The great British election is a funny beast. Set in it’s battleship-grey suit and mismatched tie, it plods onwards with a familiar gait – boring everyone into submission through dire party election broadcasts utterly devoid of creativity (and usually, policy).
2010, however, was going to be different. 2010, it was said by many, ‘will be the first social media election’. ‘We’ll do an Obama’ was the battle-cry of the pallid campaign men.
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Okay – I’m aware that everyone has blogged about this, and therefore nobody is interested in more musings on Obama’s social media campaign. However, the web is all about opinions eh, and given that this is my blog (and I’m pretty much it’s biggest fan) I’ve decided to crack on and chuck my tuppence-worth in.
Obama is the new President of the United States of America and global superhero – Huzzah! So obviously the newspapers have been filled with details on how he went about winning whilst covering the inauguration (where 2 million people watched very little happen before and after an amazing, historic speech). Interestingly for the USA, opponent bashing and soundbite politics took a bit of a backseat this time around as the world looked on in wonder at the birth of electioneering 2.0.
It’s no surprise that the internet was a priority for the campaign managers – in just the four years since the last US election, social media has proven its capacity to distribute information virally, shape and broadcast opinions, drive offline word-of-mouth, unite activitsts or social groups and permeate audiences that are difficult to reach through traditional media channels. I mean, Facebook was only just launched in 2004 – but in 2008 over 130million people are logging in every month.
What was surprising, however, was the intelligence with which social media was targeted – by both the official and unofficial channels. The key to Obama’s success for me was a great mix of using existing social networks such as Facebook and Flickr, alongside unique online resources to recruit 1.5million supporters.
At one point I was being blamed for Obama’s loss in the election (should it happen), donating my Facebook status to the cause, watching my dream woman Sarah Silverman urge anyone Jewish to fly to Florida to get Grandma to vote Obama, hacking the live debates through Twitter and playing with an iPhone widget that was developed to unify supporters in the same locality. It’s probably best to overlook the efforts made by Obamagirl.
It’s probably too early for a full debrief on the precise impact social media had last week, but one thing is clear: politics has changed forever.
^ Viral images, viral videos, celebrity endorsements, social networks, microblogging – you name it, we saw it used to fll effect on the election campaign trail.