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will encourage them to vote.

"Younger people see the energy we're creating via Web technology and are more likely to get involved. We hear all the time that creative Web videos and messaging are reaching more and more people as word spreads. Our goal is to take the next step in mixing Internet technology with campaigning. Given the feedback we get from supporters, members of the media and people who are new to politics, we're succeeding."

Perhaps the most important element that Web 2.0 brings to a campaign is the chance to paint a more intimate portrait of a candidate.

"Social networking sites, like our Facebook and MySpace pages, are geared not only to the issues and legislation that Norm fights for, but also to him as a person - information about him and his family that gives people a chance to learn more about him personally," Sheehan said. 

"Flickr is a sort of photo journal of the campaign thus far. People can look at Norm's travels around the state and what the campaign has been up to. Given its adaptable nature, YouTube might be the most powerful Internet tool we use. On our YouTube channel, we try to mix traditional messaging with creative Web videos that discuss issues affecting the campaign on a daily basis. The advent of the Web video as a viral tool has a daily effect on local and national campaigns."

Digital Democracy

Campaigns discussed here differ in size, scale, resources and goals, yet each shares a common element - the clever application of mostly free Web 2.0 tools to better reach voters.

None of these candidates are - or were - ensured victory simply because they were savvy enough to leverage the latest Web technology. Some Web 2.0 tools may have questionable usefulness, but most are delivering a considerable return on minimal investment.

Many people bemoan that snaring an elected office is too often prohibitively expensive. But Web 2.0 might just help put politics back within the reach of any citizen who wants to serve.

"Especially for a smaller campaign that may not budget for a lot of paid media, earned media via the Internet is a cost-effective way to garner serious attention," Sheehan said. "Put some energy into it, and you'll see a definite impact in terms of spreading your message and reaching out to more and more people."

Chad Vander Veen  | 

Chad Vander Veen previously served as the editor of FutureStructure, and the associate editor of Government Technology and Public CIO magazines.