How Obama Leveraged Social Media in the 2008 Presidential Campaign

In, “Learning From Obama: Lessons for Online Communicators in 2009 and Beyond,” Colin Delany details  President Obama’s strategy, campaign structure and technology, online outreach and recruiting, field organizing, voter/volunteer mobilization and of course online fundraising when he ran for office in 2008. Breaking up the campaign into different sections — from how to properly organize the campaign to how to properly raise money online — Delaney offers a how-to guide for any advocacy organization to follow if they want to have a comprehensive online strategy for their campaign. As Delaney states, “His drive to the White House has obvious implications for future political candidates, but everyone from neighborhood activists to corporate marketers can learn from aspects of his online odyssey,” focusing on 6 major themes:

  1. The Obama organization integrated online communications into its overall structure and processes
  2. Obama’s internet communications strategy aimed at concrete, focused and measurable goals, both online and in the real world
  3. The campaign used the internet to put supporters to work substantively both in- person and online
  4. The campaign carefully targeted much of its online outreach
  5. The Obama operation treated the supporter relationship as a two-way street
  6. Fundamentally, Obama’s campaign looked upon supporters as a resource to be maintained with great care

The one aspect I found the most intriguing in the OFA campaign was how the team put just as much interest and thought into its online strategy as it did in fundraising or any other aspect of its overall strategy. While many find using social media just an additional segment of communications — something insofar as thinking of online usage an afterthought to the overall communications plan — Obama understood that focusing on social media was paramount and made sure to integrate his online strategy with all other aspects of his campaign. As Delaney states:

… Obama’s new media department was NOT a part of the campaign’s tech team. Instead, it was an independent branch of the campaign, coequal with communications, field and finance, and was in fact as much a client of the technology folks as, say, the press department was. Like other department heads, new media team leader Joe Rospars was a central part of the campaign’s top-level planning and decision-making processes, and he reported directly to overall campaign manager David Plouffe…Obama’s campaign managers employed a completely different model. They saw that online organizing has become as central to modern political campaigning as direct mail, field organizing, advertising and media relations, and that the the internet can in fact become the backbone of campaign functions from fundraising to turning out voters on election day. Miss that point, and you miss one of the central lessons of 2008.

About digipolitics

Just your average Johns Hopkins University grad student learning how to leverage the online arena to engage potential advocates for issue advocacy campaigns.
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