Obama goes mobile
Photos: Getty Images
President Obama is mobile-izing. The target: young Hispanic voters.
It's no surprise from Obama. He harnessed the power of the Internet, mobile phones and social media in a huge way in 2008 and rode that tech wave all the way to the White House.
But that was in the (mostly) pre-app days. The iPhone App Store didn't even open until July 11, 2008, barely four months before the election and long before anyone could possibly imagine how much the political world would be changed by mobile technology.
Well, that was then and this is now, and Obama and Mitt Romney are locked in a brutal, nail-biter fight in what looks like is going to be the closest election since Bush vs. Gore in 2000. (Will there be a "pregnant chad" app for Florida residents?)
That means every vote will count. Especially Latino votes.
Well, it turns out Hispanics tend to have more smartphones than other groups, and tend to use them a lot more. According to a report from The Hispanic Institute, more than 87 percent of English- speaking Hispanics now own a cell phone, compared to 80 percent of non-Hispanic whites.
And BIGresearch found that Latino adults are 59 percent more likely to use an iPad, 59 percent more likely to use an iPhone, and 64 percent more likely to use Droid devices.
So the campaigns are coming to a cell phone near you.
Once again, the guy who turned Twitter into a political force is leading the tech race. Obama's campaign has an iPhone and iPad app that delivers campaign news (and allows instant shares via e- mail, Facebook and Twitter), info on places and ways to volunteer, a campaign event locator (of course with maps and directions, but also those all-important ways to share!), and, naturally, lots of pics and video clips. With ways to share!
Of course, if you prefer push notifications, Latinos for Obama, the official Hispanic arm of the president's campaign invites you to "TEXT UNIDOS TO 62262 FOR MOBILE UPDATES."
Which you can then, of course, re-text to all your friends.
Clearly, they don't just want to connect with you. They want to connect through you. Because they know, that's what we do.
The BIGresearch survey found that "58% of Hispanic adults perform mobile text messaging, 41% more than the 41% of overall adults who do so." The Hispanic Institute's study found that "More than 14% of Hispanic cell phone owners make and receive more than 30 calls on a typical day, compared to just 4% of White cell phone owners, and Hispanics send or receive an average of 10 texts a day, compared to just five texts a day for Whites."
Romney is lagging a bit here. His campaign has a mobile-optimized site, but no app yet. The reason, Zac Moffatt, the campaign's digital director, told the Medill News Service:
"I don't want someone to have to download an app to be able to experience our website and our message. I would hate to exclude someone because they didn't have a mobile phone that didn't allow for the app or it didn't render the way that they want."
Romney's campaign does send out texts to users who sign up for them, but it has nothing specifically aimed at Latinos.
It's not just the campaigns using mobile to reach potential voters.
Voto Latino, the national organization trying to boost Hispanic participation in the November election, plans to release a mobile app in the fall to help Hispanics (or anyone for that matter) register to vote, no matter where they are.
It's a new form of civic engagement, and political involvement – a cyber-grassroots effort. And it seems particularly suited to the way Latinos communicate. The challenge for the campaigns in this close election is to see if mobile can truly mobilize voters to go to the polls on Election Day.
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