Web site helps candidates manage social networking

Sen. Dodd's MyLifeBrand site

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In juggling several online communities on different social-networking sites, presidential campaigns are confronting the challenge of how to organize their online presence in a way that maximizes impact and reach while not forgetting grassroots efforts.

Presidential hopefuls have been using online community sites such as MySpace, YouTube and Facebook to announce their candidacies and host forums. But now that they have burgeoning online presences on handfuls of different networks, the campaigns are looking for ways to connect their cyber supporters.

Presidential candidate Sen. Chris Dodd’s (D-Conn.) campaign team is turning to MyLifeBrand, a social network aggregator, for the answer. MyLifeBrand, currently in alpha form, lets members of different social networks and associated friends link to one another on one network.

Once Dodd’s “branded custom community” is up and running, Dodd supporters will be able to access all of the campaign’s social-networking sites and the Dodd campaign Web site. The aggregator doesn’t affect the status of the original networks, letting the existing communities continue as they are.

“It’s not a bad thing to be on 23 different social-network sites,” said Brett Schenker, a member of Dodd’s internet campaign team. “By trying to bring them all into one aggregating system we’re trying to connect those people who might want to work together to make sure Dodd is their next president.”

The Dodd campaign team hopes MyLifeBrand will become a one-stop shop for campaign supporters. It hopes the site will let supporters who are members of different online social networks link to one another to better share messages and ideas.

Daniel Scalisi, MyLifeBrand’s executive vice president, said that by building a branded community, candidates can benefit from an expanded network and increased control over their message. And although Dodd is the first to sign on, the company said Republican campaigns have also expressed interest.

“I think the [Dodd campaign] found our site to be a useful platform to provide this kind of command-and-control center for all of the different social pages and or social experiences that are created out on the Web,” Scalisi said. “It’s a powerful, centralized messaging tool.”

“Brands are embracing social networks, but they are scared of them at the same token, because there is so much they can’t control and this is shifting a little bit of that power back to the brand,” Scalisi added.

But Joshua Levy, associate editor of TechPresident.com, a nonpartisan Web site that explores how politics and technology influence each other, warns that campaigns need to be careful not to alienate grassroots supporters.

“The whole thing [with online social networking] is that it’s the supporters that control the message," he said. “If the message is handled in a top down way and you are not allowed to deviate people get very upset about that very quickly and they don’t want to participate.”

About the Author

Ben Bain is a reporter for Federal Computer Week.

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