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26 February  2009 ~

The First Social Media President – Barack Obama We learn from the history books that JFK was effectively the first President who understood and effectively used the new medium of TV.  Today, the new media is Social Media and it is about enhanced communication. It is clear that President Obama understood that and is our de-facto first Social Media President.  In this post, we’ll take a high level strategic perspective of how Obama leveraged social media and see if we can use some of the same strategies for our business.

Obama embraced the Long Tail – There is no magic blue pill to take for social media.  In terms of brand building, it takes time to resonate and spread.  This is not a sprint, but rather a marathon.  Thus social media activities need to be developed with a longer term time frame in mind.

Opt-in databases = Power – For Obama, they also = micro donations that became macro dollars.  How did he do it?  He focused on his consumer.  He engaged them, he provided them entertainment, he co-opted their help and most importantly, he personalized his message to them.   With this insight, he built up a database of over 12 or 13 million emails in less than 2 years. – This was his own social network that was user friendly, yet still strategic and action oriented. If you logged into Obama’s site, it was easy to do and filled with an array of activities you could do on behalf of him AND be measured for how successful you were in achieving your goal on his behalf

Social Media Sites – Obama had a presence on at least 15 web based communities, including Facebook, LinkedIn, YouTube and Twitter. So did his rivals, yet he built out massive groups of participants on these sites.  In some cases, he out-friended his rivals at a rate of 10:1.  These were more people that he could engage with leading to more opt-ins, more dollars raised and more grass roots support.

Those were but a few of his tactics.  His strategy was pretty in-depth.  For sake of brevity in this post, here’s a summary of some of the key points.

  • This strategy achieved reaching large volumes of people at a very low cost to contact rate
  • Brand building is most effective when its strategies follow the Long Tail
  • While he spent mega-millions on “interruptive marketing” (TV, Radio Ads, etc), he fully embraced “passive based marketing” to reach those he otherwise would not have connected with.
  • He used social media to build relationships, to engage people.  Not to shout at them from a far away distance
  • He implemented the “hub and spoke” philosophy.  He created a smart website as his hub and guided web traffic into this hub from the variety of platforms that he connected with people on.  He understood he couldn’t “control the masses”, but he could actively engage them and “influence the masses”.
  • He understood the power of the mobile web.  He was on your iPhone with his own iPhone app.
  • He created widgets that allowed him to create his own little sign posts on millions of other people’s websites to drive traffic back to him (remember the hub and spoke)

The story can go on and on, into one interesting case study filled with stats and ROI’s.  Love him or not, the key takeaways for business are simple – strategize your brand, plan for the long haul, use the hub and spoke philosophy and engage your audience. With that as your basis, you will create a very effective and energized base of constituents.

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