What Businesses Can Learn From The 2008 Obama Campaign

Don't get alarmed, I'm not going to get all political on you. But I would like to explore the business applications of learning how the Barack Obama team used social media to put their man in the White House,

As I write this in September 2009, think back to September 2007, just two years ago.

Assuming you had even heard of Barack Obama, did you honestly think that he had even a remote chance of beating Hillary Clinton for the Democratic nomination - let alone becoming President of the United States?

Come on, tell the truth.

At that time, Clinton looked unbeatable, at least for their party's nomination. She had name recognition, lots of money, a superb organization in place, connections, and experience. Not to mention a Campaigner-In-Chief by her side who understood the process of running for top office better than anyone in their party.

Bill Clinton alone was a formidable asset. He was beloved by the party faithful and was a one man money-raising machine.

But, at the same time, there was a relatively unknown senator from Illinois who was quietly making use of this thing called social media.

Lately I have been reading a book called, Barack 2.0: Barack Obama's Social Media Lessons for Business by Brent Leary and David Bullock. This little book has become required reading for anyone wanting to learn how to use social networking for business.

It's hard to argue with the book's thesis: Without the masterful use of social media and social networking, Barack Obama would not be the President today.

Not only did the Obama team use social media to win votes, it also raised more money than any other campaign in history ($650 million), with the average donation being under $100.

But even more importantly, it used social media to create and energize a volunteer organization of people to knock on doors, make telephone calls and show up for events.

If ever there was an example of the kind of community-building Seth Godin talks about in his book Tribes, the Obama campaign was it.

Barack 2.0 is not a particularly well-written book stylistically, in fact it consists mostly of transcribed podcasts made by the authors as the campaign progressed. But it succeeds in accomplishing what it was intended to accomplish. It is a case study of a hugely successful social media campaign in action.

In addition, it also contains a lot of useful supplemental materials through out each chapter that can be found on the web. It provides links to a wealth of tools and resources that a business person can grab online and start using today.

What it does do very effectively is educate the reader on how to make use of social media for purposes other than running for office. It is, at its heart, a business book that just uses a political story as a case study.

Here are some of the telling facts Barack 2.0 contains:
  • About five months into the campaign, the authors got a snapshot of Obama's and Clinton's Twitter accounts and found that Obama had 44,596 followers and Clinton had 4,164. But more telling was the fact that Obama followed 46,252 people, whereas Clinton followed 0.

    In other words, Clinton viewed Twitter as a means of telling people her message, but demonstrated little interest in listening to, and having conversations with, other people.

  • Obama was also one of the first people to start using LinkedIn Answers. He posed the question, "What are you looking for in your next president?" and received over a thousand replies.

    This is another example of how he viewed social media as a platform to engage in two-way conversations, not just a means of shouting out a message.

  • As of the authors' July 9, 2008 podcast, Obama had 1145 short videos posted on YouTube. These were typically under 3 minutes each. But think of how effective these videos were. It was like he had over 1000 little salespeople online delivering his message day and night.

    This is a simple tactic that any business can do that will deliver significant results.

  • Obama didn't just focus on the high profile social media platforms like Facebook and Twitter. In the same week he reached 59,000 followers on Twitter, he also had almost 54,000 followers on migente.com, which caters to a Latino audience.

  • It wasn't just staffers who were using social media on his behalf. Remember Obama's ever-present Blackberry? He was doing a lot of his own tweeting, posting his own updates onto his Facebook page and sending out his own text messages.

    Many corporate execs make excuses that they are too busy to engage in these activities themselves, but it's hard to argue that they are any busier than a man running for president. Modern smart phones like Blackberries and iPhones make social networking a breeze.

The book goes on an on with examples of what Obama and his team were doing at the time. But more importantly, Barack 2.0 gives readers a lot of advice that they can use themselves to make things happen for them on social media.

It is, as I said earlier, a business book that uses the Obama campaign as a case study.

Let's face it, nearly every business faces a Hillary Clinton: A more established competitor with greater name recognition, more resources and a huge head start in the marketplace.

This book is for businesses that want to overtake their Hillary Clintons. Consider it a game plan that also comes with the tools, resources and actionable ideas needed to implement the strategies it talks about.

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COPYRIGHT © 2009, Charles Brown
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September 9, 2009 at 10:58 AM Anonymous said...

Hello Charles,

Thank you so much for checking out our book, and also for the kind words. David and I both appreciate it! I'm glad you were able to find some helpful information in the book.

Thanks again!
Brent Leary, Co-author of Barack 2.0

September 9, 2009 at 9:59 PM Anonymous said...

I recently came across your blog and have been reading along. I thought I would leave my first comment. I don't know what to say except that I have enjoyed reading. Nice blog. I will keep visiting this blog very often.



September 10, 2009 at 8:11 AM Charles Brown said...

Thank you to both of you. Brent you and David have written an excellent "roadmap" for businesses who want to explore social media. I hope to see more of your work soon.

September 11, 2009 at 6:48 AM David Bullock - Barack 2.0 - Social Media Lesson For Business said...

Hello Charles,

Thank you for the kind words and the review. We set out to document the campaign and it turned into so much more.

Again thank you.

David Bullock
co-author - Barack 2.0

September 11, 2009 at 7:02 AM Charles Brown said...

I hope you guys aren't finished sharing your great insights. This is truly an excellent book.