August 14th, 2010
04:51 PM ET
10 years ago

Democrats using old social networking standby: The phone

Washington (CNN) – While new media tools such as Facebook and Twitter propelled Democrats to success during the 2008 campaign, Organizing for America is relying on a vintage technology this election cycle: the telephone.

OFA, the grassroots structure that grew out of President Obama’s presidential run that was folded into the Democratic National Committee, has partnered with MaestroConference, a social conferencing platform, to host 5,200 conference calls since March 2009, CNN has learned.

While conference calls are not a new organizational tool, OFA is utilizing new technology to make the phone a relevant political tool once again.

So what’s new?

MaestroConference software is able to sort callers by location, and allows them to connect in one-on-one sessions with other users in their area, a feature that allows for much closer coordination of political activities.

Drilling down on a regional and local level is not the only useful feature for a national political organization. OFA has utilized the software to conduct straw polls to gauge activist interest in policy priorities. Callers are able to “vote” on their top issues using a touch tone phone. MaestroConference then tallies the results and provides them to OFA.

The conference calls have been graced by some of President Obama’s top advisers, including David Plouffe and David Axelrod. Other prominent politicians including Sens. Arlen Specter of Pennsylvania, Robert Casey of Pennsylvania, Jeff Bingaman of New Mexico, and Kirsten Gillibrand of New York have participated.

Lynda Tran, the national press secretary for Organizing for America, said the calls encourage “candid conversations,” allow the top Obama volunteers to “feel they were heard," and “enable people to feel connected, even though they are across the country from each other.”

These calls are as close to a face-to-face experience as the volunteers will have with each other outside of the regular social networks.

OFA says they think about the technology as a way to engage and connect as many people through as many avenues as possible. The group says it now realizes that sometimes a tweet or a Facebook message does not have the same impact as a phone conversation.

"We are starting to see the tremendous impact social conferencing is having on how volunteers feel connected with each other and OFA," MaestroConference political Director Bear Kittay told CNN. "People want to be a part of the conversation and comment threads or 140 characters don't go all the way. This is the power of live organizing on a mass scale."

Over the next several weeks, MaestroConference and OFA will combine their new technology with that of the already established Voter Activation Network (VAN), a group that holds a large list of Democratic voters’ contact information.

The robo-style outbound calls will contain a new twist that allows users contacted via automated call to bounce between larger conference calls or connect directly to a politician.

Filed under: 2010 • OFA • Social Networking
soundoff (12 Responses)
  1. strong

    Imagine using the "telephone" in 2010?

    Ha, maybe morse code will make a comeback.

    August 14, 2010 05:03 pm at 5:03 pm |
  2. Charlie in Maine

    We shall fight them on Face book, we shall fight them on Twitter, we will fight them on the editorial page, the public square, on posters, on TV.
    We shall fight them around the dinner table, at family reunions, at the water cooler, on the phone, over the wire, Morse code, smoke signals, two paper cups tied by a string.

    And we shall never surrender!

    August 14, 2010 05:24 pm at 5:24 pm |
  3. Dan

    Organizing America! Yes, the Obama community organizers groups of Acorn et al. that is a pro-welfare pro-lazy anti business grass root organization. Is this the great America we used to live in?!

    August 14, 2010 05:27 pm at 5:27 pm |
  4. Peter s

    Good choice the Palin has become the face of twitter and face book! leave those tools to her imbeciles!

    August 14, 2010 05:52 pm at 5:52 pm |
  5. ricardo merlo

    Yes!!!!!! Mr President it is time to take a bath after all good job you did in the Golfo. ............Give me a break

    August 14, 2010 06:19 pm at 6:19 pm |
  6. Jerry - Florida

    Mr. Kuhn, you forgot to mention: and lying their heads off. They do have the biggest liar in the world leading them.

    Stay tuned.

    August 14, 2010 08:05 pm at 8:05 pm |
  7. Four and The Door

    he robo-style outbound calls will contain a new twist that allows users contacted via automated call to bounce between larger conference calls or connect directly to a politician.
    Actually, we connected directly to a bunch of politicians a year ago when they were considering spending $1 trillion of our money to pass ObamaCare which is already starting to make health care more expensive. They didn't listen to anyone but their master Obama. They even used reconciliation to squeeze it through the Senate. No thanks. I'll let them hear what I have to say at the polls. See ya!

    August 14, 2010 08:12 pm at 8:12 pm |
  8. Azuka Ojini

    Clearly this lend credence to the Igbo (Chinua Achebe speaks this language) saying: If a bird learns to fly without perching, then the hunter would have to shoot without aiming. Translation if the target shifts endlessly, then do something about it, such thinking outside the box. Allow for the loss of meaning in translation.

    August 14, 2010 08:33 pm at 8:33 pm |
  9. Anti-Communist

    They even called me which gave me a great opportunity to tell them exactly why I was NOT voting for them in any election in the foreseeable future. The reckless spending by their party makes the Republican deficits look responsible. And I didn't like them either.

    August 14, 2010 08:42 pm at 8:42 pm |
  10. probably still automatic call machines

    just nothing personal about being called by a machine... the solicitors for charities do it all the time

    August 14, 2010 09:26 pm at 9:26 pm |
  11. christopher mwambingu

    i think this is a very positive gesture and campaign tool.i ask commentors and americans to appriciate what democratic party has done so far,dispite of the global economic of the achievement of obama administration is improving american image globaly which was very negative during the era of republicans.america was then vied as world dominator,agrassor war monger and valuing profits agaist human life.

    August 15, 2010 01:00 am at 1:00 am |
  12. ben

    haters a black man is the president deal with it

    August 15, 2010 07:47 am at 7:47 am |