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Obama campaign to announce VP choice by text

Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama's campaign will soon announce his choice of vice president through email and text message in a deft move that will also balloon his database.

The decision builds on Sen. Obama's use of technology, particularly the Internet and mobile, to connect with his supporters for fundraising, news alerts, campaign updates, volunteer work and event attendance.

"Barack Obama is about to make one of the most important decisions of this campaign -- choosing a running mate," said David Plouffe, campaign manager for Obama for America, in a blog post on http://www.barackobama.com.

"You have helped build this movement from the bottom up, and Barack wants you to be the first to know his choice," he said.

The post urges online visitors to sign up for the alert by texting VP to short code 62262 to get a text message on their mobile phone.

Once that text is received, the Obama campaign sends this response via a confirming return text: "Welcome to Obama Mobile. You will now be one of the 1st notified when the VP candidate is selected. Text HELP for help. Std charges apply. Please forward."

Another way to sign up is to click through the link on Mr. Plouffe's blog post to a landing page. Visitors are asked to enter their email address, first and last names, ZIP or postal codes and mobile phone number.

In the final step, visitors can check a box next to this statement: "Yes, sign me up to receive periodic text updates and send me a text of who Barack's VP nominee is."

Standard text message rates apply.

Smooth operator
The move won praise from Tim Miller, president of Sumotext Inc., a Little Rock, AR-based specialist in SMS marketing.

"To further build their database through this important announcement -- that's what smart people do," Mr. Miller said.

"The key to mobile is time-sensitive," he said. "If it's not time-sensitive email is usually adequate.

"What they're showing you is that not only are they marketing to people, but they're using their own tools to build this database."

The Obama campaign is certainly using the right tools to reach out to its core baby boomer and generations X and Y.

"People don't watch traditional TV the way they used to, they don't listen to radio the way they used to," said Jeff Hasen, chief marketing officer of HipCricket, a Kirkland, WA-based mobile marketing firm with broadcast and radio station clients.

"What this says is that he's really going where the fish are," he said. "So this says that he's going where the consumers are versus were they used to be."

Not text book
More than 96 percent of the U.S. mobile phone population -- approximately 255 million, by some estimates -- can be reached by SMS messages.

Also, more than 70 percent of U.S. consumers exchange text messages on a regular basis.

"That just shows that people are communicating and it is prime for politicians to tap into," Mr. Hasen said.

The age of the average texter is 38, he said. Interestingly, consumers ages 45-64 comprise the fastest-growing texting market, reinforcing a growing communications behavior.

"He's following his campaign -- being progressive," Mr. Hasen said about Sen. Obama, the Democratic Party challenger from Illinois.

"He's tapping into change," he said. "This is change. This hasn't been done before. McCain hasn't done this."

Indeed, Mr. Plouffe in his blog post on barackobama.com pointed this out as a key differentiation with Sen. Obama's Republican rival for president, Sen. John McCain.

"No other campaign has done this before," Mr Plouffe said. "You can be part of this important moment."

B-list
It doesn't take much to assume that die-hard Obama supporters are already on some kind of campaign list, be it mailing, emailing or texting.

But this latest effort to capitalize on the excitement around Mr. Obama's choice of running mate may jump opt-in rates and galvanize fence-sitters.

Mr. Plouffe's appeal to forward the message also feeds the viral nature of the Obama effort.

"They're going to identify a whole new bunch of people beyond their core troops," Sumotext's Mr. Miller said. "This is going to identify people they might be able to get between now and November. This is the fringe people.

"This is a perfect call to action," he said.