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Obama’s exciting online phone bank

September 13th, 2007

Barack Obama announced a major policy announcement about Iraq, which deserves its own discussion here on e-thepeople. On Weiksner.com, though, I want to point out a new grassroots method for getting the word out: an online phone bank. As a supporter, they provide a script, a feedback form and numbers to call. Here’s a screenshot:

Using a crude spreadsheet version of a long-tail distribution, I calculate that they’ve initiated 2,300 calls in the few hours since it’s been launched. If paid outbound calls cost $1 a minute and each of these calls last 10 minutes, then the financial value of this service is about $25,000. A couple of interesting metrics to follow: how many calls are made, what is the distribution of calls per volunteers, and some measure of success (awareness of the new policy perhaps?)

Of course, this technique has important differences from normal outbound calls. First, they have got to control quality – imagine the possible disasters associated with posting supporters phone numbers on the Internet! Second, these enthusiastic supporters may do a better job than a crummy telemarketer. Third, the callers themselves are becoming more invested in the Obama campaign.

So, it is exciting to see a major candidate take such a risk! If it works, perhaps they will start making outbound calls to other lists other than supporters. And if it doesn’t work, I hope they can learn from the mistakes rather than retreat from the initiative. For example, I think that they should try to make sure that they have opt-in lists for these kinds of calls. This technique would be less risky (although perhaps less valuable) if the receiver of the call was on board with the program first. It is refreshing to see new ways that citizens can get involved in politics other than donating money or being bombarded by ads.

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