It may not be surprising that the story of Obama is a story of money. He needed a lot of money to compete with Hillary Clinton in the primaries and for building a remarkable campaign operation. How did he do it? Joshua Green asked the question in an article in the Atlantic Monthly in June and answered:
“…He (Obama) built a fund-raising machine quite unlike anything seen before in national politics. Obama’s machine attracts large and small donors alike, those who want to give money and those who want to raise it, veteran activists and first-time contributors, and—especially—anyone who is wired to anything: computer, cell phone, PDA.”
Obama has done what insurgents like John McCain in 2000 and Howard Dean in 2004 were not able to do because the social networking tools and culture were not as advanced then as they are now. Joe Trippi explains in his book why McCain did not have more success with his digital campaign in 2000; “Not enough snow had been plowed by Amazon.com, eBay, and all the travel agencies for a political candidacy to make much headway” (Trippi, 2005, p.82). In this term, Facebook, MySpace, and LinkedIn have plowed a path for Obama that did not exist during the Dean for America campaign in 2004 or for McCain in 2000.
Trippi talked about the Perfect Storm (Trippi, 2005, p. 119) in 2004, and it is even more perfect and stormy today; Obama has raised $265 million from more than 1.5 million donors in the end of June 2008. Obama is relying so much on small donors that he opted out of public funding.
The online force behind Obama’s success is MyBarackObama.com. It is based on the idea of social networking; besides connecting friends and share information the assumption is that people are more comfortable receiving information from friends they trust than from a newspaper or an expert. Furthermore, the campaign has been lowering the barriers to entry and raised the expectations for supporters who have to do more than just have a bumper sticker on the car. According to Joe Rospars, Obama’s new-media director and a Dean veteran, the campaign wants supporters to donate money, make calls, or host an event. “If you look at the messages we send to people over time, there’s an assumption that they will organize,” Rospar said to Green from the Atlantic Monthly.
On MyBarackObama.com, you can create a personal site with our own fundraising goals and thermometer, friends, and groups. You can blog and write emails – just like on Facebook. And you can’t miss the donation bottom. I noticed when Hillary was in the race that Obama’s fundraising attempts were much more “in your face all the time you were on the website.” It does not matter what you do in this network, and you will see the pledge for donations. You are also encouraged to leave an email address, and the campaign will come back to your inbox with a very-well crafted email )check this link for the anatomy of a perfect email) mentioning the pledge for donations several times. Besides the social-networking website, the social media strategy also includes cell phones and ring tones generating money and votes.
I can’t wait till the election is over, and Obama staffers begin to tell the stories and anecdotes from this campaign. I have just finished Joe Trippi’s book “The Revolution Will Not Be Televised,” and I was just as thrilled reading the book as Trippi was in 2003 seeing the rise of the merger of politics and technology.