Spending on online political campaigning hit its high water mark in 2008's presidential race.
Without a massive national campaign until 2012, candidates and organizations competing in the midterm elections have had to adapt new media tools and opportunities to smaller scales.
Those efforts at adaptation have faced many of the same pitfalls marketers of all kinds have had when trying to sort out what to do with the Internet and social media.
In the face of a rapidly evolving landscape and new tools around every corner, many organizations have retreated back to the bad old days - implementing Twitter and Facebook versions of their tired blast e-mails that contain little more than press releases or direct-mail copy.
Others have cobbled together derivative, copycat campaigns - borrowing tactics from successful digital initiatives. Many of these efforts lack the crucial ingredient to drive real results: true passion.
So, how should marketers look at the digital efforts of the 2010 election to this point? It should be a wake-up call that there are no shortcuts.
Every organization, especially a political campaign, faces a simple choice about its digital program. Will it be an extension of the "blast" model of peppering reporters with releases and scorching the earth with 30-second TV spots? Or will it be an effort to truly bring ordinary citizens into a conversation - a chance to develop relationships with people and cultivate leadership in the ranks?
Take Twitter. Do your organization's, company's, or campaign's tweets recycle the usual talking points? Or are you using the platform to engage in conversations with regular people? Too many organizations, companies, and campaigns just want to check the box for social media and wind up using Twitter or Facebook as another dumping ground for the tired language of blasts.
Too many top decision-makers are comfortable to not be in command of digital strategy. It winds up being something for which they're willing to cut corners and settle for a superficial solution.
There is a better way. Your core mission for social media ought to be generating conversations and deepening relationships with people. Your strategy should tie into real, concrete, "offline" business goals. And it should connect people with your organization's underlying passion and mission.
Straightforward? Yes. Easy? No. Possible? Absolutely.
Joe Rospars is a founding partner and the creative director of Blue State Digital. He previously served as director of new media at Obama for America.