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Barack Obama and Politics 2.0

Barack Obama and Politics 2.0

It was the longest and most expensive election of all time.  America has the first black president in its history and both inside and outside America’s boundaries lives the hope that Yes We Can dream of a new and better world.  Like much else in his campaign, Obama’s use of the web as an integral part of his campaign was exemplary.

I have commented before in this column that Obama spearheaded the use of Web 2.0 within his campaign.  His online strategy focussed not just on his own website but included social media, networking sites, blogs and discussion forums.  Battles once fought only on TV prime time raged on YouTube, Bebo, MySpace, Blogger, and Facebook.

From social networking to his blog to his Fight the Smears campaign, Obama has made his Web 2.0 presence known.  He has over 1.5 million friends on MySpace and Facebook, and over 50,000 followers on Twitter. This personal activity in social networks allows him to quickly get the word out across multiple platforms.  He posts videos to You Tube and images to Flickr, and he’s connecting to various communities on the edges through sites such as BlackPlanet, MiGente and Glee.

Arguably he has done more than any other candidate to ensure that his supporters do his marketing for him.  The 10 second sound bite on the TV news has been replaced by the forwardability of You Tube videos.  Uniquely he managed to put his mantra to music in a cringe free way by teaming up with of The Black Eyed Peas to post the “Yes We Can” video onto You Tube.  News of this video and its message and values spread not with expensive TV and newspaper advertising, but spread from Inbox to Inbox, blog to blog and social network to social network, forwarded on by its recipients.

Obama empowered his supporters to actively support him online through My.BarackObama, a fully–fledged social network.  His followers could create their own profile complete with a customized description, friends list and personal blog. They could also join groups, participate in fund raising, and arrange events all from an interface that is both easy–to–use and familiar to any Facebook or MySpace user.

The strategy was clearly massively effective, according to Business Week in July of this year.  It reports that until that point Obama’s fundraising doubled that of McCain, generating $51m, a staggering 88% of which was donated online.  The Washington Post has gone so far as to title Obama as the “King of Social Networking.”

Obama understood that online his digital voice (what he says about himself), digital footprint (evidence of his existence all over the web) and digital shadow (what people say about him when he’s out of the room) all impacted his popularity and success.  And he managed the relationship between his website, blog, email, social media, video, and e–commerce magnificently.

If you examine the websites Obama, Clinton, McCain, Edwards, and Giuliani you will see that many are similar in style, structure and calls to action (e.g. “donate” “support” “get involved”).  However it was in Obama’s use of social media, and politics 2.0 where he engaged Americans, particularly young Americans where they were at, and with messages they believed in, that set him apart.

Obama’s online success illustrates that our websites are not our entire web presence.  Indeed we need to meet, connect and communicate clearly with those whose trust we must earn, on the social network, blog, search engine, email list or discussion forum they are at, if we are to succeed online.

By Gareth Dunlop

Gareth formed Fathom in 2011 and has been in the business of design performance for over two decades.

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