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SMS should hitch fortunes to TV to become serious political tool

While billions of dollars were spent this midterm election on television, outdoor, radio, online and mail advertising, SMS? use as a grassroots tool was neglected by most candidates running for office.

With the exception of President Obama?s SMS list going back to his presidential election two years ago, most politicians still rely on old-world tactics and ploys to get out the vote. What a wasted opportunity to talk in the language most people understand.

Two things are permanent fixtures in this nation?s electoral cycles: the need to fundraise year-round for political campaigns and the dominance of television in defining the candidate or redefining the opponent. Mobile and SMS, in particular, is suited to both these purposes.

Code of conduct
One simple use of SMS is to add a short code and keyword to each commercial. Tagging these two throughout the 30- or 60-second spot can also become part of a branding exercise where viewers start remembering catchy numbers and words to text.

Such tagging can help for fundraising, volunteer calls or getting out the vote.

Another use of SMS is for fundraising efforts.

Candidates can encourage TV viewers to enroll to receive SMS alerts. After the due opt-in process, they can begin communicating with the constituents and supporters and eventually build trust.

Once trust is built, candidates can send an alert with a link to a mobile-friendly landing page where citizens can read up on the issues and support with legally permissible financial contributions. The candidate can develop a mobile-friendly Web site that accepts transactions.

It?s as simple as that.

And yet, it is hard to fathom why more politicians choose not to speak in the language of most consumers.

Each year this nation exchanges more than 1 trillion SMS messages, so the awareness and use of texting is almost ubiquitous with the exception of a few holdouts in the senior-citizen demographic.

The time has come for a smart entrepreneur to launch a marketing firm whose main business is to infuse mobile through all traditional and interactive mobile channels, especially TV.

While the few political shops that are out there do well, they are certainly operating below the radar. They certainly need to raise their profile and share some case studies on how mobile marketing helped get a candidate?s message across to voters, raised funds and put someone in office.

All politics is mobile
SMS has the path of least resistance out of all the mobile channels out there. It is easily understood, widely used and quickly responded.

Politicians and proponents of political and social causes may have taken an SMS pass in this midterm elections, but they should gear up for a mobile-focused general election in 2012.

After all, the winning presidential candidate in 2008 had the largest SMS database which he put to good use since then. For that, this publication named Team Obama as 2008 Mobile Marketer of the Year.

But President Obama should go beyond mere SMS and also include links to educational mobile videos on how his administration worked to stabilize the economy, save the financial system and offer near-universal healthcare. Perhaps it would have helped make his case better to a worried electorate about jobs, bloated government and security.

Indeed, the weekly presidential radio address ? which, for its misleading name, is also videotaped for C-Span broadcast ? from the White House should be available via a link through text messages sent to Mr. Obama?s SMS database.

The reality of the last century and the one before was that all politics is local. Today, as voters speedily demonstrate their anger or enthusiasm for parochial and national issues through interactive media, it is fair to say that all politics is mobile.