Okay. Whew. I'm back to blogging. Was under the GUN last week with 3 courses to deliver for the CRM 2.0 and Social Media training that Chris Carfi and I are starting next week in San Francisco. Finished 'em Saturday but took a break on Thursday to go to the Politics Online conference which was both fascinating, occasionally horrifying and very telling when it came to a few things:
- The struggle to figure out how to deal with constituents be they voters or social/political activists is proving to be difficult to a lot of the practitioners who attended the conference
- The CRM world with the likely exception of salesforce.com doesn't seem to get the rich opportunity that the political and social activists provide as they increasingly feel their power.
- Being really, really smart and visible sometimes works against you.
- Google is still ubiquitous and an amoral morass of a company.
One, Two, Three, Four: The Struggle...The Failure...The Visibility...The Morass
The Politics Online conference is the stepchild of Politics Online which is the brainchild of Phil Noble, a good ol' boy from South Carolina who I had the pleasure of meeting. Lotta kids there. He is a down to earth fella that has an exceptionally large dollop of savvy mixed into his homespun gravy. An amazing dude. Also totally endearing, he's a Yankees fan and loves the 1961 Yankees, so you know that I'm gonna say lots of good things about him. He has a great sense of humor too. If you wanna check out what I'm saying, check out this Vlog interview that was done at the conference. Worth the listen. You'll see what I mean. He notes that the inflection point for politics and social networks and activism was the YouTube "macacca" incident with George Allen. Right as rain, Mr. Phil.
So, not only does he have it goin' on, as we relics of the 60s say, he zoomed to the lead of an evolution of politics to the constituency-based version it should always have been, with lots of Web 2.0 tools to support the active involvement of those constituents. Thing is, he had to foresight to see it and to create and then lead the effort. Thus there were around 300-350 attendees, and it drew some of the names in the blogging world to it to speak. I saw Jeff Jarvis, the uberblogger who runs "The Buzz Machine" wandering around the conference. He was there to host a panel. For his take on the whole thing, and a good reporting job it was, check out this link here at the BuzzMachine and it will cover the reporting that I don't want to do.
There were a lot of political mavens there but also a lot of small consulting companies that sorta get the 2.0 world. What was interesting was watching them wander the exhibition halls nattering away about their thinking on how to use social networks in campaigns - either for elected office or for a cause or ten. They really were unclear about it. The problem I think with the shebang, though no fault of the conference creators is that I heard lots of chatter about the idea of social networks but there were only a few things devoted to the "how to" on social networking with a notable exception being a track on the metrics of social networks. Some of the vendors, like Google, were just pushing their corporate agendas - in Googles case, world domination - but in an ironic twist, most of the CRM vendors were stupid enough to not be there.
With the notable exception of salesforce.com.
Salesforce is being really smart here. First, they've used their rather easy to develop authoring to create a good - in fact, very good - political app to track donations, activists, etc. for campaigns. Here's some screenshots to give you an idea of how to adapt a commercial app/service to the political world.
Cool mashup and smart-lookin' dashboard aren't they?
Okay, now for a regular old screenshot which, if you know salesforce.com's normal tabbed presence, will look awfully familiar. Basically, change the lingo for a few fields, alter the workflow, reapply the notion of an account and voila, you get a really slick little service app that works on AppExchange and is on demand and, is partisan-agnostic.
What astounds me is not that salesforce.com came up to the plate here, but that I didn't see ANY other CRM vendor at the event exhibiting. Nor did I see any social networking vendor exhibiting, though to their credit, Neighborhood America, my current favorite, was all over the place being there. The sponsors were Google, a smart move for a company that wants to be the non-judgmental political index for the universe, Washingtonpost.Newsweek Interactive, Blogads, the blog for pay bunch, Feedburner, Zogby International and a significant number of vertically-focused-on-politics web 2.0 companies (e.g. Care2, DemNet, ElectionMall.com). But NO CRM COMPANIES WERE HERE!!
Salesforce's team, led by political veteran and now SVP of Public Policy Dan Burton were admirably low key. Dan's speech at the conference focused around the use of the on demand model as an excellent platform and toolset for political campaigns and he left salesforce.com implicit in that rather than trying a more markety approach. In fact, he deflected salesforce.com specific references or questions from there to the more universal. The high road.
It was smart.
In an ironic way, though, salesforce.com became a bit of a victim of its own success. United Way and Washingtonpost.Newsweek Interactive were on the stage along with Laura Graham, CEO of Catalist - a politically focused data company. It turns out that United Way and WNI (too long to write each time) were both salesforce.com customers and sang its praises non-stop, despite Dan's obvious attempts to keep things from being salesy, much to his and his compadres credit. Unfortunately, it was impossible to do that because their customers LOVED them - really, really LOVED them in a way that made it seem like a paid non-political announcement - though I know that salesforce didn't intend that at all.
Ironic in a way, but I'm personally very glad that at least ONE CRM related company had the smarts to move to this exceptionally important vertical "category" and hopefully, now, they'll own the market because no one else has the intelligence to get into it.
Now onto Google...
Man, I really don't like that dissembling, amoral company, despite their technological brilliance. They claim neutrality while they give up citizens in China in the name of the public good. In fact, Eric Schrage, the VP of Global Communications for Google was there and gave a nondescript keynote on Google - a job poorly done. When the questions came, he was asked one about China and he just went out there and made the whole thing into a "we thought at the time and still do, though things can change, that the way that we've handled China was done for the greater good because that way by doing what we did in China, we can get out more and more information and as you know information is freedom."
Something very close to that.
Forgot to mention that they gave up Chinese citizens to the government as the price paid for the greater good of information dissemination. I didn't see any Google senior management giving themselves up - sacrificing themselves for the greater good. Guy didn't EVER mention what they actually did and once again, forgot to mention there are more than business decisions to make in this world and that amorality is not a very nice thing.
Ah well, no reason to end on a Googlerant.
Peace, love, politics, campaigns and go salesforce for being smart enough to join this new vertical.
Just for the record...politics and government aren't the same. So get your act together CRM companies and make what I said dead wrong.