggh. I tried and tried to make that ridiculous enough that the sarcasm would be evident. Did you notice the reference to "Dean's bizarre and insidious cult"? I guess not. Next time I'll use sarcasm tags.
posted by soyjoy at 11:58 AM on October 10, 2003


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