Innovator: Andrea Torkelson

By Beau Denton September 9, 2013

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Andrea Torkelson, a political consultant with the Nolan Group in Bradenton, describes her app, VoterBuzz, as “Facebook meets politics.” The language—profiles, friends, events—is familiar to social media users, but Torkelson says it is the first app of its kind designed specifically for political purposes. Campaigns can post photos, videos, polls, event information and more, and when users RSVP for an event, the app adds it to their calendars automatically.

Torkelson has worked in politics for more than 10 years, and she says jumping among the stand-alone sites of various campaigns was becoming cumbersome. Knowing what political professionals wanted helped her in designing VoterBuzz. So did her knowledge of campaign laws—“contribution limits, reporting factors, knowing that if I give the maximum amount in the primary, I can give again for the general election,” she says.

VoterBuzz launched in the run-up to the 2012 presidential election. Before long, 30 campaigns were using the app. Six weeks before the election, though, “We got hacked and lost everything,” says Torkelson. “Now I could write a do’s and don’ts book on creating an app.” Rebuilding the program from scratch, Torkelson incorporated feedback from the first launch, like adding more ways to share on social media and email and simplifying account settings. Based on market research, Torkelson is hoping to have 100 campaigns on VoterBuzz by next summer, and at least 25,000 individual users. Monthly fees to use VoterBuzz start at $10.  ■   By Beau Denton

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