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Oklahoma congressional candidate uses social media extensively to build network of supporters

Facebook application being used by 5th District congressional candidate James Lankford finds and targets supporters' friends who are old enough to vote and live in the district.
BY CHRIS CASTEEL Modified: July 23, 2010 at 9:13 am •  Published: July 23, 2010

James Lankford may be a test case in the power of social media in political campaigns.

Greatly outspent by two of his Republican rivals in the race to succeed Rep. Mary Fallin in Congress, Lankford has relied heavily on Facebook, Twitter and YouTube to get his message out.

As part of that, the church camp director has employed a unique Facebook application that targets people who are old enough to vote and live in the 5th Congressional District. In just a couple of weeks, the application has used Lankford supporters to contact more than 4,000 people who meet the criteria.

That may not sound like many people until you consider this: Fallin got in a runoff for the GOP nomination for the seat in 2006 with less than 17,000 votes.

"I give props to James for seeing the potential and being willing to invest in it so early in the game," said Allen Hartwig, the Washington state social media entrepreneur who designed the application.

President Barack Obama's 2008 campaign got a lot of attention for its use of social media to attract and mobilize young supporters.

And plenty of Oklahoma candidates use Twitter and have Facebook pages, though, for some, it's more of a token presence on a Web page than an all-out strategy.

Chris Forbes, a volunteer for Lankford's campaign who is coordinating the social media effort, said it has yet to be determined how effective it is. But he said it is much cheaper than traditional media and attracts "highly energized people who are charged up about your message."

Pat McFerron, a senior political consultant with CMA Strategies in Oklahoma City, said social media can be a very effective tool to get information to target audiences.

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