Obama’s Social Networking

Back on the topic of presidential campaigns and their websites, I just finished reading a good article from Technology Review about how the Obama campaign has leveraged social media to drive participation and support. It’s full of good lessons for anyone trying to energize a community (of supporters, buyers, etc.).

Because you’ll need to register on the TR site to read it all…here’s my take on the key components of their successful program, with some 2 cents added:

1. The Idea – At the core, you have to articulate a compelling idea if you hope to build an engaged community of followers. Movements are about values, ideals and stories. Organizing and building tools are critical steps, but it all has to be about something.

2. The Commitment – The campaign team made social organizing and social media the centerpiece of their efforts. If you want to plug into social networking you have to build a bottom up organization.

3. The Tools – It took several iterations before they got things just right (and they still evolve them every day), but thanks in large part to the help of 24-year-old Chris Hughes (cofounder of Facebook) and Blue State Digital they applied and customized some powerful social organizing tools (databases, social sites, text messaging, twitter, phone tools, email, blogs, etc.).

4. The Right Balance – If you apply too much (top down) control you squash community participation. If you leave it wide open you risk chaos. The Obama team practices a delicate balance to manage the campaign effectively. A story at the center can keep things unified, and you have to participate actively in the movement to help nurture and guide it.

5. The Hustle – In the end, it’s about hustle. He or she who creates the most energy wins…and that just takes work. The Obama campaign is more like a media platform, constantly parsing out stories through their channels. Any strong brand today should think like a media machine.