Texts And Facebook, With A Political Twist

This story was written by Emily Schultheis, Daily Pennsylvanian
From Facebook groups to YouTube videos, technology has undoubtedly changed the way presidential campaigns communicate.

But new modes of communication aren't exclusive to campaigns - political groups on Penn's campus, and at other schools as well, have also revolutionized their efforts.

The College Republicans, for example, recently created a Web site with a new strategy for communication - text-message updates.

Group members can register to receive texts from the College Republicans with group updates and information.

"It's just a different way to get the word out," College Republicans President Zac Byer said. "Everyone is so attached to their cell phones these days that it seems like the next logical step."

College Republicans spokesman Mike Tate added that these updates will help increase group involvement. "More communication means more action," he said.

The Penn Dems' Web site has information about upcoming events, as well as a blog where members express their opinions on political issues.

While the blog was "really active" last semester, the number of posts has since declined. Penn Democrats President Lauren Burdette said she hopes to revive blog activity.

"We're always looking for new ways to communicate with people ... that's the challenge that every group faces on Penn's campus, and at all universities."

Unlike the Penn Dems and College Republicans, most campaign groups on campus rely largely on Facebook to communicate with current and potential members.

According to Penn for Hillary spokeswoman and former DP Spin editor Julie Siegel, Facebook has been a great networking tool for the group.

Siegel said that in addition to helping Penn for Hillary attract new members, the organization's Facebook group has also drawn students from other universities interested in forming similar groups on their campuses or campaigning for Sen. Clinton in Pennsylvania.

Penn for Obama has begun phasing out its Facebook group, co-president Michael Stratton said, but still uses that and a listserv to communicate with members.

And Penn for McCain, a relatively new group on campus, relies almost entirely on Facebook to get its message out to students, President Justin Felder said.

But despite advances in technology, political groups both at Penn and at other schools aren't abandoning more traditional communication methods.

Many groups set up tables on Locust Walk, and Burdette said the Penn Dems still use flyers to advertise certain events.

Rob Weiss, the president of the Princeton College Democrats, said his group still uses face-to-face modes of communication.

"We can send out a mass e-mail or Facebook message, but there's really no substitute for walking up to someone and saying, 'Here's exactly how you can get involved,'" Weiss said.
© 2008 Daily Pennsylvanian via U-WIRE