I was fascinated by the analysis of the Obama campaign. In many ways, Obama’s campaign and its success is a big, bright, “LCD sign” of the times. New media has come of age in a very public way.
Most people seem to agree that the campaign used a number of techniques to capture an audience and even inspire those traditionally lacking enthusiasm for politics. Some of my favorite attributes are:
Audacity – the fact that Obama wasn’t afraid to “redefine his target audience” and go after states like Indiana who this November voted for a Democrat for the first time in 44 years.
Mobilizing Large Numbers and doing it “Grass Roots” – unprecedented fundraising success by generating large numbers of small donations rather than small numbers of large donations to raise more than an estimated $600 million (McCain raised an estimated $250 million).
The Message Consistency – the message never wavered from the idea of being an “antidote” to the status quo.
But perhaps the most obvious and (to a techie like me) inspiring elements of witnessing this campaign was its focus on social technology to support and propel all of the other techniques.
The use of “new media”, from friend building on Friendster to the seemingly simple text message, proved to be a powerhouse for the campaign, as it extended the concept of “Team Obama” far beyond campaign headquarters literally into the hands of millions of Americans who voted and vocalized with their typing fingers.
For all the small business owners who couldn’t help wondering, wow – can I do that? My answer is Yes you can! (Sorry couldn’t help myself).
In taking a closer look, the technologies used form a rather familiar list:
- Official Web site: http://www.barakobama.com and http://my.barakobama.com
- Text messaging strategy – enabled via collecting phone numbers on a mass scale
- LinkedIn: http://www.linkedin.com/in/barackobama
- Flickr: http://www.flickr.com/photos/barackobamadotcom/
- Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/barackobama
- Twitter: http://twitter.com/BarackObama
- YouTube: http://www.youtube.com/user/BarackObamadotcom
- Meetup.com: http://barackobama.meetup.com/
The list reads like a “who’s who” of social media marketing.
But the real power in these technologies is understanding that the goal is not just to “set up” one tool or another, but to understand each tool’s potential. That potential in the Obama campaign was brought to fruition by:
- Having a consistent message
- Providing free and open access to “making a connection”
- *Always* keeping the tool up to date
- Providing pertinent digestible bytes of information that could be read, downloaded, passed on
- Leveraging the sheer quantity of enthusiasts and supporters on each tool to disperse messages almost instantly across an unbelievably wide, new network of venues and communities that hasn’t been seen since the invention of television.
Think about the leverage that a database of 948,000 people on MySpace and 3.1 million people on Facebook provides when you have a message to communicate (and consider that vs. McCain’s 221,000 on MySpace and 600,000 on Facebook).
As you think about your business and consider the challenge to build brand, generate buzz and stay on the radar as a small business owner with limited time and a limited budget, there are some very simple lessons to learn here:
- Everybody needs a team. Whether you’re trying to build a team of millions of voters or a few thousand supporters of your business, build a team by building a venue for them to get involved. Even the simplest involvement can be powerful.
- Email, the Web, and cellular technology have created an unprecedented venue for that involvement. Know who should be on your team and know the different ways they like to be involved.
- Use wisely. Learn how these technologies work and learn by example how they can be leveraged to build a community of supporters for you.
This is an advantage that won’t last forever. As businesses gain competency in these techniques and learn to invest wisely, these techniques will slowly become standards rather than competitive advantages.
But it is possible for a growing small business to build a strategic, cost-effective and impactful social media campaign. As “Team Obama” has shown – yes, you can.
Maisha Walker is the Founder & President of message medium, a 10-year old New York City Internet Strategy firm that focuses exclusively on Small Businesses. You can follow Maisha on Twitter or learn about her upcoming Web site and Internet Marketing Classes.
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