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Alabama democrat candidate for U.S. House reaches out to bloggers

The political season offers many opportunities for exploring how candidates are using social media in their campaigns. I didn’t think I’d find many (if any) examples in the Alabama races this year. Then, a Google ad popped up in my mail reader: “Turning Alabama Blue – Segall2008.com – Viable democrat running in Alabama. Watch his intro-video and join us!”

Given the state of our nation, there is an article with some speculation that Democrats may pick up as many as three seats in November – Alabama Democrats eyeing delegation majority. I’m not really into politics, so I won’t speculate. Also, I have written about our alumnae, Shea Snider, who is Roger’s press secretary (the incumbent in the race). So, I don’t need to get into the politics … because, well – we love Shea. She is the best, ya’ know.

It is fair to point out a look at Open Secrets, showing Rogers more than doubling Segall’s campaign contributions. More on the myriad of sites with this type of information, below.

My Focus Here

What interests me is the possible use of social media by Alabama candidates. Segall may well be the only one with even a modest blogger outreach.

Let’s look at his site, Segall2008. Now, before some folks go and get their noses out of joint, I frequently do these types of site reviews and share them with my students. So, no harm intended.

  • First up, he uses a splash page at the front of the site. Not necessarily a good idea. Yes, he seems to be seeking a major strategic goal by capturing email address first, but why make people click one more time. Seriously, splash pages are considered to be bad Web design by many, if not most. The only other option is “Skip to Website.” While the “Skip to Website” option is in the ‘golden mean’ area of the page, the color choice for the text doesn’t pop out. Would yellow or white be a better color choice? To me, it seems just a bit lost on the page. It would be interesting to know if their strategy is working re: gathering email addresses. How many do they have? (Resources for golden mean: The Golden Section, Design and the Divine Proportion, Mundi Design’s Principles of Graphic Design, go to 3d for the golden mean.)
  • Segall went outside of Alabama for his Web site development. He went to CDPolitical.com which is part of Chong Designs. Where is Chong Designs? Well, Washington, D.C. – of course.
    1. I have to question the online savvy of this move. First off, people here in Alabama are quite unhappy when folks go outside the state. Anyone want to speculate on the expense incurred by Segall with Chong Designs?
    2. Also, I really think Segall would have been better served by using Ning.com and letting eager supporters in Alabama help drive the site. There isn’t a great deal of interaction taking place in the Segall site.
    3. What would that Ning.com site cost? Less than $35 a month … and it offers so much more than his site has for visitors. It would even help him capture those email addresses and involve the volunteers in discussions.
  • Look at the video presentation on the Segall Google ad site. The video is a YouTube embed and not well presented. It has a single sliver of a black area on the right side and large one on the top. I mean really, this is poor. I would make my students re-do such a video presentation.

I really think Josh Segall could have done a better job of incorporating social media into his site, but have to give him credit for at least trying. (Click image below to enlarge.)

When you get to that page, you’ll see that the campaign is asking the following: “Please tell us about your blog. (Traffic, topics of interest, your audience, and anything else you think we should know.)” So far, he is getting some blog pickup. This Google blog search reveals 236 blog posts with “Josh Segall” in the copy (236 to-date).

Overall, I’d give the site a C+ because it is just above average overall, and it barely dips one toe into the social media arena. At least he’s paying some attention to blogs. Maybe I’ll try to get an interview with the candidate or someone on his staff and see what their strategy is re: social media.

By the way, Rogers does have a campaign site, too. He has video on his front page and it is a much better presentation. The site is Mike Rogers for Congress.com. It is quite a static site with little more than the basics like: volunteer contact forms, ways to write a letter to the editor and the usual sundry online tactics. So, that’s why I didn’t focus on it re: social media.

Neither candidate links to their Facebook sites, for instance, so it seems they are not really sold on the idea of using social media in their campaigns. Finally, regarding video use, both candidates are simply regurgitating their TV ads, so there is no creative use of online video going on here.

An interesting sidebar to all this, Josh Segall is an Ivy League graduate. Yep, he went to Brown University (University Web Site). All we see is Segall’s focus on his law degree from the University of Alabama. That’s understandable, of course, as voters down here don’t necessarily take a likin’ to them there Ivy League fellers. Rogers, on the other hand, went to Jacksonville State University. JSU resides in his district. Both candidates are lawyers: Rogers attended Birmingham School of Law and Segall attended The University of Alabama School of Law.

Other Aspects of Online Political Campaigns

On another front, it is interesting to see how much information there is out there regarding candidates, their campaigns and their campaign finances. Below is a list of sites I found during my search.

My students will get a kick out of knowing that Segall used a free Web template site for his first site, JoshuaSegall.com, which has been since replaced by his Segall2008.com site. The site he used for his template is gorotron.com, of all places.

Segall is in Facebook with a fan page touting 116 supporters, to-date. Update: Thanks to the anonymous comment below, I did another search for “Joshua Segall for Congress, as the comment states, and did find yet another group. So, there are two groups for Segall on Facebook. I must admit, I missed the second group in my previous search. Can’t remember what I used for the search, so I can’t tell you why. This search for Josh Segall gives both groups in the results. This search for Joshua Segall also reveals both groups. So, my apologies for missing the second group.

Mike Rogers is there, too. His fan page has 581 supporters, so he’s way ahead of Segall in that regard. Update: Yep, the anonymous comment below is correct. I used the wrong Rogers page. Mike Rogers has a page in Facebook, but not a group. And, there are no friends listed on that page. So, Segall is ahead on that mark.

I only found one Joshua Segall and two Josh Segalls in MySpace and neither is the candidate. Mike Rogers wasn’t there, either.

There is a Rep. Mike Rogers account in Twitter, but has no updates. I could not find a Joshua Segall.

So, that’s my look at one race and their use of emerging digital media. I guess I’m not surprised at the lack of social media use by Alabama candidates. I still get some deer in headlight looks when I mention it down here.


  1. think you’re facts are wrong on the facebook sites. Segall for Congress has 557 members. The Rogers you mention is from Michigan.

  2. “Seriously, splash pages are considered to be bad Web design by many, if not most.”

    I would think a professor would cite his sources. If they were such bad web design, Obama — the biggest netroots candidate in history — would probably not be using one…

  3. Well, as I said at the outset of my critique, I hoped no one would get their nose out of joint because of someone sharing their opinions. Is anyone surprised that they did anyway? πŸ˜‰

    Normally I don’t respond to anonymous comments. I will answer these two, though, for different reasons.

    The first comment re: Facebook is correct. I was wrong.

    I had the pages and numbers wrong on Segall and Rogers. My apologies. I’ve corrected them above. Hey, I don’t have a problem admitting a mistake. What a pity the person leaving the comment is unwilling to use their name.

    The person that left that comment, by the way, did not leave their real name or a valid email address. However, the IP address from their comment gets logged, nonetheless. It shows that the comment came from a Montgomery, AL BellSouth aDSL user. Don’t worry, I don’t intend to publish the IP address. I only do that for abusive / bothersome trolls.

    As for the second comment about splash pages, I’ll just offer this up from both a large Google search of many Web designers that feel the same way … use of splash pages in web design – Google Search … and this page at Web Pages That Suck presents the biggest web design mistakes in 2004 learn usability and good Web design by looking at bad Web design. Um, the title of that last one kinda tells the story. Yes, I know it is from 2004. Look at the other Google results, like this Google blog search (or this one and this one) and you’ll see many (like I said) stating that splash pages are a bad idea.

    Look opinions vary, but I feel comfortable with the statement that most Web developers do not see splash pages as a wise choice. It is a barrier to entry. I’d love to see the bounce rate, and other stats, for that front page in Google Analytics. πŸ˜‰

    As for the comparison of Segall to Obama, you’re kidding – right? Come on, Obama is a phenomena. People will happily click through for him. Exception to the rule. Segall is a relative unknown. Remove any roadblock you can for his efforts to succeed.

    The second comment is anonymous to you, but they did provide an email. If the person leaving the comment was indeed the owner of the email address, I believe it was left by Josh Koster, Managing Partner at Chong Designs LLC. You’ll note he chose not to identify the cost of that Web design. πŸ˜‰

    The IP address for the splash page comment does come from a Comcast user in Washington, D.C. So, if you look at his comment, Josh Koster has identified himself as “weird”. Yeah, that’s the name he put in the box for “Name” of the comment author.

    My point? Ya know guys, I signed my name. Why can’t you two sign yours? Really. πŸ˜‰ This isn’t an effort on my part to be hurtful or harmful to either candidate. It is a simple critique of the Web site from my point of view. That’s it.

  4. You know, I sort of wish I hadn’t posted this. I should have remembered that people don’t take politics seriously … they take it personally.

    I think some would be surprised to see the views it is getting from Washington, Virginia, Alabama and throughout the country. Kinda surprises me, but – then again – it doesn’t, and shouldn’t.

    I identified the locations of the anonymous comments for two reasons. First, we should really be willing to own up to our comments. Second, I’ve have bad experiences re: anonymous comments and I’m not a fan.

    So, this is for the viewers of this post. Comment, if you wish, but please use your real name. Thanks.

  5. Pingback: Daily Links | Daily Dixie

  6. Speaking of websites, Segall’s campaign just created a fact checking site called washingtonchangedmike.com to put the truth behind Mike Rogers voting record. Pretty ambitous stuff for a 29 yr old going up against a third term incumbent…shows the strength of his fundraising

  7. ~sigh~

    Another anonymous comment. Billy (giving the email address bob@aol.com)? How creative. Bless your heart.

    Folks, does anyone support this candidate publicly? Just sayin’.

    One more time, just to try and help you folks gain a bit of clarity.

    I focus on the use of emerging digital media – anywhere I can find interesting examples. That’s why I was intrigued by Segall’s campaign. No other reason. This campaign came to my attention – because of your Google ads – and I looked into it. That’s my area of interest.

    Now, if one of you wishes to come out from the shadows and agree to an interview, I’d love to learn about your strategies for this campaign – solely for educational purposes. Honest.

    The next anonymous comment will be tagged as spam.

  8. I’m baffled as to why you’re casting speculative dispersions about how much he spent on his website to a DC firm. That information is publicly available on OpenSecrets, which is how I know that (1) Rogers new-media firm is also out of state, (2) he spent nearly 3x as much as Josh to get his site looking the way it currently does, (3) Rogers spent nearly twice as much on tabs at insider DC bars/restaurants this cycle compared to Josh’s new-media expenditures.

    Regarding splash pages — they work for campaign sites. Period. Thats probably why Rogers uses one. Its also why nearly every democratic candidate with a pulse uses them. (Republicans arnt worth citing as a counter example — they’re years behind when it comes to new-media.) No dice on sharing the Analytic Data, but needless to say, if people weren’t clicking through, we would remove it.

    Finally, the comparison to Obama is apt. Josh is 29 years old, and consistently outraising an incumbent congressman. When elected, he will be the youngest member of congress. He’s also one of the top 10 candidates on ActBlue when it comes to raising money online — putting him in the top 1% of candidates nationwide. Talk about a phenomenon.

    I remain,

    Josh Koster

    PS. You don’t allow people to title comments, so I used the name field to do that. I made up for it by using a real email address, which either included my full name, or my first name as well as company name. (Not sure which I used.)

  9. Hey Josh, Thanks for the comment.

    I think you meant “aspersions” (which I am not, by the way) as it would be pretty hard to be “casting speculative dispersions” … casting the act of dispersing?

    Josh, this is infOpinions … a bit of information and opinions mixed together. So, all I’m doing here is stating my opinion. Perhaps you’re right and your splash page is the best thing. I know you’re running Google Analytics, so perhaps you’ll share the bounce rate for that splash page. (A screenshot of the whole page of stats would be preferable.) That would help us at least begin to gauge the success of using it. For you to share it will take this away from differing opinions and place the discussion in the area of metrics and measurement. I’m all for that.

    OK, I went further into OpenSecrets and found the expenditures for both josh-segall and mike-rogers.

    I found a couple of Web references, but this one relates to design:


    That stat does not include hosting, I imagine, but rather – only design fees. Does it?

    Regardless, my suggestion that the use of Ning.com for the site would seem to be less money for more features. At $32.85 per month, over 12 months (more than the length of the site’s life) would be $788.40. With that you get the following:

    • hosting,
    • ability to personalize the theme (it could look almost exactly like the site you’ve created),
    • the viral nature of sharing videos (hosting them, too),
    • doing that viral video sharing with a branded video player and an easy to share embed code for “Josh Segall” on every video,
    • a forum,
    • events calendar,
    • photo sharing / hosting,
    • blogs for any supporters and much more.

    You gave him a rather static site with one blog. I suggest a complete CMS (content management system) that screams social network and community – while costing less than half your price. Which best serves his goals?

    And, considering that the blog went live in May 2008, the site would only last a bit over six (6) months (through November) or $394.20.

    So, my opinion is that Josh Segall and his viral social media outreach effort could have been better served by choosing another option with much more robust features. Simply put: The option I suggest offers more, for less than half the price he paid you. That’s all.

    Josh, I fear you think this is something it is not. This is not a supporter of Segall’s opponent going after your Web site design.

    This is a person that teaches the subject of emerging digital media / social media – and Web design. I am merely sharing my opinion (yep, just my opinion) about the strategies the campaign has pursued. I’ve praised and criticized. That’s it. Nothing more.

  10. I’m a PR Major at Towson University and my teacher for my summer session just mentioned politicions and their view of the use of social media today in our class. It’s interesting to look at how some of these candidates decide to run their campaigns either using all the social media outlets available or not to use them. I agree that the video for Josh Segall appears to be quite amateur, something placed together for a class project. It’s almost apalling that he does not care for his image enough to only let perfection appear.

    It is interesting to see the presidential candidates use of the social media; being a college student I have a facebook page and have seen many ‘applications’ dedicated to one candidate or another. They even influence the way people decide to decorate their pages with ‘bumper stickers’. I feel that politicians will need to do a better, more efficent job of reaching out to the newer generation of tech savvy voters. Your post is really interesting, and the commentary you present made me look at how I view some of this commentary myself. Thank you!