As an official SMUGle, I thought it would be good to pull together a response to Lee Aase’s call for a post analyzing the Obama campaign’s use of the web and social media. I’m prompted to do this for two main reasons: A) Lee does an amazing job with SMUG and I’m a huge fan B) I’ve never felt so charged up about a candidate as I am with Obama.

Social networking is by no means anything new to presidential campaigns, but the strategy, tactics and degree of functionality have evolved tremendously. One thing that immediately struck me as interesting during the primary season was the overall design factor behind each candidate’s website. Take a quick look at the following sites: ObamaClinton, McCain, Edwards, Giuliani.

These sites might have well been created by the same web design team. I’m going to bargain to say there is good reason behind the similar designs and some hefty research showing the value of the simplistic, clean setup. Immediately, any of the sites make me think of Facebook and the approach their design team took to creating a very clean platform. The navigation bars, focus on news/events and inclusion of action pages linking out to social media tools and networking sites appear consistent throughout.

Barack has of course been lauded over and over for his success with online fundraising. According to this Business Week article, in July alone, Obama’s fundraising doubled that of McCain, generating $51 million. In addition, the Obama camp has cited that 88% of their donations have come from online resources. That is nuts.

How’s he doing it? One word – GROUNDSWELL.

The man knows how to move and engage people. He listens, he reacts, he empowers. He’s the first candidate to start using widgets to make it incredibly easy for anyone to donate to the campaign through his plethora of social networking sites. A quick look at and you’ll find that he is in fact “everywhere” (scroll to bottom of home page) in terms of social media tools and networking sites. Not only does he have a powerful presence on the biggies like Facebook, MySpace, YouTube, Flickr and Twitter but he’s also connecting on sites such as BlackPlanet, MiGente and Glee to name a few.

Visit any of Obama’s networking tools and you’ll find a donation widget. He’s engaging target audiences on their own turf and using these tools and platforms to motivate others to donate and help drive others back to his website. All these tools are serving as key extensions of interaction and user involvement but centered around a clear call to action. It really is brilliant. You see a great video on YouTube that inspires you to participate, whamo, the donate button is a simple click away.

One could definitely argue that Obama is just trying to see what sticks, but let’s remember, this is the presidential election. Technically, his audience is everyone. The Washington Post has even gone so far as to title Obama as the “King of Social Networking.”

Furthermore, the Obama team is doing a great job of harnessing the groudswell. They incorporate local, personal testamonials into their well-timed updates and email action alerts. They allow supporters to fully participate in the process with submissions and then call direct attention to their engagement as exemplified here with photo submissions from the Convention.

In the past, a campaign team may have overreacted to a video such as Obama Girl or been concerned about not having a say in the messaging behind a video such as Yes We Can. Instead, the Obama team has embraced these videos and recognized the value and power of user-generated content in moving others to action.

It’s mindblowing to think about how the times have changed. No longer does a candidate have to rely solely upon street teams going door-to-door to gather support. No longer do they have to count on TV ads resonating over time. In today’s world, anyone can quickly hop over to Obama’s YouTube channel and have instant access to a library of videos about the candidate and the campaign efforts. Over 77,000 subscribers and 15 million channel views. Maybe relatively small compared to TV ad reach, but remember, YouTube is FREE and the call to action is a click away! With one new upload, the team has instant engagement of 77,000, incredible viral potential and the Insights to measure, analyze and adjust their tactics as needed to continue to increase online engagement.

I’m about done with the novel. End point being, it’s great to see both presidential candidates recognizing and embracing the value and importance of social media. I do feel Obama’s team has their finger more on the pulse in terms of online engagement and that’s an obvious direct correlation with his age, messaging and overall appeal.

This election cycle has already solidified how important networking tools and online outreach will be for future campaigns. It will be exciting to see where it all takes us.

Please feel free to add any thoughts!

Thanks for reading,


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Join the conversation! 24 Comments

  1. Thanks for doing this, Scott! Very well written, and I’ll be posting the Social Media 302 course with the link here.

  2. […] Scott Meis, on his Social Media Snippets blog, has provided a helpful overview of the Obama campaign’s web efforts. Thanks, Scott! Possibly related posts: (automatically generated)RNC kicking it up a notchBlog #13: […]

  3. […] Both Have “Girls” In his analysis of Barack Obama’s use of social media in Social Media 302, Associate Professor Scott Meis called attention to a key difference between this campaign cycle […]

  4. In agreement with your thoughts about the power of social media in political campaigns, just want to make one point, that hopefully these online resources will not be used to discourage voter turnout, or make inaccurate or early reporting release statements that affect voting turnout on Election Day. – Peter Sabbagh/

  5. Valid point Peter. At the end of the day, voters need to make it out to the polls. Hopefully these online channels and increased points of exposure will serve as motivators to get people out.

  6. Scott,

    Just a few days ago I told my husband I wondered how Obama’s use of social media compared to McCain’s and how effective both had been. I already knew that Obama’s efforts far outpaced McCain’s.

    This post helped me understand a lot more. Many thanks to Michael Martine for his latest efforts because I don’t know if I would have found your blog. Thanks to you for helping a boomer blogger get a better understand of the vast uses and channels of social media.

    I will be subscribing to your RSS feeds

  7. Hi Valerie!

    Thanks so much for stopping by and for the nice note. Glad I could be of assistance and thanks for reading!

  8. Impressive overview of Obama’s Web 2.0 tactics. It is interesting to note the correlation between social media presence and fundraising totals. I will be curious to see–once either Obama or McCain is in office–how social media will play a role in the future administration.

  9. […] Media Snippets has a great review of Analyzing Barack Obama’s Social Media Strategy, which includes the uses of Facebook, MySpace, YouTube, Flickr and Twitter to promote his […]

  10. […] has come the closest at showing the world how to effectively use social and new media in a political campaign with great […]

  11. […] will help shape and influence Government’s adoption of the social Web. He did an amazing job during his campaign and continues to find ways to churn up old school presidential communication models. I’m also […]

  12. […] will help shape and influence Government’s adoption of the social Web. He did an amazing job during his campaign and continues to find ways to churn up old school presidential communication models. I’m also […]

  13. […] Once in awhile I like to take a look at how social media is being utilized by government and politicians. It’s not often, but hey, it’s nailed me an Associate Professor position at the best […]

  14. […] just a fad” “traditional marketing is more tangible”.  Social Networking played a large part in Barrack Obama’s successful Presidential campaign.  Though on a smaller level it imperative that Welsh small businesses ignore social media at their […]

  15. […] Obama’s online efforts re-shaped the way we understand online communications and politics. Republicans in Arkansas seem to get it. […]

  16. […] ‘ketergantungannya’ terhadap BlackBerry, dan kampanye yang berlandaskan pemahaman dan penggunaan new media, mewakili simbol generasi muda yang tech savvy. Di White House, ia menempatkan Eric Schmidt, CEO […]

  17. Hi Guys,

    I am writing a blog about Social Media and Dutch politicians. Compared with the campaign of Obama on the social network, they still have a huge step to make.

    Kind regards,


  18. […] Twitter. I had no idea there would be such a strong draw to the post I did last August analyzing Barack Obama’s social media strategy (thanks to Lee Aase for posing the response challenge). It was amazing to watch the presidential […]

  19. […] monarchie te ontwikkelen! En mocht het je nog niet duidelijk zijn welke: kijk hier naar het echte werk. En noem het wat mij betreft ook gerust een twittermp. Koningin is ook zo […]

  20. It’s hard to find experienced people in this particular topic, but you sound like you know what you’re talking about! Thanks

  21. […] years ago I provided a breakdown on Barack Obama’s social media strategy as a country full of wide-eyed young voters aggressively took to the polls to support a new […]

  22. […] It goes without saying that getting the under 30 vote is important but social media is not just for the young. Using media is nothing new for politics and politicians; be it through the mail, with posters and badges, or through television, campaigns have been won and lost due to smartly crafted slogans or ruthless attack ads. However, in recent years the Internet has become the spearhead of 21st century campaigning (Romney,Paul, Obama). Websites like these are becoming crucial in fundraising by giving people easy access to donating even as little as a dollar and an easy way to keep up with the goings on of the complicated campaign trail. Perhaps more important than these websites are the social media tools which in many cases provide people with a more intimate view of the candidates. “It’s mindblowing to think about how the times have changed. No longer does a candidate have to … […]

  23. Excellent help for my Campaigns assignment coming up 🙂


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