2011 is election year in Denmark. Inspired by the high digital standards of Barack Obama’s election campaign in 2008, Danish politicians are trying to copy his methods.
A new Facebook app from the Danish Social Democrats is strongly inspired by MyBO.com – the online-tool that made it easy for Obama supporters to do their own phone banks and set up other campaign activities from all over the world.
Last week I saw a lively presentation of the creator of the app, Mikael Lemberg, CEO project leader at Komfo. He is a former candidate for the Social Democrats and a Danish Facebook specialist.
The purpose of the app is to engage more members (the party has approx 50.000 paying members) and supporters in the election campaign, by going door to door and hand out a customized folder with your favorite candidate. They also hope to have people using the event function in Facebook during the election. The candidates have been instructed to videoblog during the election and upload the videos to their Facebook profile, which is integrated in the app (the profile has a tab that resembles the app). The app also has a “wall a fame” where the most active people are promoted and can win gifts, to add a social gaming aspect.
It is indeed an excellent goal to engage more people in the campaign, as Danish politics tend to engage very few people directly, apart from the voting process itself. About 86% of the Danes vote at the general election.
The Social Democrats made a canvassing test case in the local elections in 2009. In two areas with an identical Social democratic penetration, they went canvassing in one area, but not the other. The canvassing-area gave a 2-4% higher election result for the party.
Mikael Lemberg hopes to get 5000 users of the app. His equation goes like this:
If 5000 users each gets 10 people convinced to vote for the Social Democrats it resembles 1-2% of the votes. That could be pivotal in a presumably close election.
The only problem is that nobody knows whether this formula will work. So if they win, it’s probably partly due to their canvassing and social media efforts, if they loose, it’s something else :-)
I haven’t actually tried the app myself, because it asks permission to use my personal information and post on my wall. For a detailed review in Danish, check out Jon Lund at Kforum. Overall, he is quite positive, but he questions the actual impact of the app in regards to the equation mentioned above.
My co-blogger Anna Ebbesen mentioned to me that the youth department of Venstre could take advantage of the app and make fake Helle Thorning folders saying “Higher properity taxes!”
Recently the governing liberal party, Venstre, launched an app call MINIsteriet, targeted at first time voters. Anna Ebbesen writes in her comprehensive analysis of the app (in Danish) that “Venstre doesn’t win the election with funny stuff on Facebook, if the rest of the campaign, politicians and the party is in a mess. But if the target audience perceives the concept well and if they use the app during the election campaign, it can give Venstre really good coverage in the media and within the network of the young people.” (my translation)
The same goes for the Social Democrats: The app can’t win the election for them. If the campaign message doesn’t appeal to the voters, it takes more than some Facebook friends to talk them over. On the other hand it shows a dedication to connect politicians and the members more directly with the electorate, and it shows a willingness to experiment with new and time-consuming campaign methods, like canvassing and direct dialogue with the Danes.
One thing is for sure: The election campaign has begun and will be more digital than ever before. Some of us are quite excited about that.
UPDATE March 15: Mikael Lemberg tells me on Twitter that the app has around 30.000 active users per month and has generated over 235.000 comments.