This is a cross-post from Steffen’s blog.
Much has been said of how the Obama campaign mastered the web. The fact that three million people donated online, helping to make his campaign the best funded of all time, meant that money was no object. Having an endless supply of cash was obviously pretty handy, but what’s perhaps even more salient is that the Obama campaign was funded by citizens. Parties, corporations and corporate interest groups are usually candidates’ main donors, and these will at some point expect payback in some shape or form. How will citizens expect payback from Obama? By fulfilling his campaign promises. This is of course no guarantee that he can or will, but it’s a good starting point.
What’s been most revolutionary has been the campaign’s ability to use the web to not just inform people, but to mobilise them. Massive followings on various public social networking platforms has kept people informed and excited, and enabled them to easily spread information and urge their friends and acquaintances to join the conversation or register to vote and so on – the viral effect at play.
Even more important was my.barackobama.com, which became an offline facilitator for people wanting to help in some way – make calls, arrange meets, knock on doors, put up placards and so on. It’s somewhat ironic, but the ability to mobilise people offline was arguably the most important element of Obama’s online campaign: sort of a return to a bygone age when citizens would congregate for hours in town-halls and other meeting places to debate, organise, and delegate in support of their preferred candidate. The web has shown itself to be the enabler and integrator that has resurrected this phenomenon. So much for people being politically apathetic – it was a question of time or the means (and let’s not forget: an inspirational candidate).
A few recommendations on the topic of Obama and the web:
- Seth Godin writes about online viral videos trumping TV ads and how Democrats used permission to grow their support base and interact with them more effectively than the Republicans.
- EurActiv have interviewed Brian Fetherstonhaugh, chairman and CEO of OgilvyOne Worldwide, about Obama’s use of “new media”.
- A good post by Colin at ePolitics who claims that Obama would not have won without the Internet and explains why.
- Last but not least, concerns that Obama and his team would put their web efforts on hold following their win have proved to be without merit. The website of the President-elect, Change.gov, was launched last week, with some decent elements, like a “submit your story” feature and a blog. There’s some way to go before it matches my.barackobama.com in terms of interactive features and so on, but I’m sure that’s coming.
- And a tangent: the UK Conservatives are the latest to have hijacked “change” on their new, admittedly impressive, website.