Businesses looking to make inroads online could learn a great deal from the social networking employed by the Barack Obama campaign for President of the United States. Ever since he took on Hilary Clinton and won in a stunning upset once thought impossible by political pundits, Obama and his team (including 24-year-old Facebook co-founder Chris Hughes) have used social networking and online marketing techniques to mobilize their forces, get donations and spread the word about the candidate and his message.
In January, Obama set a record for donations in one month by raising a total of $32 million dollars, $28 million of which was raised online. From these $28 million in online contributions, 90% were under $100, with over 250,000 contributors (source). In February, Obama didn’t attend one single fundraiser and still managed to raise $55 million online.
How did the Obama team do it? Here are several key elements to the social networking aspect of the campaign.
The website. Obama’s official website (www.barackobama.com) has a strong social networking element. The site is filled with ways for supporters to share information and learn about speeches and gatherings in their area. After spending just a few minutes on the website, it is easy to see that it was created by professionals who understand the importance of interactivity and a strong user interface. With every piece of content comes the opportunity to make a donation.
The tools. The Obama website gives users a lot of options for customization. The site provides tools for supporters to hold their own meetings and fundraisers – setting the guidelines to help run the events, but allowing each individual to determine how much money they wish to ask for and the style of the event.
The email campaigns. At organized Obama events, supporters are only asked for an email address, not a donation. Those who sign up to be on the official Obama for President mailing list receive smart, highly coordinated emails several times a week. These emails are geo-targeted on many occasions to alert the individual about upcoming events in their area. The emails also have a personal feel, sporting a relaxed style of writing and are often penned by the candidate, his chiefs of staff or even his wife Michele.
Facebook, MySpace and Twitter. No politician has run for office during the heyday of the major social networking sites, but Obama really has no fear when it comes to using these entities to further his cause. Check into Facebook and you will find the official Obama group and thousands of like-minded groups. Get over to Twitter and you can follow every move the candidate makes as he crisscrosses the country. Even MySpace is filled with efforts to spread the word among voters who are likely taking part in their first election. The campaign understands the limited resources of young Americans, and asks for only small donations on these sites.
The access. Unlike his competitor John McCain, Barack Obama has been an active part of his online campaigns. He writes his own emails and creates exclusive videos just for his online supporters. The result is an immediacy and personal nature to his campaign that few candidates will ever match.
Whether or not Obama wins the presidency in November, he and his outstanding online marketing team have changed the way politicians reach out to the American public and generate funds for their campaign. By knowing the ins and outs of the most current, most popular forms of online marketing, he has set an example not only for future candidates, but businesses that want to target customers with pinpoint accuracy and build their brand online via email, website and social marketing techniques.