Winning the Internet

Confessions of a Digital Hit Man: Tips and Tricks for Meme-ing the Opposition Online

After a great run, the Winning the Internet blog has been retired. However, you can still keep in touch with New Media Mentors here.

As we gear up for Netroots Nation 2013, we’re taking a closer look at some of the convention’s hottest training sessions. We’re interviewing the trainers and taking you inside some of online activism’s most popular and elusive topics.

Today we’re interviewing Matt Ortega, who’ll be leading Confessions of a Digital Hit Man: Tips and Tricks for Meme-ing the Opposition Online.

NN13 Training Session

Confessions of a Digital Hit Man: Tips and Tricks for Meme-ing the Opposition Online
Matt Ortega designed and developed a slew of popular, creative and witty sites in the 2012 election cycle, many within minutes of watershed moments in the campaign. Within 90 minutes of Romney spokesman Eric Fehrnstrom’s “etch-a-sketch” remark, he produced a website juxtaposing Romney’s “etch-a-sketched” positions. Dozens of self-designed and developed sites and even more domains, his work has been featured in numerous media outlets and on NBC Nightly News with Brian Williams, MSNBC’s Hardball with Chris Matthews and NBC’s The Today Show. Follow along as he walks you through the strategic and creative processes, shows you code and development tips and tricks to turnaround sites quickly, and how to do it on the cheap. Developers and novices welcome.


Q: How did you start using memes to make political statements?

A: It really started for me as simply a means to amuse my friends with quick one-offs made with Photoshop in the 2008 and 2010 cycles. As time passed, it became clear that Twitter was becoming the digital town square. You could get a sense of what people are talking about in the moment, discern general attitudes about a particular topic, and explore creative angles to convey a message, get people to notice, and share it.

I played around with different ideas, including static images, fake Twitter accounts, hashtags, GIFs, and microsites, like and At their most rudimentary level, they all speak a basic truth that others find relatable, even humorous or entertaining, and ultimately compelling enough to share with others and propagate the message or idea.

Q: In your opinion, why are political memes valuable?

A: If conceived and executed well, they are creative or visual ways to convey a specific message or make a poignant political point.

That being said, I am not under the illusion that any of my projects were so important in the grand scheme of things. I hope they helped energize some of the liberal base, make a few conservatives cringe over their candidate, or even spread a message to new audiences. If they just entertained my friends, well, that’s good enough for me.

Q: What are two of the most important things to consider when using memes this way?

A: There’s a lot more than just two important things to consider as you’ve got your audience, the KISS principle, and so much more.

Q: Why should folks attend your session at Netroots Nation, and how can they connect with you?

A: It would be great if folks tweeted at me (@MattOrtega) with questions or topics they want covered and would try to include it in the training. Hopefully people will walk away understanding that one person with a little know-how can add to the larger conversation and engage others in creative ways.


To attend this training, or one of the 39 others at Netroots Nation 2013 in San Jose, register now.

About Melissa Foley

Melissa is the Director of Training and Mentoring for Netroots Foundation and New Media Mentors. She aims to use her MBA + nonprofit background to teach organizations to use new media tools strategically.


  1. Netroots Foundation | Netroots Nation 2013 Training Roundup | Winning the Internet - July 10, 2013

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