A fundamental understanding of communication has always been at the center of a politician's arsenal, but a firm grasp on the future of communication can be the secret weapon that wins the war. For Franklin D. Roosevelt, it was radio. For John F. Kennedy, it was television. And for Barack Obama, it is social media.
Obama has taken grassroots campaigning into the digital age by embracing Web 2.0 and using it as a central platform of his presidential campaign. From social media savvy to YouTube to social networking, Obama has navigated Web 2.0 and turned it into a major force within his campaign.
Obama and Social Media
The first rule of social media marketing is to put yourself and/or your product out there. A few ways to do that include becoming an active blogger, establishing a presence on the major social networks, and embracing new forms of communication.
Obama has done just that. From social networking to his blog to his Fight the Smears campaign, Obama has made his Web 2.0 presence known. He has over 1.5 million friends on MySpace and Facebook, and he currently has over 45,000 followers on Twitter. This personal activity in social networks allows him to quickly get the word out across multiple platforms.
Obama and YouTube
The days of writing a speech to capture a ten second sound bite on the evening news are over. The popularity of YouTube gives the public access to the entire speech, not just the clip chosen by the news, which means the entire speech must resonate with the audience.
Barack Obama has done a great job of making sure his speeches sound as good on YouTube in their entirety as they do on the evening news with just a clip. He's also gambled on YouTube's audience by creating a strong presence on the website. Historically, young voters have been high on enthusiasm but low on voter turnout. But Obama has been able to utilize social media to buck that trend.
Obama and Social Networking
If we were to look for the ace up Obama's sleeve, we would find Chris Hughes. As one of the founders of Facebook, Chris Hughes knows a thing or two about social networking. Obama's wooing of the social networking whiz may not have made headlines at the time, but it's been a major factor in Obama's success.
Barack Obama isn't the first to utilize social networking in a bid for the presidency -- Howard Dean used Meetup.com to become a serious contender for his party's nomination in 2004 -- but he may have perfected it. The rule of thumb for any great application is to pack a powerful punch while being as simple to use as possible. And that's what My.BarackObama.Com delivers.
A full-fledged social network, My.BarackObama allows users to create their own profile complete with a customized description, friends list and personal blog. They can also join groups, participate in fund raising, and arrange events all from an interface that is both easy-to-use and familiar to any Facebook or MySpace user.
Politics 2.0 - Power to the People
Win or lose, there is no doubt that Barack Obama has changed the face of politics in America. And just as Obama is using Web 2.0 in his presidential campaign, so can Web 2.0 give the American people a voice in politics.
Obama's own social network was used to stage a protest of his stance on a federal wiretapping bill, proving that social networking can cut both ways.
Now it's up to the people to utilize that voice.