Obama, Web 2.0, and the Best of Behavioral Marketing

  |  November 26, 2008   |  Comments

How the president-elect can use technology to bypass news media to make direct appeals to the public.

When I wrote "Behavioral Targeting's Role in Presidential Campaigns" in March, the election was nearing full force in technology used, from SEO (define) to Web analytics. When the Democrats finally crowned Barack Obama its party's official presidential candidate, his team stepped up to execute the most comprehensive and strategic media campaign ever devised for a national election.

While Obama made history with his election as our first biracial president of African ancestry, it has been even more astounding to witness how he was elected. He truly represents what it means to be the president of the United States in the 21st century. His campaign signifies behavioral marketing at its best -- and most current!

Even on the eve of the election, his campaign team sent out a text message to millions of people to remind them to vote, helping him gain traction with those who usually don't vote. Bloomberg.com pointed out that "studies show that texting is among the most effective and cheapest ways of getting supporters, particularly blacks, Hispanics and younger voters, to the voting booth."

Other interesting statistics from Obama's campaign cited by Bloomberg.com:

  • Obama raised more than $600 million, much of it from online donations, compared with McCain's $217 million.

  • Obama has more than 2 million friends on the social-networking site Facebook, compared with 560,000 for McCain.

  • Obama's campaign videos on YouTube have been viewed 92 million times, more than triple the number for McCain.

In becoming our 44th president, Obama has the opportunity of a lifetime to continue the Web 2.0 strategy as he heads into office. Undoubtedly, his team has already begun the process and has dubbed it Obama 2.0. The Associated Press, quoting transition officials, described it as:

    An ambitious effort to transform the president-elect's vast Web operation and database of supporters into a modern new tool to accomplish his goals in the White House. If it works, the new president could have an unprecedented ability to appeal for help from millions of Americans who already favor his ideas, bypassing the news media to pressure Congress."

Think of what might have been if President Franklin D. Roosevelt's "A Date Which Will Live in Infamy" speech had been heard and seen on YouTube instead of heard on the radio. The viral effect and the interactivity would have be incredible as billions would have been connected. One wonders if the United States would have gone to war with Japan if the Japanese could have listened to that speech and could have had the power to sway the government not to go to war. Although still in the idea phase, there is a likelihood that Obama could "do a half-hour YouTube address every Saturday, addressing millions," Democratic strategist Joe Trippi told AP. Trippi states that "the networks would never give the president that much television time each week, but the press is still going to have to cover what he says on YouTube."

Here are other ways could he make use of the wired communities his team is creating:

  • Use Facebook to organize groups targeted to various demographics, like people ages 18 to 25, who might have a stake in a policy or law that might affect them.

  • Use text messages to remind people to tune in to the State of the Union addresses or other important speeches where Obama is trying to reach a huge audience.

  • Use Flickr to share pictures of big events, like Inaugural Day, just like they did when his team documented Obama on the campaign trail.

We are living in exciting and historic times, despite the economic downturn. President-elect Obama is leading the way into the future by using the Web to redefine democracy. It will be interesting to see how he continues to leverage his understanding of various constituent groups with even better behavioral marketing to move his agenda forward.

Elyse is off this week. Today's column ran earlier on ClickZ.

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Elyse Tager Elyse Tager is founder and principal of Elymedia, an online and traditional media agency that has worked with many of the world's most recognizable brands, from Microsoft to PowerBar. With 20 years of executive marketing experience in direct response and 10 years of Internet marketing experience, Elyse has gained a thorough understanding of both types of media and how they interact. This depth of experience and knowledge has benefited her clients as they strategize marketing objectives in both on- and offline worlds.

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