Is Social Media Behind Barack Obama’s Success?Jun 6th, 2008 | By James Lewin | Category: Commentary, General
Earlier in the week, Elisabeth noted that Barack Obama had wrapped enough delegates to secure the Democratic nomination and that he is actively using podcasting as part of his campaign strategy.
Obama has run a remarkable campaign, and his campaign’s has made innovative use of social media, embracing not just podcasting, but Twitter, Flickr, MySpace, Facebook, YouTube & more.
CIOZone has published an interesting article that takes a look at the IT strategy behind Obama’s campaign:
So what was barackobama.com strategy and how does it differ from Hillary’s Web campaign, especially since Clinton’s Web site eventually duplicated (superficially, at least) virtually every feature that Obama’s offered—many of which are becoming standard equipment on campaign Web sites large and small?
Part of the answer is that the Obama campaign has Chris Hughes, who was one of the three co-founders of Facebook and now runs the campaign’s my.barackobama.com, which itself is a sort of social network. Hughes is not a software developer (it was his Harvard roommate Mark Zuckerberg who wrote the original Facebook code), but he brought an appreciation how to nurture and manage online communities.
“What I do now for the campaign is work on building out the technology to make sure the online community for Barack Obama supporters is as robust as possible and as helpful as possible to the goal of getting people out to vote,” Hughes says.
Hughes was inspired by the idea of what Internet technology could do for Obama, and saw him as the right candidate to take advantage of it.
“Online technology is at a place now that is pretty significantly different from where it was in 2004. I felt that if it was used well, and keyed to campaign goals of fundraising, and bringing people into the campaign, and bringing people to the polls to the vote, that it could make a significant difference.”
“We want to make it super efficient, super streamlined, make it viral,” says Steve Spinner, a Silicon Valley entrepreneur and investor who is a member of Obama’s National Finance Committee and spearheads the campaign’s efforts to work with technology firms. Other campaigns have used the Web “but it’s never been leveraged in this way, through chat groups and community groups, and through Facebook and other social networking sites,” he says.
The Web site allows the campaign to be “owned by the masses,” Spinner says, but he encourages even big donors to complete the transaction through the Web site, saving himself the time it would take to drive to their home or office to collect a check. Although hillaryclinton.com eventually matched most of the features of barackobama.com, the Obama campaign embraced the Web more enthusiastically and fielded many of those capabilities about six months ahead of the competition, Spinner says. “The DNA of everyone working on the Obama campaign is very much a startup mentality, where what matters is how you build it, how fast you roll it out, and how you tie it together.”
Regardless of your political leanings, the whole article is worth a read – it offers a look at the cutting edge of new media in American politics.