7 Under-The-Hood Technologies That Are Transforming Politics

Politics spends a lot of time talking about itself on Twitter. But some of these less public services may have just as much impact.

The 2012 campaign is being played out in public and in particular on the giant, public social platforms: Twitter, Facebook, and Tumblr.

But the best-known social media aren’t the only technical engine driving the 2012 campaign. And the Republican consultant Patrick Ruffini argued Wednesday that low-profile, high-impact, and private organizing tools may prove a more decisive factor: “Winning online takes more than a Twitter account and a WordPress plugin. It takes serious engineering resources to build sophisticated grassroots and microtargeting tools like the Obama campaign is doing, and data scientists to optimize the vote.”

BuzzFeed asked some of the top tech hands of both parties for some of those high-impact new technologies, which range from a cheap, universal campaign dashboard, to a private social network for campaigns, to applications that tap into social relationships for fundraising and organizing.

2. 1. NationBuilder

NationBuilder, a community organizing system, connects leaders with interested constituents using voter data as well as email and text marketing. Started by a Harvard roommate of Mark Zuckerberg, it aims to democratize the new wave of expensive technical services. Nation Builder is built on the premise that a software platform has the capacity to create and organize communities in a highly social, targeted manner — and it offers a low-cost, integrated platform that could be central to a City Council race or a presidential camapign. The Los Angeles-based company recently received $6.25 million in funding.

3. 2. NationalField

NationalField, which was devised on Obama’s campaign trail in 2008, is a private social network for campaigns that aggregates data according to the different levels of the campaign’s hierarchy. It allows volunteers to submit information and share it amongst each other, as well as with campaign managers. Voters can then compete with each other for the highest number of constituents reached. NationalField displays varying amounts of data depending on the user’s place within the social hierarchy, ultimately facilitating interaction and creating community within what could otherwise be a disparate, isolated organization.

4. 3. Mobile Commons

Mobile Commons, founded in 2007, is a platform that facilitates targeted phone calls and the formation of relationships through text messaging. Its dashboard allows users to conduct their communications campaigns from a single location, and the tool tracks each text and call to create a profile of the individuals it reaches. Campaigns use Mobile Commons to reach out to voters in an individually-tailored, personalized manner.

5. 4. Votizen

Votizen is creating an online network of voters that lets users see how friends in their social networks are registered to vote. These Votizens can then team up to lobby for certain candidates, read up on current political issues, and leverage their social connections to create political action. Its database currently has over 200 million voters, and Votizen recently raised $750,000 in funding.

6. 5. Amicus

Amicus optimizes fundraising by leveraging personal relationships and social networks. In this friend-to-friend outreach, organizations create campaigns, and volunteers then use their social networks to optimize fundraising. After logging in through Facebook Connect, volunteers can see which of their friends is being targeted in the outreach; they then call friends first, and later friends of friends.

7. 6. Electionear

Electionear is a mobile canvassing tool that helps to organize field volunteers. The software company was launched in 2007.

8. 7. EventBrite

EventBrite, which isn’t just political but is increasingly widely used by campaigns, is a platform that enables campaigns to create and share events, sell tickets, and track user profiles. The San Francisco-based company was launched in 2006 and received $50 million in funding in May 2011, which has allowed it to expand further into the ticket sales market.

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