Yes They Did!

Regardless of your political affiliation, there’s a lesson to be learned from Barack Obama’s presidency campaign’s use of social media. Rahaf Harfoush, a new media strategist and Obama campaign headquarters volunteer, wrote a book titled Yes We Did! An inside look at how social media built the Obama brand. The book, released this summer, is best summarized in this foreword by Don Tapscott, author of Wikinomics and Grown Up Digital: “The Obama campaign’s mastery of social media for everything from fundraising to volunteer coordination has been widely reported. Until now, there hasn’t been an in-depth analysis of how they did it.” See an excerpt from the book here. The excerpt includes screenshots from the popular and widely used my.barackobama.com, which has been considered “the heart of the campaign’s new media strategy.” If you are considering or currently marketing a product or campaign online, keep these three valuable take-home points in mind.

Social Media Lessons (as summarized at the end of the book excerpt)

Focus on what matters — Within MyBO, the mandate was very clear: use the online tools to organize offline action. From the profile that asked you to describe why you supported Obama to the action center that directed users to areas of priority, offline action was constantly reinforced. When building an online community it is often helpful to spell out in a few lines what the goals and mandates are. Is the mandate clear? Does it make sense? More importantly, does it resonate with what your members are already trying to do? If you answered “no” to any of the above questions, then it’s probably a good idea to step back and refine the purpose of your community. Establishing the mandate is only part one of this exercise. The second part involves making sure that all of the features and activities of the community reinforce the mandate. Examine everything from the interface and design to the ways that you envision member interaction. Be sure everything is designed to push your mandate forward.

Incite the right actions — Building incentives that reward the right type of action is an important part of community building. The activity index helped reward those who were organizing offline by assigning a higher point value to offline activities. It also encouraged frequent and continual support by factoring in the frequency of activities in the algorithm. This ensured that members of the community were not only going out and organizing for Obama, but that they were doing so on a regular basis.

Leverage creativity — The events, group listings, and user blogs allowed supporters to engage with the campaign on their own terms. Successful communities are flexible and allow members to express themselves and have a role in shaping the community. Thanks to the creativity of users, new event categories and groups were formed in an innovative way without straying from the community’s mandate.

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