As Facebook Political Campaigning Heats Up, NGP VAN Launches New Social Organizing Tool

Democrat-oriented software developer NGP VAN (Voter Activation Network) is launching an updated tool today for the US 2012 election season, that uses Facebook to help stir up voter participation. Called Social Organizing, it lives on a campaign’s website, has users sign in using Facebook Connect, then filters a user’s friends on Facebook to match with their voter registration file. Users may also search the app specifically for people Social Organizing does not immediately locate.

“Campaigns wouldn’t normally know who your friends are, the core concept is real people talking about real things they care about with people they know,” NGP VAN CEO Stu Trevelyan told TechCrunch. “The goal isn’t about having people spam their newsfeed about a campaign, it’s about having that layer of data, but also asking them to do something useful with it.”

The app, which expands on a version introduced in 2011, matches names, cities and other data points on Facebook to actual voters. After creating a profile for the user, it begins asking that user to engage in campaign activities with these voters in the style of a social game. Campaigns may set the specifics of the game element, assigning certain badges for completing activities, there is also a leaderboard (that can be narrowed down by county) and users receive points for certain tasks.

These activities may include simple actions like sharing support for a campaign to the feed, as well as inviting others to Connect, emailing friends about the campaign, doing a virtual phone bank, putting up a yard sign and volunteering, for example. Several of these activities may be shared not only to Facebook, but also Twitter.

But perhaps the most valuable function of Social Organizing is that it allows campaigns to collect data from Facebook, and add it to NGP VAN’s flagship voter data product, VAN (Voter Activation Network). By taking social data from Facebook and adding it to the data collected in The Van from voter registration files, campaigns can develop a social layer to their campaign to micro target volunteer recruitment or campaign donations, for example.

“If your friend calls you and says you should support this campaign or effort, you are much more likely to respond positively to that than a cold contact,” Trevelyan explained. “The campaigns use the social capital that people have to engage in more sophisticated field programs than has ever been possible.”

In the future Trevelyan said Social Organizing will likely incorporate more fundraising features, as well as be better able to hyper-focus phone banking for campaigns.