Inauguration 2009 on Facebook: 9,260 Friends and Counting...
Some pundits are predicting the largest-ever inauguration crowd--1.5 million people, perhaps--will descend on Washington Jan. 20. What are all these out-of-towners going to do when they get here (aside from the inauguration and the balls, that is)? How are they going to get their information about tickets, hotels, transportation, parties?
We here at Inauguration Watch expect to be the first-stop source. But other options are springing up, too, including, naturally, friend groups on Facebook. There’s Obama Inauguration 2009 (744 members), Obama Inauguration, 2009! (75 members), Going to the Inauguration of Pres Obama (15 members), Sen. Barack Obama Inauguration Group (54 members) and We Want Parliament/Funkadelic To Play At The Obama Inauguration! (95 members).
But the biggest and, so far, most ambitious group is Inauguration 2009 in DC -- Where to Go, What to Do!!, with a whopping 9,260 members and counting. The site promises “up to the minute information on what’s going on and how to get tickets to the various events, parades and inaugural balls. Also, members of this group will RECEIVE exclusive invites to events that are not on the public schedule.”
The site is the brainchild of three business partners who own their own marketing firm: Curtis Midkiff and Kenneth Hessler of the District and Edwardo Jackson of Atlanta, who launched it at 10 a.m. Nov. 5, just hours after Obama’s historic election the night before.
“I’ve been to several inaugurations,” Midkiff said. “We wanted to get the information out. There’s a lot of interest, but a lot of people do not know how everything works. You’d be amazed at what people do not know. People are freaking out, thinking they have to go to inauguraltickets.com and pay $2,000 for a ticket, even though tickets are free and you don’t even need a ticket to come down and still experience the inauguration.”
Midkiff had started by sending out messages to those on his Facebook group, but that site bans mass emails to guard against spam. So he has created two other Web sites to collect email addresses for his updates on such things has hotel room availability and party options. He has also set up a text messaging system for people to get up-to-the-minute bulletins. Midkiff said he and his partners intend to stage a few events, including a gathering at Bohemian Caverns on U Street NW.
Of course, Midkiff and his partners are professional marketers, so Inauguration Watch asked whether they were trying to make a buck or two off the events, or use the email addresses in the future for more marketing opportunities.
“We will not use them for other things in the future, except maybe to provide more information throughout the next four years,” said Midkiff, who has a graduate degree from the George Washington University School of Political Management. “We want to set up a national forum and, after it’s over, keep it open as a forum.”
As for his impact on Facebook, Midkiff, who went to high school in Seattle, said he’s suddenly very popular in cyberspace. His personal Facebook page has 1,518 friends, a number of whom he has added in the past week.
“It’s amazing,” he said. “I found a lot of my classmates through this. They said, ‘Hey, I saw your Obama page on Facebook.’”
David A Nakamura
November 11, 2008; 4:48 PM ET
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