Impressions on the Social Age

Just Another Obama Campaign Commentary

Posted in Reading Response, Social Networking Discovery by Trace on June 2, 2010

In the 2008 election, Obama and the media had no love lost between them (practically speaking) in comparison to his opposition (both during the primary and the general elections). This was in part supported by Obama’s media-buy being twice as much as others. (Source: Edelman Digital, January 2009)

During the 2008 Obama’s internet communications strategy aimed at concrete, focused and measurable goals, this is something all communications campaigns must do. Measurement to ensures reproduction.

“Even with the relatively vast resources at hand, Obama’s internet communications staff built carefully, innovated only as needed, and invested in projects that seemed to have a real chance of paying off in time to win.” says Delany in Learning from Obama on ePolitics101.

Obama’s campaign (in part by crowdsourcing volunteers) took a leaf from Apple’s book. Utilizing social networking, iPhone apps and this new-fangled Internet thingy. No longer were the gatekeepers the political parties, the status quo, or the network/cable media. Dr. Stephen Covey says, “Seek first to understand, then be understood.” These strategies did exactly that; the Obama campaign listened more than any political candidate since citizens could ring the White House doorbell.

According to Edelman the keys to a good campaign are also the keys to good business

  • Start early
  • Build to scale
  • Innovate where necessary; do everything else incrementally better
  • Make it easy to find, forward and act
  • Pick where you want to play
  • Channel online enthusiasm into specific, targeted activities that further the campaign’s goals
  • Integrate online advocacy into every element of the campaign

The question is, with the prevalence of social websites, will the strategies used by Obama and categorized here by Edelman Digital work again? As social networking becomes the status quo, how will Obama reach constituencies who have begun to reject Facebook’s hydra-like connectiveness? American people are averse to astroturfing (the process of cultivated and forced grassroots campaigning) and are into the new. In 2007 Obama was new, and his approach felt genuine and unique to the political constituency.

What is the next step? The Obama campaign’s fundraising workhorse was a combination of email and a website donations — some three-quarters of the money they raised online was directly attributable to an email solicitation. Ultimately, however, Obama took those donations to the traditional ad-buy and blanket media strategy. His difference? He listened and reminded Americans it was about ALL of us, not just him. He wanted to be our representative and he seemed to give a crap. That was rare.

During my research, it became apparent people enjoy contribution; they receive strong feelings of efficacy and reinforcement from simple participation. Additionally, grassroots groups get much of their support from canvassing and tabling. Obama’s campaign took these strategies further, canvassing virtually – through email – and cybertabling – through Facebook, MySpace and their 13 other social connection sites. Even his social network (MyBarackObama.com) had 2 million profiles.

My point is, the era of baby-boomer politics is ending. It seems to this writer that as Generation X, Gen. Y and the Millennial’s age, we are asking different questions. We want job security, social connections, transparency, honesty and trust. Old fashioned wants with new words and virtual facilitation. In today’s era of environmentalism, conservatism, progressivism, independentism, tea party-ism and globalism, these generations want something radical: politicians who listen to their concerns.

Social networking offers a channel directly to the President or your representative akin to living on the same block in the 1950s. This year, YouTube presented Obama a group of user-submitted questions, broadcasting his responses to the Internet like a virtual town hall.

The future, as Yussi Pick implied in a presentation last week, is mobile. Mobile platforms can elicit instant donations, calls, or outreach. Plus, with the GPS features individuals find locations for instant rallies and meetings and with mobile cameras that connect to blogging, RSS and social networks everyone can be an activist, journalist or propagandist.

Obama won in 2008 by taking traditional political strategy online, moving the tables, stickers, pins and badges of yesteryear to a virtual system. What comes next? Who mobile phones that connect to each other wirelessly to videoconference activists around the country? Tablet computers that allow live broadcasting and transcripts of exit-polling and election results? Pointing your mobile phone’s video camera up to the world and being shown through augmented reality the nearest protests, voting stations, rallies or press offices?

Either way it is going to be exciting. And as a side note, I posted this using my iPhone.

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