Obama: Using the Social in Social Media

A few weeks ago I went to a great talk called "How Obama Put Digital Technology and Social Media to Work for Him – and How You Can Too." As a huge fan of the entire Obama family (hi Michelle!), and someone that works in PR and interactive marketing, this seemed right up my ally.

The facts presented were astounding. Over a billion emails went out over the course of the democratic campaign. Over a million people signed up to receive texts.  The Democratic Party collected over 750 million pieces of data about its supporters. 20,000 events were held over the Internet alone.

What's more impressive than these numbers is how Democratic Party was able to use this data for their benefit. One of the most interesting points of the talk was about the "messy ways of self-organization" during the campaign. Multiple groups started campaign offices that were unbeknown to the official campaign! With new media like Twitter things are happening very, very fast. The campaign began to understand they couldn't response to everything that was happening and so they created lots of ways for people to easily get the information they needed. Check out this Fast Company article on what businesses can learn from Obama's use of social media.

When people talk about how great the campaign used social media, they tend to focus on the media (Go Twitter!), rather than the social. But the fundamental way the campaign was able to succeed was because people want to engage and share and the Internet is making is easy for them to do so. I canvassed for the first time this election. I had all the emails and texts, but it took hearing about the experience from my friend Kristin before I did it. I needed that social aspect, but the fact that I'd read so much about it in emails, on Facebook, etc certainly played a big role in my understanding of the process.

Now the question remains is how will Obama keep this level of engagement? I no longer read my Moveon.org emails because I don't understand how to be involved in any tangible way (donating money or reading the news seem unexciting). Any advice out there on how to stay engaged?

For some amusement: a web site of bad paintings of Obama.

- Contributed by Sue Ferranti.  Follow her @sueferranti