Last week, Brett Jackson, the 22-year-old CEO of a Boulder, CO company called Generation Think Tank, got a call out of the blue from an organization called Protect Colorado's Future. Would he be interested in a five-day, get out the vote project to convince young Coloradans to vote no on three business and labor-related amendments? The concern was that young people would go to the polls to cast their votes for the next president, but would ignore the amendments. A "hefty" fee was proffered, says Jackson, whose company specializes in non-traditional marketing and advertising. He singed on and got to work immediately, GenY style.
"We did four things," says Jackson. "We had a Facebook strategy which allowed people to update their status to say 'vote no on amendments 47, 49, and 54'; we had a Twitter strategy; we had street teams handing out fliers on twelve college campuses in Colorado; and we dressed up on Halloween as politicians carrying picket signs that said 'Vote No on Amendments 47, 49, and 54.' We had pictures taken of us with people dressed up as nurses, police officers and firefighters. The idea was that people would share them online and tag them." Jackson, who is now tempted to start a political consulting practice, reports that Protect Colorado's Future saw an exponential increase in web traffic over the past few days. Will that translate into votes? We'll know tomorrow.
The strategy wasn't just about delivering a message using social media, says Jackson. "It was about shaping the message and then letting other people determine how they wanted to talk about it. Then it's their message and it tends to have a stronger impact on their friends than if it were delivered by some politician in Washington," he says. It's a strategy I'm betting we'll see a lot more of -- from politicians, special interest groups, and businesses large and small.
DONNA FENN is the author of Upstarts! How Gen-Y Entrepreneurs Are Rocking the World of Business and 8 Ways You Can Profit From Their Success, an exploration of the ways Gen Y is changing the entrepreneurial landscape.
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