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.