Ron Paul: A Distributed Web 2.0 Campaign

ronpaul.jpgA funny thing has happened on the way to the 2008 US Presidential Elections, and it’s all got to do with Web 2.0.

Ron Paul is a name many will immediately recognize, but for those who don’t, Ron Paul wants to be the next President of the United States of America. Paul’s platform is very, very different to most (if not all) of the other candidates, both from his own Republican Party and the Democrats. Paul is a classic conservative, a believer in small Government and a believer that the individual is more important than the State. He’s also anti-Iraq war, and in a historical sense broadly anti-interventionist as well; Paul is a candidate who believes the Monroe Doctrine is simply wrong.

Paul is also the underdog in the Presidential race, dismissed by the mainstream media and political pundits as nothing more than a kook with no hope at all. And yet if you believe online polls and surveys, Paul will be the next President of the United States. The secret recipe for Paul’s every increasing support base is Web 2.0

A Distributed Web 2.0 Campaign

I’ve been following US campaigns online since 1995/6; in effect 2008 will be the 4th election campaign that will be fought online as well as offline. They’ve evolved a long way over the years, from the first interaction with voters in 1996, to wallpaper and free books (I still have my autographed Steve Forbes book) in 2000, to the emergence of blogs in 2004, to video and Meetup in 2008. The evolution has always been in the direction of more is good; every election cycle candidate pages have added more and more centralized features, to the point where the campaign site for Barak Obama even has it’s own social network. Ron Paul throws all of that out the window; he preaches small government and empowering the individual, and his campaign site and strategy follows that exact lead. Aside from the usual biography page and policy documents, content is all driven by external Web 2.0 sites. To be fair, other candidates are using Web 2.0 sites, but it’s usually in addition to their own content; Paul’s content on the other hand is nearly all exclusive to Web 2.0.

rp1.jpgThe Ron Paul Blog, hosted on TypePad. It’s frequently updated, but it lacks any personal touch with most posts being written by campaign staff. There are also no comments.

icon-digg.gif Ron Paul on Digg. Paul supporters aren’t asked to vote for Paul related stories on Digg, but I’m not sure what else they are meant to do with the link. The number of stories about Paul into 4 figures in terms of being Dugg is quite amazing.

icon-eventful.gifRon Paul Campaign Events on Eventful. I’m not sure exactly if this is being used to share all campaign events, but it’s an interesting use of a Web 2.0 site to distribute campaign event information.

icon-facebook.gifCongressman Ron Paul for President 2008 on Facebook. This is where it gets interesting. Paul’s Facebook group has over 15,000 members and is a hive of Paul news and activity. Everything from student groups through to fundraising, meetings, rallies etc, it’s all here and happening.

icon-flickr.gifRon Paul on Flickr. If you’re going to do photos and use a Web 2.0 site, most people turn to Flickr first and so has the Paul campaign. I was surprised that the Flickr site wasn’t just the typical power-shots from the campaign trail, but included looks behind the scenes with unscripted moments.

icon-meetup.gifRon Paul on Meetup. Candidates and causes have been using Meetup for quite some time now in organizing meetups. Notably that in previous campaign years this was always a centralized campaign site function; others are using Meetup now but Paul is using it exclusively.

icon-myspace.gifRon Paul 2008 on MySpace. Over 40,000 friends and growing, Paul’s MySpace presence is actually not bad…for a MySpace page. Somewhat strangely the Ron Paul TypePad blog is duplicated with a MySpace blog, but this time with comments turned on. Whether this is a good or bad thing is open to debate given the offensive nature of some of the comments left by readers.

icon-youtube.gifRon Paul on YouTube. For Paul, YouTube is the killer app; the Ron Paul’s videos have been ranked at various times as the No. 1 video on YouTube. The channel has over 20,000 subscribers who have watched Paul videos over 2 million times…and that’s just the videos uploaded by the Paul team. What YouTube is delivering for Paul is a way to bypass the mainstream media and deliver his message directly to the people.

Paul is still very much a long shot to become the Republican Presidential Candidate in 2008; more likely that he ends up a 3rd party candidate and uses his support base to put in a show. No matter what the outcome, Paul’s success in using Web 2.0 to build momentum online is changing campaigning now, and will continue to do so well into the future. The Fred Thompson campaign is already using the internet as it builds towards Thompson officially joining the race, others in future campaigns will follow Paul’s lead as well.

Paul shows that by using Web 2.0 tools you are able to deliver your message directly to those who matter also demonstrates the growing irrelevance of the mainstream media, the very same people that continue to ignore the Paul campaign. Web 2.0 may not yet be at the stage where we can replace the mainstream media, but that day is creeping closer and closer…and Paul is helping the cause.

The point of this post is not to ask anyone to support Paul, but to observe how one candidate is using Web 2.0 tools to bypass the tradition methods of communication to deliver his message directly to the people. No matter what your political persuasion, Paul’s success so far is certainly a credit to himself and his team

For those interested in what Paul stands for, the follow video comes from Google. According to the video, Google employees submitted more questions for Paul than any other candidate who has visited Mountain View before him. Obviously Googlers think Paul might have substance, you can judge for yourself, though the best means possible of course: a Web 2.0 solution in YouTube.