Organization of a Networked Presidential Campaign in Social Media

Tuesday, July 15, 2014: 11:00 AM
Room: Booth 45
Oral Presentation
Veikko ERANTI , University of Helsinki, Helsinki, Finland
Even though participation in traditional party politics is in decline, novel campaigning approaches can create momentous movements and mobilize people outside traditional party membership. Finland, with its until recently stable party system, is no exception. Following the overseas examples of the campaigns of Howard Dean and Barack Obama, Pekka Haavisto (Green) pioneered usage of social media in an unprecedented scale during the Finnish presidential election of 2012. This paper explores how traditional party structures can use social media and campaigning tactics that are traditionally more suited to different types of social organizations.

Mr. Haavisto comes from a small party with a lousy track record on previous presidential elections and a lackluster funding. Although Haavisto ultimately lost the election, the campaign is a landmark in how it used social media. The most effective parts of the campaign were based on completely autonomous campaigning groups with little or no oversight from the campaign office. These groups were self-organized around memes, which were also an effective tool in online campaigning. 80% of campaign was funded through a micro-funding tool.

My paper aims to describe in detail how the campaign used social media for communication and fundraising.  It uses key person interviews and a collection of material from social media to create a rich profile of the campaign tactics. The paper analyzes, what the campaign looked like and what new conflicts emerged from the setting that included 1) the campaign office, 2) party headquarters and most importantly 3) hundreds of volunteers without direct oversight. The paper argues, that a move from a centralized traditional campaign office towards more agile and decentralized forms of networked campaigning especially regarding funding and communication can be made even inside party structure.