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: Obama, Clinton, 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 www.barackobama.com 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,