The 2012 presidential election season is officially here, and if the history-making 2008 edition was any indication, digital technology will play an even bigger role this time around. Politicians at the highest level are turning to social media to reach out to their public, and this trend will no doubt continue until the very last vote is dropped in the ballot box. Just in time for all the election shenanigans is the emergence of a new social network with a strong political focus.
Created by David Binetti, co-founder of USA.gov, recognized as the first official website of the U.S. government, Votizen is a social network that gives people the platform needed to support their political candidate or cause to the fullest. The startup company behind the network is trying something very unique by aiming to replace the traditional aspects of political campaigning with building social connections. So instead of raising campaign funds to support a candidate or cause, users tally up support from their friends in the social space.
Votizen in Action
To date, Votizen is perhaps best known for its involvement in the recent San Francisco mayoral race, which reached its climax last November. The race was won by Ed Lee, who became the first ever Chinese-American to hold the title as Mayor of San Francisco. Lee ended up winning the election by nearly 20% over John Avalos, who was the runner-up in a distant race. Perhaps more interesting than that is how Binetti’s Votizen played a big part in the voting process.
In San Francisco’s quest to crown a new city leader, Votizen introduced a new initiative the creators call the “Virtual Precinct Walk.” The concept is built on the physical walkthrough that sees politicians and citizens going door to door to drum up support. Of course the walkthrough traditionally takes place in local neighborhoods, but Votizen is moving it to the web with its Virtual Precinct Walk.
This innovate approach has some unique advantages, mainly, being able to easily get in touch with potential supporters online and not having to worry about elements such as the weather, or whether or not they’ll answer the door. Votizen CEO Binetti explained that the Virtual Precinct Walk was instrumental in Lee winning San Francisco’s mayoral race during a recent interview with Fast Company.
Gauging the Viability of Votizen
Votizen itself is a unique concept that could have some very interesting implications on the upcoming election and political endeavors moving forward. As we all know, it takes a lot of politicking and spending for candidates to reach out to their supporters. Most candidates spend that money on TV ads, snail mail campaigns and those robot-like automated phone calls people find so annoying. Even with all that money and all those efforts, no candidate can guarantee a victory at the polls.
What Votizen offers is the promise of a platform that empowers the most important components in the entire voting process – the people. And integration with popular social networks like Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter gives users the opportunity to see their friends discussing topics such as healthcare or the economy, and to chime in and actually get involved with the ones they care about. Political candidates can also benefit because their campaign now has additional support in a new and lively channel – one that isn’t costing them an arm and a leg.
Votizen is striving to change the citizen’s role in the political process by giving their voice more power than ever. There is still a long way to go, but so far, so good.