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November 05, 2008

Barack Obama The First Social Media President?

By Li Evans

BarackObama.com After the Presidential WinYesterday was probably one of the most exciting days of this year, if not the past 4 when it comes to the possibilities of emerging media being pushed to the forefront and actually being a factor in something very important in not just our nation's history but quite possibly world history.  Yes, the United States elected its first African American president, but it also elected its first president to utilize technologies beyond email or a cell phone to office to just raise campaign donations.

Barack Obama is the first "Social Media President" in history.  He's the first one to understand and harness the power of sharing and communicating through social media platforms to not only get out his message, but to energize a group of Americans into action.  Of course it wasn't just Barack alone, it was his campaign team that focused in and realized the power and reach utilizing different aspects of web technologies could bring them.  It wasn't just one social media site used either, it was everything working in conjunction with one another, complementing each other and promoting the same singular message of the Change that can happen if people on these sites helped to elect Barack Obama president of the United States of America. 

One of my sources on the inside told me that it was some of the people who were on Dean's 2004 campaign team that came in and built upon what they knew, and that doesn't surprise me in the least.  Not only did they learn the power of the infamous "Dean Scream" hitting YouTube, but they learned the power of fundraising and brought that to the Obama campaign, improved on it and turned it into a finely tuned machine.  So much so that the majority of Obama's donations came from donors giving $200 and under.

So what kind of technology did Obama use? Let's take a quick, deep look at what was implemented.

President-Elect Barack Obama Social Media Strategy:

  • My.BarackObama.com

    This is a section of Obama's website that enlisted thousands upon thousands of supporters to blog, to share, to communicate and to get the word out about voting in the elections.  The campaign team utilized this as a vehicle to mobilize thousand of volunteers, as well as get the "buzz" going about his campaign.

  • Barack Obama's Blog

    Barack's blog was constantly updated, members of his team constantly were adding content here to keep people coming back, interested and engaged.  The blog encouraged conversation, engagement and it very rarely contained any of the typical "spin" you'd see on other political blogs that read like press releases.

  • Barack Obama on Flickr

    The campaign was constantly taking pictures and uploading them to Flickr.  The pictures didn't just stay on Flickr though, they were used on the website in the photo gallery as well.  Sets of different campaign stops, events, people voting, people participating in "watch" parties.  Anything and everything that people were taking photos of from the campaign were here.  The big note here, most of these pictures weren't professional at all, they weren't staged, they were "real".  Campaign volunteers taking pictures of the campaign from their view and contributing in the conversation.

  • Barack Obama 'Yes We Can' Video by Will.i.am

    Barack Obama's YouTube Channel

    Videos, Videos, Videos!  Talk about a powerful mechanism of communication, it's definitely video.  When you hear people talking about a speech Obama made, you could find it on YouTube.  Take for example the "Yes We Can" speech from Nashua, NH back in January, 2008.  This speech even inspired not just the "Yes We Can" tag line to take hold, but it also inspired a song and music video produced by Will.i.am.  The video's been viewed over 1.8 million times.  The huge factor here, it's not just his speeches out there, it's campaign team footage of voting lines and involvement.  That's engaging and sharing!

  • Barack Obama on Linked In

    Utilizing LinkedIn through the groups was the major use here.  People on linked in started discussions, asked questions and the campaign and it's volunteers all took part in the conversation.  Even now the day after the election, the Obama for America group is quite active with congratulations and messages looking forward to 2009.

  • Twitter & the Barack Obama Campaign

    Of all the social media pieces of the Barack Obama Campaign Puzzle, this piece might be the one that wasn't used to its greatest potentional.  Mostly used for announcing campaign and rally stops and that you could watch them live via streaming video, the campaign really missed out on connecting with users they way it has on other social media venues.  It could have connected it's blog via TwitterFeed and also employed a higher level campaign volunteer to ask the Twitter audience engaging questions.

  • Social Networking with Barack Obama

    From Facebook & MySpace to BlackPlanet and Asian Avenue, Barack's campaign was everywhere in social networking sites.  Everyone was included, faith based networks, race based networks, age based network and even event based social networks all could participate in the conversations happening with the Barack Obama campaign on these sites.

What's Next for Barack Obama & Social Media?

Now that the campaign is over, what's next?  Do all of these profiles go away?  Are the abandoned because they've served their purpose?  Doe Barack Obama now go off to that big white house on Pennyslvania Avenue and forget about the populous he's reached out to, energized and moved to action?

Let's hope not!

I for one would love to see his team transform these from election tools, into political communication tools to help him keep a close tab on the pulse of his constituency.  This is a great place for him and his new staff to monitor the heartbeat of a ever changing America.  An America that's becoming increasingly tech savvy, well educated and engaged.  Maybe, just maybe, he'll have a team that works as his Social Media team, just like companies are doing with monitoring, listening and engaging customers. 

We are, afterall, Barack Obama's greatest customers.


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This will be the first presidency that has an established social network. It actually gives the executive branch a tremendous amount of additional communication power—the power to change minds on issues, explain vetoes, and marshal forces for all manner of situations from collective volunteering to disaster relief.

Right, and it's really full of hope in his ability to manage in a modern way US, all those last former problems: Irak war, financial crisis, healthcare system...He is an actual and concrete president, built by an actual flow of hope and youth. Modern times need modern guys, don't we say?

Great blog post and compilation new media resources utilized by the Obama campaign. I was following on Youtube and Twitter. I had no idea about all the others. The campaign managers surely did a phenomenal job getting his message across. What a big victory for Obama and for new media!
Dali Burgado

I think it's a coincidence at the height of social media age Obama run for President. This just shows the power of social media networking as a powerful tool when popularity is concern.

Things are changing even faster than we could have imagined. Have you seen the new website?

David Plouffe the campaign manager for Obama for America is speaking at a change management conference in Washington, DC on April 30th. I'm going to check it out and see what he has to say. THe website quotes Obama as saying that Plouffe is the unsung hero of his campaign who may have built the best political campaign in the history of the united states.


A few things it says he will cover...

How to harness the power of social networking to connect a dispersed group of people and engage them to perform outstanding feats

Innovative ways the campaign built brand loyalty and how these same tactics can be used by your organization

Why consistent leadership sets a tone that can inspire creativity and passion to achieve surprising results

I'm pretty psyched about it. I was following how each candidate was using their sites and social media. Looked like McCain was trying hard to keep up to Plouffe's moves but just didn't get it.

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