Citizen politics (I): Jordi Segarra: New and old strategies of political communication

Notes from the workshop Citizen Politics: Are the New Media Reshaping Political Engagement? held in Barcelona, Spain, on May 28-30th, 2009. More notes on this event: citizen_politics_2009.

New and old strategies of political communication. How to build a 2.0 political movement
Jordi Segarra, Segarrateres

End of a model to do politics. Now, politics is personal, is individual, is targetable, is viral.

Individuals, thanks to user-friendly Internet, have become their own news reporters, and the market can segment at the individual-level targets.

Politics: From a monologue to a dialogue, to a conversation. And messages are no longer aimed to the group, but to the individual. And the individual has a conversation with the campaign. 35% of adult Internet users have a profile in a social networking site (SNS).


Segmentation and targeting. Clear differences between who voted for Obama and McCain: Obama got clear majorities amongst youngsters, women, non-whites (african-americans, latinos, asians and others), lower-income classes, lower-educated (and higher- ones too) voters.

A major difference: 69% of first-time voters voted for Obama (vs. 30% for McCain) and two thirds decided long before the election that they’d be voting Obama.

Through technology, everything is targetable, and the tech-toolkit of Obama’s campaign was really wide.

Through targeting, all politics is viral. Let the campaign flow instead of trying to control it.

Video: Crush On Obama, 100% non-official.

Logobama’08: everyone could create their own Obama campaign logo based on a simple official logo. But the results, were unofficial merchandising that pervaded everything.

In general, Obama directly contacted more people (26%) than McCain, reaching an average of 8-point gap in contact rate.


Politics are likely to become viral, but maybe not in the short run. TV remains dominant… though no longer exclusive. But, 30% of people surfing the Internet are watching television at the same time.

Twitter surges past Digg, by Erick Schonfeld: will it kill Facebook?

His Choice ad.

Old Media Transformation

Rapid response campaign: using old media (TV) in new ways, creating ads in few hours as responses to other ads or to public debates.

The Path to Change

The center of the campaign is the candidate.

You can change the tactics, but not the strategy.

50 states campaign, aimed towards mobilization.

Don’t try to convince voters: involve people on the campaign. The key to victory was a grassroots campaign.

13 million e-mails on database, 2 million volunteers working on the field.

It’s the network, stupid!

Government vs. Campaigning

Is governing different from campaigning? The answer is The White House 2.0, with pages in Facebook and MySpace, profiles in Twitter and Flickr and Youtube, blogs in the website, etc.


Q: How could Obama’s campaign be transposed in Europe? A: Negative campaigning and unofficial merchandising are very different to translate into Europe. The problem being that there are no emotions in politics, people (in Europe) do not put emotion into campaigns or messages.

Q: What will happen to “the list” (the 13 million people list on Obama’s database)? How will they keep engaged? A: It’s difficult to act in campaign-war-like times during government-times. Aiming for hope and change is much more difficult from the government than during campaigning — especially if you were in the opposition. In the government, people want more answers, real ones, than engagement. But the least you could do is not let the website die, to keep on contacting the voter, etc.

Q: Isn’t it a bottom-and-up approach instead of a bottom-up approach only? It is my guess that what disappeared was not the top of the pyramid, but the middle of the pyramid.

Q: Is it really true that there was more and new people voting, an increase in the turnout, or just that SNSs were used to squeeze the most of partisans? A: The results in fundraising might tell that it is not true that no new voters came and voted: partisans engaged in fundraising and did it from outside the boundaries of the “usual suspects”.

Q: How one can tell what technology will work or will be just hype? A: Every campaign, candidate, city, etc. are different. Putting all your eggs in one basket is simply a bad idea. All campaigns must begin with research and find your potential target — not the other way round. Numbers, figures and data. And research must be embedded in the campaign, iterative and being nurtured with the feedback of the campaign itself.

Eva Aduiza: In Spain, you tend to mobilize supporters, not swinging voters and even less opponents. Is it the same thing in the US? A: The problem with this approach is that the database is it a drawer. What is needed is datamining, knowing who’s on your database. And then, we can start working either on supporters or in swingers. But there’s a previous and much more important stage that is usually forgotten.

More Information


Citizen Politics workshop (2009)