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Case study

Barack Obama’s strategic use of the Internet
The ingenuity behind online strategy of Barack Obama’s campaign

The 2008 US Presidential election was historic for many reasons and was keenly followed worldwide. Barack Obama’s campaign made unprecedented use of grassroots channels to generate support, encourage voter turnout and raise funds with savvy use of theInternet to support their campaign. While with hindsight it may be plain to see how much the campaign got right, when Barack Obama started campaigning for the Democratic Party’s nomination, he was seen as an outsider. For much of that campaign, the media branded Barack Obama as the underdog.
The World Wide Web appears daunting to many big businesses and organisations. In politics, especially,few have to date incorporated the tools of the Web into successful campaigns. As with business, the Web was seen as an emerging channel in politics. This meant that the candidates that Obama was running against, in both the campaign for the Democratic nomination and in the presidential campaign, were focused on traditional tactics for gathering support. Not being the frontrunner, Obama needed toengage with voters in new ways in order to succeed. The use of social media made the most of the Obama campaign’s greatest strength – its grassroots, community connections.
When it comes to elections in the USA, young voters are the toughest demographic to reach. It’s a challenge shared by many businesses and organisations trying to reach out to a younger audience. They find that traditionalchannels, such as television advertising, are having less and less of an impact. Instead of watching television, younger people are turning to the Internet and their mobile phones for entertainment and for interacting with their friends. Savvy brands who want to reach this market are turning to the same channels. The Obama campaign realised early on that without the traditional support enjoyed by theother candidates, they would need to find new ways to raise funds and reach voters. As the Edelman Trust Barometer consistently shows, people are more likely to trust and listen to “someone like me”. The best way to reach these “people like me” is to use existing social connections. The Obama campaign used this to create a social network, www.
my.barackobama.com, that supporters could use toself-organise events, connect with other supporters and receive feedback and support from the campaign. According to Quantcast figures, this network saw over a million visitors each month, eclipsing 2 million visitors in some months. For best results in making use of social connections, existing social networks should also be utilised. Even though the bespoke social network my.barackobama.com was the hubof the campaign, profiles were created on all major social networking websites to enable the campaign to reach out to supporters in as many channels as possible. Profiles, groups and pages were created on Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube to name just a few. In fact, photographs from election night were released by the Obama campaign. Top viewed videos on the campaign’s official YouTube channel havereceived over 5 million views each. The campaign also made excellent use of a number of other eMarketing tactics, all carefully coordinated to make supporters feel as engaged and involved in the campaign as possible. While Hillary Rodham Clinton raised $13.5 million in January 2008 to support her campaign, mostly through large, traditional fundraising events, Barack Obama raised $36 million inthe same month. Of that, $28 million was raised online with 90 percent of those transactions coming from people who donated $100 or less, and 40 percent from donors who gave $25 or less. Even small donors felt that they, personally, were making a difference.
The Obama campaign used every interaction opportunity to collect information that would allow them to connect further with potential...
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