09/14/2012 06:58 pm ET Updated Nov 14, 2012

Democratizing Democracy

Social media has forever changed the way politicians and constituents interact and communicate. Now that social media is here to stay, everyone is looking for the "next big thing" in politics and technology. Here are five startups hoping to impact the political process.

Politicians and their offices receive too many tweets, Facebook messages, phone calls and emails and letters from constituents to read them all or make sense of what people are saying. PopVox -- known as the "Legislative LinkedIn" -- is an online advocacy platform that displays every piece of legislation in Congress. Individuals and organizations can oppose or endorse the bills and leave comments directed toward their representatives. PopVox will then verify the users' address and deliver every message (guaranteed). Congressional offices are receptive to PopVox information because it's both their constituents speaking out and because it's relevant to specific bills.

ElectNext is commonly referred to as the "eHarmony for elections." The company tries to help voters determine which is the best candidate (locally and nationally) to vote for by matching the voter's feelings on issues to a candidate. Users are asked to choose issues that are most important to them and then are asked a follow-up of at least ten more questions. ElectNext combs its database of over 15 million data points on over 4,500 federal-level candidates to compute which are the most aligned with the voter. The site aggregates the information from news reports, interest groups and direct quotes. If the user is so inclined, he or she can donate or sign up to volunteer for the candidate directly through ElectNext.

Last year, nonprofits spent $60 billion in fundraising costs to raise $300 billion. Cold calls and paper mail are still the primary ways to request donations. Amicus is a platform that allows volunteers from a nonprofit to ask their friends for donations. The technology matches up names to their volunteers' Facebook friends and assigns each volunteer the name of a person to reach out to, but only if there is a personal bond. The four-month-old company, which has grown 80 percent month-over-month since launching, uses social media to streamline and optimize nonprofit fundraising.

Amicus can also be used for political fundraising and PACs. For example, it's powering all outreach efforts for Worker's Voice, the AFL-CIO's political action committee.

Votizen leverages social networks to bring registered voters together to effect change. The platform identifies voters on Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn and allows them to find other like-minded individuals. Votizen also enables candidates to identify and speak directly to voters in their districts. Campaigns can use Votizen to authenticate who their actual constituents are, thereby allowing a precise and measurable form of communication between politicians and voters.

Recently, Votizen unveiled a new tool tailored specifically for field directors and social media managers on campaigns to turn casual social media supporters into active volunteers -- by identifying registered voters in the specific district and giving them a meaningful task to help the campaign. Though people might "like" or follow a candidate's Facebook or Twitter page, that doesn't equal votes. When someone joins Votizen, it confirms that the person is a registered voter and then asks if the person wants to volunteer for a campaign (federal, state and local races), sends a message to his or her friends, and asks if they want to contact other voters in their social network to support the candidate.

Social Teeth has been called the "Kickstarter for political ads." Since most politically-minded people have no access to PAC money, Social Teeth provides a vehicle for everyone to submit an ad and have the possibility of seeing it next to corporate-funded commercials and political ads. Anyone can summit an ad, decide the demographic that it should target and then open it up for people to make small donations. Social Teeth has partnered with Aegis Media, a major media and digital communications firm. Once the target amount is raised for the advertisement, Aegis will decide where the best markets are to get the biggest reach.