Tag Archives: socialnetworking

Lessons Learned from Obama

Friday morning, I had the pleasure to speak to 25 political activists (Radikal Ungdom) from Denmark who had been campaigning in Florida for Obama. I asked them to share their campaign moments and I really enjoyed their stories from Florida – and a few from Danish campaigns. Furthermore, I learned a lot about campaigning in Denmark. (I have never participated in a political campaign. I have only observed campaigns and worked with politicians when they are in office.)


Here’s an excerpt of my notes on what we can learn from Obama´s use of social media:


Not for Everyone

Now every campaign or politician wants to copy Obama’s masterfully run campaign. All the tools are out there for everyone to use, but I don’t think they’re for everyone. Using the tools in a wrong way is much more damaging than not using them. I think it is one of the major lessons that we can learn from this election. For instance, Hillary Clinton used most of the tools – but she was not authentic (I will explore this more when I have time, please tell me if you have some links covering how to be authentic online/offline).


Take a look at @hillaryclinton on Twitter. Almost 6,000 are following her, but she does not follow anyone. 132,304 are following @BarackObama who’s following 127364. When I signed up to follow him, his campaign signed up immediately after to follow me. That’s a signal of interaction and conversation!


It’s Not Just About the Tools

Furthermore, Obama did not win just because he mastered Web 2.0. He mastered running a campaign integrating all kinds of campaign disciplines: messaging, polling, microtargeting, debating, stump speech, crisis management, media relations, digital communications (social media), and the ground game (GOTV). Most importantly, Obama’s message matched him as a messenger and inspired supporters. And don’t forget his formidable communications skills. Few politicians are as gifted as Obama.


Social Media Tools:

Here’s what we learn from Obama’s use of especially four social media tools:


Cell phone

Text messages are an intimate way for a campaign to mobilize supporters to register or vote. And they increase voter turnout in an effective way; A study from 2006 showed that text-message reminders helped increase turnout among younger voters by four percentage points. In a follow up survey, 59% of recipients reported that the reminder was helpful and only 23% who found it inconvenient. Furthermore, it is cheaper than canvassing and other offline activities.


Therefore, it is an effective tool to reach out to especially young voters under 30 because around 1/3 of this group only have cell phones.


Obama used cell phones as a tool in both the primaries and in the general election for mobilization (not fundraising). McCain text messaged his supporters once; the day before Election Day.



Two Types of Video

 2004: No YouTube


2006: George Allen lost his campaign for the Senate in Virginia (and couldn’t run as president) because of racial slur captured on a YouTube clip.


2008: Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton announce their campaigns on YouTube:




1. Video by the Candidates

The Obama campaign strategically used its YouTube channel/campaign website and often used it instead of traditional media. For instance, the announcement of Obama’s VP came first on a text message telling supporters that they could watch on www.barackobama.com


  • Speeches
    • Obama’s race speech in Philadelphia in March is among the most viewed clips on YouTube.
    • YouTube only count for those who have watched all of it.
    • As far as I can count from the various clips of the speech around 8 million people have watched this speech in its full length.
    • The speech is 38 minutes long
    • YouTube is not killing the sound bite but it is giving campaigns/politicians a tool where they can explain complicated ideas – as Obama did here.
  • Causal videos
    • Behind the scene – which reporters do not necessarily get access to
    • Campaign Manager David Plouffe’s up dates on video included in emails to supporters. See for example:


2. User-generated video


Vote Different



Yes We Can


Social Networking

The goal of social networking in a campaign is to mobilize supporters/voters to take action offline (call, organize, register, vote). The Obama campaign used its campaign site website www.mybarackobama.com to spread the message of the campaign and gave its supporters a lot of tools that they could use offline.


For instance, a supporter could download a phone list and call from home. Of course the opponent can use the same list, but the benefits of opening up exceed the costs. It is easy to make a few calls from wherever you are, and a supporter doesn’t have to go to the campaign office and take up space!


Social networking sites such as Facebook and MySpace are an effective way to spread the message among already established networks or friends. Studies (see for example Applebee’s America or Influentials) show that we are more likely to trust a friend of ours than a political expert on TV.


Social networking sites have also been a tool to collect cell phone numbers and emails. Furthermore, when supporters have registered on MyBarackObama.com they give the campaign demographic data and contact information which are important as part of customer relationship management (please see end note). The campaign can email or text message directly with personal messages to the individual supporter when and where it is necessary. 




It is hard to completely separate social networking from fundraising and the field organization. Social networking is only one element of fundraising and field organization, but it is the integration of those “disciplines” that are amazing and groundbreaking about Obama’s campaign.


However, Obama’s fundraising effort aided his victory on Election Night. According to OpenSecrets,his campaign relied on bigger donors and smaller donors nearly equally, pulling in successive donations mostly over the Internet.” Obama also rejected public financing when he entered the general election.


Traditionally, fundraising has been aimed at around 50,000 wealthy American donating a maximum of $4,600 to the primaries and general election. The Obama campaign has not, yet, released all its numbers, so we do not know exactly how many donated online. Garrett Graff has estimated that 3,5 – 5 million people have.


From this perspective Obama does not owe special interest anything. (However, the unions might feel he does). 


Obama has built on Howard Dean’s fundraising success in 2004 allowing small donations online. The campaign has wisely integrated a “donate” bottom in emails and on the campaign website so it is hard to miss.


(Garrett Graff inspired me in working on this notes. Met him briefly the day after the election and of course my notes from his classes in the spring and summer helped me as well. Paul Johnson and George Thompson, my current professors in Political Campaign Communication, will also recognize a few of their points. I have retrieved the notion of costumer relations management from Mette Bom´s and Birgitte Raben´s article in the Danish magazine Mandag Morgen MyPresident.com:Sociale medier vinder præsidentvalget”about Obama´s social media strategy. Unfortuantely, I cannot link to it).



Can FISA Guide Us to the Future of Web 2.0 politics?

Buzz Aldrin on the Moon by Robert Goodwin from Wired.com


Tonight the last class of Digital Campaigns will cover upcoming technologies and trends. For sure, technology will take politics on avenues that we cannot imagine. I am quite sure that guys we have followed in this semester (e.g. Cyros Krohn from RNC (interesting article in WashPost the other day), Netroots Nation, pdf08) have a vision of the next step. But something unforeseen—like YouTube did—can change it.  Right now, Obamania seems to write the Web 2.0 story of the 2008 election. Ruffini questions this in a well-written blogpost on Techpresident today.  It is all about fundraising and that does not fit all purposes at all times.


Control of social networking -?

For now I will leave the tech presentation to Garrett for tonight and allow myself to elaborate on loosing control of the political process because of social networking. The Dean Campaign 04 took social networking to a political “extreme”, and it is useful in insurgent campaigns, but in most cases we need a model capturing the strength of the Internet but retaining control of the political process. I stumbled into this question when I read the wrong chapters in Mousepads, Shoe Leather, and Hope.


Please Get FISA Right

In this light, it has been really interesting to follow the group formatting and growth of President Obama – Please Get FISA Right on Obama’s SNS MyBarackObama. Talking about exponential growth, it had more than 14,000 members after a week. At the time, it was the biggest group but now it’s the fifth largest group. This group of Obama supporters used his campaign platform to organize against Obama’s support of the Congressional compromise on FISA.


It is not that surprising that it is happening. I mean this kind of conversation is the purpose of opening up a process allowing peer-to-peer production or collaboration. And in the old-world of politics, constituents have always tried to influence politicians to change policy. But it is NEW that a political campaign opens up, invite its peers to join and open platform, and then a group challenge the candidate from within.


Here is the potential for “a collective, public discussion” but we do obviously not have the norms for it yet. (Read Micha L. Sifry’s critical analysis of MyBarackObama as an organizing tool). For a few days, the blogosphere and others wondered how the Obama campaign would respond. Would Obama really listen?


According to Carlo Scannella, one of the organizers behind the group; “His response to the Get FISA Right group was a moment of validation; this became something real.”Obama’s response did not stop the group, and it is ridiculously easy to organize the grass root campaign online.


So what does it mean? Jeff Jarvis had an interesting point:


Now if a campaign is going to argue that it’s truly grassroots, what is it to do with a revolt or protest from within? I’ve argued since Howard Dean’s run in 2004 that campaigns aren’t or can’t really be bottom-up when it comes to policy. They are necessarily propagandistic: This is what the candidate says. Indeed, Dean’s supporters acted like white blood cells in his blog discussions quite effectively surrounding and strangling dissent and opponents in the bloodstream. That’s the way campaigns have to work if you’re going to decide what this guy stands for and whether to vote for him, right? It’s about the message, no?


And what does it mean for the future? It is great to see this kind of disagreement within a campaign. It is democracy – isn’t? And what we are seeing is that a group is organizing around an issue instead of around a party. As Garrett asked in class a while ago; How will Obama’s supporters influence a Obama White House?


We can only guess. Personally, I am excited and convinced that the possibilities and consequences are just as enormous as it was to send a man to the moon. (Sorry to end the semester with such a cliche).


Fundraising in the First Campaign

Even though we are in the middle of the First Campaign, Barack Obama has already written one chapter of the lesson learned book from this election cycle. It is the cahpater about fundraising.


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.

I´m twittering

Just like Justin I agreed with Rosie when she said in class who cares? I signed up last week but I did not twitter until an hour ago when I read Justin’s entry. And I guess I signed up for two reasons. Just as Rosie explained in her blog, I do not want to be totally off twitter when it takes off. (OK I was). And one of  my friends recommended me to start twittering. And when she says it I know I have to.


Justin makes a interesting point in saying that If people were to like a political candidate more for her sharing the random tidbits of information that make up her day and ultimately shine a light on who she is as a living, breathing, human being, then perhaps our own relationships can likewise be enhanced by taking a few seconds to drop (literally) a line about a funny argument we witnessed, an amazing cupcake we tasted or a beautiful flower that caught our eye.”       


I guess, we (voters) are looking for someone we like to drink a beer with (as they said about Bush) or maybe have breakfast with. I will sign up for Obama’s and Hillary’s twit and see what it will get me. But I do expect a bit more than just favorite dishes, colors, and cupcakes.


I also expect to get news on this microblogging site. Twitter has shortened the news cycle again. I can get the news from witnesses or other sources, if I want. Witnesses can share updates on major events. And Twittering can be used to organize protests or other events like teamtibet twittered to organize protests.

Web 2.0 in Denmark

Our claim to fame in the Wild World of the Web is Skype, usability, and Lego Mindstorms. One of the inventors of Skype (using VoIP technology), Janus Friis is Danish. The usability guru Jacob Nielsen is also Danish, and Lego is based in Denmark. It is part of the Danish nationalism not to be nationalist but we are very proud when a Dane make to the world scene. It might be because we are such a small country. For those of you who have never heard about Denmark before it is a small country in the Northern part of Europe with a population of 5.4 million which is 1.1 percent of the EU population.



98% of the population can access broadband, and according to OECD Denmark is the leading country in the world in relation to broadband penetration.



Popular Websites

Just like in United States Google (one in English and one in Danish), YouTube, and Windows Live are popular Websites, but Facebook (number 5) is more popular than MySpace (number 14). Of the top 10 Websites only three sites are Danish. The social networking site for teenagers Arto (7), the public TV and radio broadcast station Danmark’s Radio (8), and the tabloid newspaper Ekstra Bladet (10).




For years, I have been wondering why blogging was not such a big thing in Denmark. New trends cross over, but it seemed to me that blogging, especially corporate and political blogging, took forever to take off. Apparently, the Danish political culture is less “conductive to the openness required in a successful blog” (Naked Conversations, 2006, p.115). Following the current US presidential election on TV, blogs, in papers, and from time to time in town hall meetings, I have experienced a vivid and emotional American political culture where individuals are not afraid of expressing thoughts about political issues. I think it is especially the emotional debate that I am not used to.


Living abroad for almost two years now, I have only followed the news and trends in the communications industry in headlines. I asked my female network Nina B a few months ago what blogs they are reading – and no one responded. I guess they were all busy – because seeing the boom in the Danish blogosphere means that they have to read blogs like here, here or here (Sorry they are in Danish. They are about politics and blogging). A few weeks ago blog number 100,000 was registered.


The big blogging thing last year was a boom in political blogging. The Prime minister, Anders Fogh Rasmussen and most of the party leaders blogged during the three-week-campaign. Interestingly, some of the politicians do not think they have to blog between elections. The leader of the Social Democrats, Helle Thorning-Schmidt did not blog for two months but she started blogging again after a communications expert criticized her in Politiken (one of the leading newspapers in Denmark).


During the campaing the prime minister invited voters to join him running around the lakes in Copenhagen. 500 people joined him. Another political leader – Naser Khader used twitter, but it did not make a big difference because his campaign was a flop.  



The e2012-goal

The Danish government has a goal of becoming a digital administration by 2012 making it a lot easier for the citizens to access the relevant authorities. Furthermore, it is the ambition that all written communication between citizens or private companies and the public sector will be digital. The Ministry of Finance and The National IT- and Telecom Agency are working to provide better, more cohesive and efficient digital services on http://www.borger.dk. They are working on version 2 right now including a “My Page” where the user can access personal data and digital letters. Furthermore, more services and information will be available at the same site: income taxes, job search services, social security benefits, car registration, application for building permission, declaration to police, public libraries, enrolment for higher education, announcement of moving, and health-related services. Finally, the government got it! The idea is good – but I guess it is hard to implement it across various government levels. However, to become a Web 2.0 administration they have to work harder of the tools facilitating political conversations. The online debate is more or less non-existent.




Netbanking has nothing to do with Web 2.0. But I just want to mention it briefly because I was in chock when I moved to the US and I had to use checks. I had never written a check in order to pay a bill. I had just used my Net Bank. Danish banks were frontrunners in developing a secure net banking system. Already before net banking Denmark had a similar system called giro where each company had an identification number and each bill had an identification number which made the system secure


There´s no rules

Inspired by Kurtz’ longer blogging style in Washington Post and MacKinnon’s short style I will present my news surf from this week about what I think is interesting and surprising in this wild world of the web. Remember – there’s no rules. Though, you should be cautious of blogging about your job. But maybe not always! 

Surfing the news
Any news about Wikinomics, The Long Tail, The Database of Intentions, Twitter (twittering?),Digg, del.icio.us, and Flickr? I have become addicted to surfing news about these new vocabs in my life. Thanks to GoogleReader and RSS surfing is really an easy way to sort out the information I don’t need.   

I don’t get it. But I know I have to dig deeper just like Jeff Jarvis has done. He convinced me that it can be an effective tool for professional use. Who’s interested in my private life of blogging at 1am, baking bread, or shopping at Barnes and Nobles or Barneys – besides advertisers on Facebook and Google?  

Privacy concerns
Just as fascinating the concept of The Database of Intentions is just as scaring it is for privacy matters. Have you tried to change your profile and noticed the shift in ads? Try! Or try like we did in class to target various voters or consumers in Washington DC from www.facebook.com/ads. Are you worried? Or do you think it is a blessing with relevant ads?    

Wikinomics in journalism
Thanks to Jeff Jarvis´Buzzmachine, I have got into this wikinomics of journalism as one more example of how wikinomics are being accepted as a best practice for developing ideas and solutions. The idea of using the wisdom of the crowds instead of a few experts appeals to me. I am looking forward to see the stories that the readers of The Dallas Morning News´ will come back with after studying the new material about the murder of JFK.

Kiva – loans that change life
Social networking is not just about friendship, the long Tail of music, books, or used stuff. Check out Kiva and lend money to entrepreneurs in the developing world. See Bill Clinton´s explanation on You Tube

Do you want to be my Facebook friend?
Does social networking change the concept of friendship? Are Facebookers telling the truth about themselves? Who do you want to make your life accessible to?  

Other questions……
How do we cultivate public opinion or educate citizens/consumers on important issues in the future? How do the government and government agencies handle the challenge of the uncontrolled social media?How do the next president integrate the wisdom of crowds and wikinomics into his or her politics?