A few weeks ago the McCain campaign launched a “Spread the Word” feature on their campaign website that encourages volunteers to comment on prominent left and right leaning blogs as a way of getting the McCain message out. The feature was written up in Wired and has attracted a mixed reaction. Some think it is nothing more than astroturfing while others think it is a clever outreach strategy.

My take is that the idea is a good one but that the execution could have been better.

The piece includes very brief instructions, a long list of blogs to participate in (94 are listed) and a few talking points to copy. Intentionally or not, the tool seems to aspire to create an army of Ron Paul-style shills, who inject promotional materials about their candidate of choice into every discussion no matter the topic, alienating the very communities they are trying to reach. Bull, meet china shop.

I think the tool would have been better received and more effective had the campaign provided volunteers with better instructions as to how to participate in these blogging communities. Off the top of my head, here are some of the tips I might have included:

  1. Read the blogs and familiarize yourself with their communities before posting comments.
  2. Read the actual post you are commenting on before posting anything. Read other people’s comments as well before posting.
  3. Make sure your comments are on topic.
  4. Participate in the community beyond simply posting pro-McCain materials.
  5. Be civil and respectful of others members of the community.
  6. Etc.

Basically, I’d try to give volunteers more information so that they conduct the outreach in a manner that is respectful of the blogs they are participating in.

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.