From SMS fan promotion to SMS activism — and its political limitations
January 30th, 2006

(Via MoPocket)

Justin Oberman posts in Personal Democracy Forum about a smartmobby political adaptation of what was originally a marketing device — and how using the technology is not sufficient to achieve political wins. Oberman traces the current use of SMS alerts for political advocacy back to its original use as “Wireless Fan Access (WFX)” — part of a promotional campaign for Britney Spears and Samsung.

WFX’s creator (as well as President & CEO of Rights Group), Jed Alpert, was volunteering at a People for the American Way phone bank during the filibuster debate over judicial nominees last spring when he realized how his wireless technology could help solve some of the inefficiencies involved with voice P2P organizing over landlines.

“I instantly realized that we could use the same wireless technology, that worked so well on a commercial level, to mobilize thousands of activists instantly,” Albert told me. Only this time, subscribers would have to be divided and sorted based on location and Congressional representation instead of how their birthday related to the movement of the planets. Embedded in each text message is the telephone number of the subscriber’s Senator in Washington with a brief message as to what to call about. Using the WFX technology that Alpert created, PFAW has the ability to send out several thousand text-messages in one moment to the activist subscribers that sign on for the service.

The nomination of John Roberts to the Supreme Court was the first test of Alpert and PFAW’s collaboration. “We got an opt-in rate that was 5 times better then any opt in rate our commercial entertainment campaign ever received,” says Alpert. “Simply put, we got an opt-in rate of 27 percent, which is unbelievable.” PFAW saw it as a huge success as well. According to PFAW’s Online Product Manager Matt Pusateri “nearly 25,000 people signed up and used the tool before and during his nomination.”


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