Campaigns tread carefully into world of Web 2.0

U.S. presidential candidates are gravitating toward Web 2.0 technology to garner support and raise money

David Kimball, associate professor of political science at the University of Missouri-St. Louis, said the use of Web 2.0 tools is a way for candidates to meet and contact more of their likely supporters, raise money and attract volunteer workers.

However, he noted that the protests that surrounded the Edwards' campaign worker blogs highlight that, "if you're not careful you can end up being associated with unpopular views since the Web is more of a venue of unfiltered discussion."

He echoed Germany's thoughts on the heavy censorship likely used in campaign blogs.

"[Campaigns] are adapting these technologies for their use in politics, but they are not adopting them wholesale," he said. "They are making changes to fit their political needs."

While the Republican National Committee has long been acknowledged by both parties to have better exploited IT in past elections to help its candidates, some of the Republican presidential candidate Web sites launched so far feature less social networking features.

The set up by Sen. Sam Brownback doesn't include any of the newer Web applications, while former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney's includes videos but no blogs or other tools that backers could use to form online communities around his campaign for the GOP nomination.

Germany said she expects the Republicans to adopt more social networking and Web 2.0 tools as the campaign progresses. "Campaigns know there is power in these social networking sites and they will figure out how to leverage that better," she said.

Politicians aren't the only ones working to take advantage of Web 2.0. Corporations are flocking to social networks as a way to create and support communities of customers to help boost the appeal of their products. In the past two weeks, for example, General Motors' Pontiac unit, Procter & Gamble and the Portland Trailblazers professional basketball team have all launched new social networking sites.

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