Lessons from our first ‘social media’ president

One of the keys to managing a marketing campaign is ensuring that a message, advertisement or call to action is delivered “at the customer touch point,” or that place where the advertisement or content can be delivered and where the customer or prospect is likely to be receptive to it.

The Obama campaign’s effectiveness in delivering their messages and calls to action will be hyper-analyzed over the next several months. From large spending on traditional media to leveraging the Internet, tapping in to the social media zeitgeist and engaging with people (especially young people) in ways never before possible was a key component to the campaign’s win.

In this unprecedented use of traditional and online media, there are key lessons here for every company, organization, movement or individual wanting to sell, build brands, move an agenda forward or build an ecosystem.

Observing and experiencing the Obama campaign’s use of social media over the last couple of years often made me smile when I realized that they were methodically engaged in and hitting nearly every leading social media touchpoint where a potential voter, donor or volunteer might be connected. Of course, they did this in addition to all the mainstream media that they couldn’t afford to ignore, and the result was unprecedented connection with the people.

The Obama presence on these various social networking and media sites were key to his victory: from Facebook and Myspace; to YouTube, Flickr, Digg, Twitter, Eventful, LinkedIn, BlackPlanet, Faithbase, Eons, Glee, MiGente, MyBatanga, AsianAve and their own well done (and deep) website, the authenticity, steadiness, transparency and values of Barack Obama were easily telegraphed to anyone willing to connect with his campaign.

Though I personally took in opinions, facts and intentions on both the McCain and Obama sides from a variety of “right” and “left” sources (as I mention in this post on my Connecting the Dots blog), Obama was so overwhelmingly obvious across all touch points that it was impossible to not feel the momentum and understand the messaging in ways the McCain campaign was unable to deliver because of its almost singular reliance on traditional media, which a large part of the electorate — millenials (i.e., Generation Y) to be specific (The Internet and the 2008 Election – Pew Internet).

One way I was connected to the campaign was with the Obama campaign iPhone application. Besides the fact that it never crashed (which I can’t say for a lot of iPhone apps…including one I use daily from The New York Times), it really kept me connected and abreast of what was transpiring in his campaign.

Even though the election results were in and it was clear he was our choice, I found an email in my inbox election eve which, curiously, made me smile again as I realized that his campaign was keeping the “conversation” alive when they clearly didn’t have to:

Friend —

I’m about to head to Grant Park to talk to everyone gathered there, but I wanted to write to you first.

We just made history.

And I don’t want you to forget how we did it.

You made history every single day during this campaign — every day you knocked on doors, made a donation, or talked to your family, friends, and neighbors about why you believe it’s time for change.

I want to thank all of you who gave your time, talent, and passion to this campaign.

We have a lot of work to do to get our country back on track, and I’ll be in touch soon about what comes next.

But I want to be very clear about one thing…

All of this happened because of you.

Thank you,


Not “President-elect Barack Obama” or “Barack Obama” but rather a personal connection from this guy named Barack, not all fluffed up with faux importance and the abstraction that comes from most leaders who surround themselves with pomp and circumstance. Instead, his message stayed real and authentic while keeping the connection alive.

The lesson for all of us is clear: connect and converse with people. Do so with your best intentions and no tricks or pretension. In the same way you can’t let a friendship wane and then call on that friend in your time of need and expect them to be there for you, don’t let the social media conversation wane once you’ve achieved your desired outcome.

One hope I hold is this, and it is my message for our new president-elect: Don’t stop the conversation. Find ways to get the masses to sign up for alerts and notifications from you once you’re sworn in. If you truly ask the American people to sacrifice, to read or view some content your Administration has created, or you see something we can fix if we all do it together, continue to leverage social media. You’ll continue to connect with the generation that will take over this nation when you and I are long gone.

One way this is already occurring is through the transition team’s site called Change.gov. The intent of this site is to be a transparent, participative and engaging so that those who supported Obama (and those who didn’t) can now feel a part of the transition, be aware of what is happening and under way, and have a place to provide feedback on vision and direction. In this way, the future Obama Administration is already showing that they’re ready, willing and moving forward on keeping the conversation going.

What I do know for certain is this: Every future president hopeful will have to engage in and leverage social media or risk ignoring a significant number of potential voters.

Are you ignoring a significant number of your customers, prospects or constituents by not leveraging social media?

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Comments (1)

  1. Submitted by Aaron Landry on 11/11/2008 - 09:57 am.

    I’ve also been impressed that change.gov has RSS feeds that are better than MinnPost’s. 😉

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