Widgets: A natural tool for political outreach?

Colin Delany of e.politics asks a very interesting question: Why Aren't the Presidential Campaigns Using Widgets?

The major presidential campaigns have put tons of effort into creating websites, building their own social networks, creating online videos and reaching out to voters through Facebook and MySpace, but they're so far mostly ignoring a simple and effective tool to help their supporters find volunteers, raise money and spread messages: web widgets.

Widgets are little snippets of HTML code that you can drop into a page, a blog post or a blog template to add a rich feature. For instance, the ChipIn widget lets you embed a donations collection tool into your site to support your own custom fundraising campaign, and many online publishers offer widgets that display headlines of recent stories. Widgets have a social media component as well, in that they can often spread from one site to another via a "get this widget for your site" link.

Widgets would seem like a natural tool for political outreach, but so far the presidential campaigns aren't using them at all, with a couple of exceptions, writes Delany.

Rudy Giuliani is the only candidate going out of his way to offer widgets for supporters to download: the campaign site's "Rudy On Your Blog" page offers a couple of useful widgets, one for fundraising and one to display headlines, alongside the usual static image downloads.

So, what, according to Delany, would a political widget strategy look like?

Delany argues that widgets could serve two functions for a campaign:

  1. Spread a message
  2. Actively solicit support.

Message-spreading widgets could display just about any content that you can either fit into or reference in an RSS feed, including:

  • News headlines
  • Recent blog posts
  • Campaign photos, via a photo-sharing site or from a dedicated photo gallery
  • Campaign video clips (either embedded or as a link to a clip displayed on the main campaign site)
  • Upcoming events, geo-targeted by the blog/site owner during the widget setup or generic across all supporter sites
  • The supporter/volunteer of the day, with photo

Widgets that actively solicit support or user input could:

  • Raise money
  • Gather email addresses
  • Highlight volunteer opportunities
  • Gather opinions, polling-style

What a great lesson for us all. I am truly interested in finding out more about this, and will definitely look into this stuff when I go back to Norway in July to help run the web part of a local political campaign.

- Espen