Did Social Media Make – And Then Break – The Obama Government?
©2010 Doug Champigny, Social-Media-Tutorials.com All Rights Reserved Worldwide.
In the 2008 US presidential election campaign, Barack Obama did what no US president had ever done before – he harnessed the power of the online high profile social media to reach out to Americans. As a result, Obama raised a fortune in campaign funding from those who saw it as the first time they’d ever had direct contact with a politician on that level, the first one who truly seemed to care, to be accessible and to listen. A lot of those social media users also went out and voted for him, many of whom had never bothered to vote before.
Yet shortly after the election, grumbles emerged around the Internet about the fact that the new president no longer responded, was no longer regularly updating his social media contacts, and was seen as having deserted his following once he attained power. Fast forward two years to the 2010 mid-term election and Obama was frequently mentioning that the governing party would be fine if everyone who voted in 2008 did so again in 2010.
There was not, however, any concentrated effort to re-establish his social media profiles, to connect with those same voters in the manner that had worked so well two years previously, or even by the party or the other candidates to take their message to the online masses in any concentrated, coherent fashion. Was this in turn the reason, or a large part of the reason, that they lost control of the House of Representatives and had their majority in the Senate reduced?
Obviously political pundits and opposition supporters will say no, it was the policies and actions or lack thereof – but that is skirting the issue under discussion here. I’m not discussing political beliefs or either party’s stand in the election, but instead the mechanics of running an election campaign vis-a-vis the huge and growing online population. FaceBook alone has more members than the entire population of the United States, while other sites like MySpace, Twitter, Google Buzz, Yahoo, AOL, Squidoo, etc. each have millions, tens of millions or hundreds of millions of members.
Traditional media like newspapers, magazines and radio networks and printed materials were the prime focus of the billions of dollars spent on this election, yet none has the reach of the online social media sites – sites that were so under-utilized in the campaigns as to be able to say they were all but ignored.
And having watched political commentary in the US, Canada and the UK following the election results, not one commentator even mentioned this lack even though many had commented on Obama’s use of the sites during his successful campaign 2 years ago. I shouldn’t be surprised though – traditional media has been so slow to ‘get’ the power of the Internet that the only comprehensive live coverage of voting night I could find online stemmed from the BBC.com site in the UK.
For every political reason the media quotes as to why things turned out as they did, I’m sure the spin doctors have a counter-point; such is the nature of all politics everywhere. Yet where was that rebuttal for the massive online social media audience? I don’t think it was political arrogance that caused this breakdown – I think instead that the candidates, their handlers, the campaign managers and the backroom rainmakers aren’t aware of the force that can be mustered from such a large, articulate and caring group – there has never been so large a group in constant contact, no so effective and inexpensive a way to reach out to them.
And while this week’s election showed that to be bad news for the current government, it also illustrates the huge potential for experienced Internet marketers, niche marketers, social networking and social media marketers. Like movie stars, pro sports figures, rock stars, corporate CEO’s and all other celebrities, mainstream politicians NEED high profile social media experts to design and manage their high profile social networking for them – and no one knows it better than those of us working online everyday! After all, how many thousands of PR and public relations people were paid small fortunes during this campaign – and how many made effective use of FaceBook or Twitter? How many even KNOW what Squidoo, Technorati, MyBlogLog or LinkedIn even are?
If you intend to be involved in any future election (municipal, regional, state/provincial/departmental or national) as a candidate or supporter, I suggest you download and read High Profile Social Media and get started on building your social media network today. And with FaceBook being the leading cornerstone to social networking, you’d be wise to watch the Social Networking Explosion videos as well. And perhaps that’s another lesson that needs to be learned – both products together cost less than $20, yet could potentially have made a major impact on some politician’s careers.
Obviously it’s well past time for ANY public or high-profile business figure to realize the power of the online audience – and to realize that one ignores social media and social networking at one’s own expense! Either become a high profile social media expert yourself or hire an online marketer to either advise you on it or set up your social network – or those who do will end up leaving you in the dust. After all, candidates in this election found that even spending over $150 million dollars on an old-style campaign doesn’t guarantee success…