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Obama Drafts iPhone Users To Help With Campaign

A new iPhone application, freely available at the Apple App Store, makes use of the iPhone's social networking and viral communications attributes.

The Obama campaign may be edging up in the polls, but it's trying to leave nothing to chance. It's developed a new iPhone application, freely available at the Apple App Store, that makes use of the iPhone's social networking and viral communications attributes.

"It brings together several social networking capabilities that are already out there. But this is the first time I've seen a political campaign make use of them," said Chris Hazelton, the mobile and wireless director of research at the 451 Group.

The location-specific features of the application also make it a model for any group, political or otherwise, that's looking to recruit new members or perform outreach, Hazelton said in an interview.

Unlike the Obama campaign's earlier and only partially successful notification to backers of his VP choice, the new application makes use of the iPhone's continuous network connection to deliver updated information on the campaign. It identifies the user's location and informs him of his nearest Obama field office and campaign events in his area.

But perhaps it biggest innovation is to make use of a self-selected supporter's willingness to call his friends about the campaign. After a user opens the application, it displays the user's caller list state by state. If he is paying attention to closely contested regions, he can select friends in battleground or swing states and call them, urging them to vote for Obama. The application tracks who's been called, who was reached, who needs to be contacted again, Hazelton said.

At the same time the application allows the user to sign up in less than a minute as a volunteer or simply register to receive the latest information, wherever the user may be, said Hazelton.

"It's a brilliant marketing move by the Obama campaign, which simultaneously targets the demographic that's most likely to have an iPhone and support Obama," he said. He characterized that segment of the population as a "continuously connected, multimedia oriented, highly communicative, technology savvy group." He said it would tend to be young adults, then corrected himself to say it would tend to be those who like to use Facebook, Twitter, and other social media.

Obama's earlier attempt to notify supporters of his VP pick before the general public fell behind as SMS and e-mail servers backed up with the message traffic. In many cases, the press was broadcasting his pick before the message to supporters went out, or it went out in the middle of the night when supporters were unlikely to pick it up. Using the iPhone's AT&T network to maintain contact with supporters is less likely to impose delays, he said.

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