Running Web 2.0 Campaign: Interview with Ben Self, Founding Partner of Blue State Digital

Friday 6th November 2009 - 15:37

Today's connected society has relied on technology to help provide successful campagins in marketing, outreach, converting, establishing, ultimately looking for one thing...results.

Most recently the United States was embroiled in a political race that was heated and highly contested. Many through their name in the hat, but in the end it was down to two major candidates from two of the major parties. What these candidates needed was a campaign that could provide results and that is where Ben Self and his company, Blue State Digital came into play.

Blue State Digital is a full service creative and strategic firm dedicated to providing results for their clients. They also offer a tiered system that requires no downloads, installs, or plugins, but rather stays online for the client to log into as needed to check on their campaign, analyze results, and with accessibility on mobile devices, makes it easy for the client to stay connected.

With their focus on design, strategy and implementation of their plan, they were able to become a part of the winning team that would eventually win the presidential campaign and make a major footprint for their company in the White House.

What Their Software Does Best


Ben Self
Realizing how important it was to reach out to as many people as possible, Blue State Digital did what many thought was impossible. Blue State's overall plan was to help put their client in front of as many people as possible, crossing boundaries of wealth, race, religion and age.

Using new media tools and digital outlets they were able to tap into a market that has otherwise been apathetic to the voting process, and in doing so truly used their tools to change the way elections will be held in the future.

Blue State Digital claims itself to be “the leader in online fundraising, advocacy, social networking, constituency development for nonprofit organizations, political candidates and causes, and corporations.” Though just starting in 2004 they've been able to acquire an impressive clientele list to include President Obama, Walmart, Alliance for Climate Protection and Communication Workers of America.

When asked what separates their products and services from the rest, found partner Ben Self had this to say, “the thing that I think makes it really interesting and important is that it has been rigorously tested through our analytics department.”

Ben went on to discuss how thorough the process of testing is using a contribution page as an example. He discusses how an extra form field can increase or decrease the donation amount, how something on a website might impact how long a person is on the page, and other such, what he calls “minor tweaks,” can impact the end user's experience.

On Social Media Tools


Ben Self comments that social media has been given a place on a pedastool by too many people that do not understand the essentials of a true marketing campaign. He sees these networks as only tools for his company to use, while useful, should not be considered a sure thing.

“And so we view some of the external social media sites, the Facebooks, the Twitterers, those things, as not necessarily the secret to the success, as they are a way of reaching out to people,” Ben responds to an inquiry on social media tools.

His takeaway point from this conversation was definitly to never forget that putting something online for the sake of being online is not helpful to anyone. Interactive campaigns and outreach are not billboards, but rather a focused, and strategic measureable way of exchanging information and data.

Blue State Digital recognizes that social networks are extremely useful in directing people to new websites, but Ben stresses that great content and a compelling message will hopefully keep them on your site and encourage them to follow through with the call to action of the campaign you set out to do.

Metrics & Reporting

Stated at the beginning of this article, results are what the clients are looking for. To get these, it's vital that any campaign have a solid method of acquire metrics and an easy to comprehend reporting process so that the metics can be analyzed effectively. Ben recognizes the importance of sending a mass email, for example, but more importantly it's how that person will interact with that email.

“It's things like open rates, click through rates where it emails, it action conversion rates where you go through that. It's like everyone who signs a particular petition and how many follow through and send out and invite your friends to sign the petition as well. How many of those friends then come along and sign it. Its the qualitative side of measurement as well so what issue brought these individuals in originally, what should we be talking about with them ongoing,” says Ben Self in an example of how metrics can be measured from something as simple as an email campaign.

In a bold statement Ben says that no action online goes without a way to measure it in some way. That is what Blue State Digital looks to capture and report. The key ingredient to their system is focusing in on what YOU are doing.

Andicom 2009


Blue State Digital was featured at Andicom 2009 in Colombia where Ben has been asked to discuss the case study of the Obama campaign.

“It doesn't matter if you are a politician, or a corporation or a nonprofit or a university or a film, we've worked with clients in all sorts of organizations, but that people are expecting the internet to not just be a broadcast medium anymore. They are expecting interactivity and giving a few examples of how you can build that interactivity honestly and transparently and then giving some best practices for engaging with people after you've built that website and once you've brought them there,” Ben says of his speaking topic.

He adds that Blue State Digital wants to ensure that they share “the basics of online organizing along with a few best practices that hopefully people can take away from no matter what industry they come from.”
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