Common sense tells you that friends, co-workers and family members have a huge impact on the decisions you make.  Edelman's Trust Barometer has put numbers to this, finding that people trust their peers more than they trust the clergy, corporations, politicians and the government.

So it should come as no surprise that politicians have figured this out and have actively been using the web for the last few years to increase peer-to-peer contacts around their campaigns/issues.  The idea is to give volunteers tools they can use to spread the message on your behalf. 

In implementing these sort of peer-to-peer features, you can take a top down approach and try to give users very specific activities to perform and not much room to freelance.  Or you can take an anything goes approach and give users some basic tools and then let them do whatever they want.  Basically, we're talking about the difference between meetups and house parties

This cycle, we have two very clear examples of each approach within the specific context of mini-campaign site functionality (allowing users to create their own page off of the campaign website). 

(1) John McCain is taking a top down approach.  McCain's website allows you to create your own mini-site that you can use to raise money for McCain, build an address book of volunteers and send them emails.   The only way you can customize your page is by editing your goals and writing a few paragraphs of intro text.  You can see my mini-site I set up as a test here.  McCain is very focused on trying to get me to raise money.

It is pretty clear that the McCain campaign is closely watching everything that happens with these sites.  Mike Turk was rejected when he attempted to set up a site at (because the "fuq" part is too close to another word we all know too well).   On my own mini site, I tried to customize my intro text and got a message that said my changes had been saved and would be available shortly, the clear implication being that they would be reviewing my revised intro text.


(2) John Edwards is taking the anything goes approach.  Edwards site has a group blog and any registered user can post blog entries to the community and/or maintain their own diary.  You can see the diary page I set up here.  I was able to post an entry I'd written previously about Edwards and Robert Scoble directly to my diary without any review process.  Presumably, I could post anything I want here.  I could write about the Super Bowl or how much I dislike John Edwards if I choose.  In addition to diary entries, I could also post poll questions and videos. 

So what do I think? 

If I had to choose one or the other I would definitely go with Edwards.  I think he's going to successfully build a nice community over on his site with his DailyKos-inspired blog, even though the whole thing is a bit of a mess (more on that later).  The McCain function is just too heavy handed for the world we live in now.  

The truth is there is a sweet spot between these two approaches that none of the Presidential candidates this cycle have quite gotten to yet.

About the Author
Todd Zeigler
Todd Zeigler serves as the Brick Factory’s chief strategist and oversees the operations of the firm. In his sixteen year career in digital, he has planned and implemented campaigns for clients including the Pickens Plan, International Youth Foundation, Panthera, Edison Electric Institute, and the American Chemistry Council. Todd develops ambitious online advocacy programs, manages crises, implements online marketing strategies, and develops custom applications and software. He is bad at golf though.