The most intensely contested presidential election in American history is now officially a wrap, and whether you’re a red state or blue state resident, there has to be at least some measure of relief that the whole thing is well, over.
Sure, we still have a couple of wars going on and our economy is starting to look like Pottersville in the dream sequence of It’s a Wonderful Life, but as the Obama family picks out china patterns for their new home on Pennsylvania Avenue at least we won’t have to listen to the non-stop political vitriol that has dominated the news for the past two years.
But this was indeed a historic election – and not just for the obvious reasons. This was the first time in history a presidential candidate truly marshaled the power of the web…and mobilized a huge, dedicated block of voters and more importantly, donors that understood (like the candidate and his team) that SEO and Web 2.0 can deliver a strong message with pinpoint accuracy.
What Obama Got Right
- His blog. President-elect Obama maintained a lively, informative blog – but most importantly, he updated it regularly with fresh content. In fact, some days there were dozens of entries within a 24 period hour period to drive traffic. The McCain camp, perhaps not understanding how quickly readers can bail out of a blog if there is no fresh content, could never quite keep up the pace.
- His social networking. For the past two years, Barack Obama has been nothing less than a dominating presence on Facebook, Twitter and other social networking sites. And we’re not talking about a handful of die-hard supports like the web-savvy backers of Ron Paul. Instead, these were everyday people who used their own profiles to share content and the feelings about the Junior Senator from Illinois.
- His localized SEO. When you entered the official Obama website, you were prompted to enter your zip code. From that point on, you receive customized alerts and emails for Obama events in your area. This localized SEO gave the entire effort a slick, yet personalized feel, that no other candidate could match in terms of sophistication.
- His fresh website content. There was never a dearth of content on any of the official Obama web properties. Every day, supporters and curious onlookers were treated to new videos of public appearances, transcripts of speeches and even budget plans presented in all their PowerPoint glory. The impression it left was one of a candidate who understood the nature of the web, and cared about the individuals who used it as a primary source of information.
How wide was the disparity between Obama’s website and McCain’s? Consider the following Alexa rankings as of election day:
- www.barackobama.com ranked #707
- www.johnmccain.com ranked #2502
While this may have more to do with Obama’s web savvy demographic, it is still a stunning number and provides further evidence of the President-Elect’s dominance in the medium,
How Obama Got Help
Looking back, there is no denying that Obama was the beneficiary of a web universe that was decidedly pro-democrat and anti-Republican. Whether people were fed up with Bush, scared of Vice Presidential candidate Sarah Palin, or simply enthralled with Obama, the anti-McCain viral presence on the web was strong. Sites like digg.com, Huffington Post and the Daily Kos, used viral content to draw in millions of users – none of whom were treated to any kind of fair and balanced coverage when they got to the site.
Instead, they saw every gaffe, every crazed town-hall audience member and every parody video produced about McCain. The result was a groundswell of forceful and compelling content all focused negatively on the GOP. Many of these items would eventually find their way into the mainstream media where they would assist Obama even more.
Getting help from the big guns
To build his online network, Obama did not work alone, typing away friend invites to potential supporters until three in the morning. Early in his campaign, Facebook founder Chris Hughes and Craigslist found Craig Newmark both signed on to the campaign. Both saw a candidate who was willing to use the tools of Web 2.0 more completely than any other political figure to this point. They helped Obama stay ahead of the curve while riding the wave of online viral and social marketing.
What’s Next for Obama and the Web?
Already, those individuals who supported Obama online during the campaign are receiving emails about getting involved with the rebuilding of our country. President Obama is planning on using all the web tools he mastered over the past two years to build a huge grass roots movement that urges people to get more involved in the community and with their local government. Given the results of the election, there’s no reason to believe that he won’t pull it off.
By winning the election Barack Obama has blazed a trail for future candidates by proving that you can leverage social networks, raise awareness, generate donations and yes, even build a BRAND using social networking and viral marketing tools. Whether or not the next candidate to try it will have President-Elect Obama’s guile and charm remains to be seen.