Dude, Where's My Text Message?

First to know? Not quite. The best new media campaign in history botched their attempt to keep a lid on the VP pick in order to announce it via text messaging. It turned out to be just too difficult to keep quiet. However, although it was - technically speaking - a risky endeavor, the campaign strategy of collecting phone numbers for text messaging use passed with flying colors. Buzz was everywhere all week about receiving the VP announcement on our phones. Around the end of the West Coast work day, Erin Kotecki-Vest tweeted that her mobile text messaging "DING made my heart jump." By then, the process of elimination left many thinking Biden was the pick, but there was no word from the campaign.

Assuming the goal of the exercise was not just to inform supporters, but to mobilize them, the database of SMS contacts is the newest member of the Obama - no, excuse me - Obama/Biden arsenal. GOTV efforts begin in earnest after the convention and text messaging has been shown to be quite an effective tool for that purpose. In the 2002 South Korean presidential election, Lee Hoi Chan held the lead until Roh Moo Hyun supporters sent out text messages and email to 800,000 voters on election day, turning the tides and winning the election by a 2% margin. A survey based on the 2006 election found that voting reminders via SMS produced an increase turnout by 4%. Besides, it's cheaper and people don't mind that it's automated.

After the story of Biden's Secret Service coverage broke, the first tweet arrived at 9:30 p.m. PT. Twitter, as I expected, brought me the first real news. An email flurry followed. Still no text messages. Then the CNN News Alert came in around 9:50 p.m. PT by email. No text messages. Sarah Burris tweeted from Denver that "search.twitter.com has hundreds of tweets in seconds RE: Biden" a half hour later. Not surprising. The Obama campaign was all quiet, but by midnight Pacific, the web site simply read: "Barack has chosen Joe Biden to be his running mate." Sadly, two hours into the text messaging blitz, my phone was still silent.

Supposedly the campaign began sending text messages around midnight Pacific time, 3a.m. Eastern. According to the LA Times, the text message read "Barack has chosen Senator Joe Biden to be our VP nominee... Watch the first Obama-Biden rally live at 3 p.m. ET on www.BarackObama.com. Spread the word!" Finally I received some Twitter action at 2:22a.m. PT with the same message that had yet to come by text. Time for a nudge.