We've seen candidates from both sides of the aisle use the Web to great effect over the past six years, for everything from online fundraising to spreading their messages via blogs and email distribution (I get more emails from candidates and political organizations these days than from my friends...no peanut gallery comments, please).
But the politicos are clearly getting much more sophisticated in their use of the Internets.
MSNBC's Heather Greenfield wrote in a story yesterday that the 2006 U.S. campaign is about to get "Google-bombed," with both liberal and conservative bloggers planning to manipulate Google to ensure negative articles about opposing candidates appear near the top of search listings.
Although I hate to see election campaigns come to this, at the same time I'm kind of proud of the fact that we've evolved our political cybermaneuverings to this new level of sophistication.
I work with a team involved in search optimization here at IBM, and going after the competition on the search engines is great fun and can be most productive. And really, it kind of proves what I've been saying about search inside Big Blue for some time now.
It's fine to spend all this time, money, and energy on mass media advertising and direct marketing. But when I really want to talk to a prospective customer (or voter) who is expressing their intent to learn more about a product, service, or, in this case, a candidate, give me a search engine any day of the week.
Why? Because people using search engines are "in the market," so to speak, and therefore more open to the opportunity to get information about a product, service, or candidate, eager to listen and learn.
Their intent has been expressed: Talk to me. Tell me something I didn't know. Explain why your big screen TV is better than all the rest. Help me understand why I should vote for your candidate versus "the other guy."
Call it "demand side marketing."
Using search as a mechanism by which to intercept citizens' electoral investigations of the candidates is just one more useful tool in the campaign toolset, as well as for empowering intelligent (if sometimes mudslinging) democracy.
Never mind most such uses of Google searches will be used for attack ads on the other guy -- I suspect they will also lead curious voters in many different directions, encouraging them to learn what each candidate is saying about themselves, and also about what they're saying about the competition (which also ought to figure into the consideration set for making such an important decision as to whom to vote for).
So, stand back and let the political Google-bombing begin!
And if you are a political junkie, be sure and check out the Google Election Mashup inside Google Earth. It's a great way to follow the individual Congressional races and learn how to register to vote in your area.