McCain gets boost from bumping up Web 2.0 campaigning

Big boost in YouTube views; launches effort to get supporters' comments on liberal blogs.

While Sen. John McCain's campaign has long been a less than enthusiastic supporter of Web 2.0 technologies than rival Sen. Barack Obama's, it has significantly boosted its efforts to make better use of the technology over the past few weeks.

And his efforts seem to be paying off in at least one area - YouTube views. Propelled by the release last week of a new Fan Club videoFan Club video and another recent video comparing Obama's celebrity status to Britney Spears and Paris Hilton, McCain's cumulative YouTube views jumped from 5.6 million on July 30 to 7.9 million on Aug. 4 to 9.3 million on Aug. 10, according to statistics tracked by TechPresident.com.

Obama's cumulative views still dwarf McCain's, but his total has decreased during the same time frame. On July 30, for example, Obama pulled in 57 million cumulative views on YouTube, while he claimed 51 million on Aug 4. and 51 million again on Aug 10.

McCain this month also launched a new campaign to get supporters to add comments to specific liberal blogs and other sites in exchange for points that can be redeemed for prizes, a method often called "Astroturfing."

"Select from the numerous web, blog and news sites listed here, go there, and make your opinions supporting John McCain known," McCain's Web site urges supporters. "Once you've commented on a post, video or news story, report the details of your comment by clicking the button below."

Some political bloggers this month began posting about recent drops in votes for anti-McCain posts on Digg, questioning whether the McCain campaign had put into place a so-called Digg 'bury brigade' to vote down or bury negative stories about McCain.

However, Digg CEO Jay Adelson told the Los Angeles Times that the company had looked into these allegations and found no evidence of an organized effort to bury negative stories about McCain.

Julie Barko Germany, director of the Institute for Politics, Democracy & the Internet at George Washington University, said that when the Ron Paul supporters launched similar social media tactics in the fall of last year, many industry observers thought they were "cool and exemplary uses of Web tactics" in a presidential campaign.

"Fast forward almost a year, and the McCain campaign has begun to implement some of the same tactics," she said. "I think it shows the campaign is willing to play with the technology and enable their supporters to participate in that flurry of Web activity. A little supporter participation can go a long way towards feeding energy into a campaign."

But, she added, these tactics are only effective if the campaign and its supporters keep focused on the end result.

"In this case, the prize will go to the campaign that uses technology most effectively to turn voters out on Election Day," she added. "All the cool widgets and gadgets and gimmicks in the world can't help you if they don't feed into that mission."

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Heather Havenstein

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