November 6th, 2008
With all the focus on the recent election, it is interesting that one of the least discussed parts of the Obama campaign’s path to victory was their smart and efficient usage of emerging technology, harnessing a broad swath of internet tools to help his campaign. From the beginning of his campaign, he used resources on his website to manage organization and fundraising, and it was this capacity that allowed him to compete in a long and hard fought primary election. The rapid pace or his fundraising and the large number of volunteers the campaign brought out were all in part due to his embrace of internet technology.
Obama’s website started out fairly standard, as far as political sites go, it was modeled after Howard Dean’s success in small donor, web-based fundraising. Soon after, the team introduced a social networking style site, offering the ability to connect to other Obama supporters, and introduced the ability to easily and quickly communicate. Access to volunteers was important, allowing the ground organization to reach out to Obama supporters in every state during the primary. With fundraising came greater resources, and it was through this the Obama campaign expanded their efforts.
By the end of the election, they were regularly using text-messaging to motivate voters, and the campaign had introduced an application for the iPhone that included a number of tools to help voters canvas for Obama. In each precinct, volunteers and paid staffers worked with software provided by Central Desktop, giving them professional quality organization. The usage of social networking sites like Facebook and Myspace helped build enthusiasm among young voters, something that turned out to be a good investment of time, considering Obama won young 68% of young voters. The campaign regularly posted videos to sites like youtube, and generally harnessed the power of its supporters creating media online.
The convergence of social networking tools, making resources available to supporters, and raising money online, all helped Obama win, creating a formula for electoral success that many politicians will replicate in the future. Truly, one of the most important parts of future political campaigns will be information technology and how it can motivate voters.