The popular social networking website Facebook.com unveiled a major new initiative to boost its traffic and membership last weekend with the "Applications" feature, in which members can add functionality to their profiles, like music and movie players, that are programmed and offered by third parties.
Democratic presidential hopeful Barack Obama's campaign hit the ground running, offering a feed of news and video that Obama's supporters can add to their page. As of 4 p.m. today, 6,778 people had signed up.
Obama is the only candidate to have taken advantage of this new functionality so far, but more are sure to come as the other catch on. The Illinois senator had a major advantage on this front in the form of staffer Chris Hughes, a cofounder of Facebook who still servers as a consultant for the site. The actual coding for the feature was done by two volunteers, Hughes told News Desk today.
"We've seen our traffic steadily increase daily" since the function launched, Hughes said. "We're all pretty happy with how it's been doing."
While the increased visibility doesn't hurt, Hughes said an equally important aspect in leveraging social networks for political support is the ability to give supporters online tools to promote the candidate more easily.
First up: Reminding people which of their friends live in Iowa, New Hampshire, and other states where they could use a little nudging to get out and vote.