I've been invited to come give a talk - actually to charlar, which is more like a chat - with a 4th year University political science class in Buenos Aires. I'm nervous because I want to do this in Spanish. Last time I tried, a couple of weeks ago, with a small group of about 4 people, I ended up in Spanglish. I was also still mangling my past tense verbs. A few weeks later, I feel a little stronger with my language skills however I'm constantly being reminded about how everyone here speaks English. I get that. I'm just tired of representing the nation that doesn't speak other languages... I want to prove that an American cannot only learn another language, but communicate in it as well!
Anyway, I have taken my notes and put them in diary form down below the fold (in English). I feel pretty good so far. They asked me to speak about my experience with the campaign and about new media. I had to find a way to tie them together. Let me know what you think.
Let me tell you a little about myself. I'm a Graduate of UC Berkeley in English Literature, a Military wife and mom of two.
These things are just facts. During the Obama campaign of 2008 I learned how to introduce myself with more than facts. Here's what I would tell people during the campaign:
Hi, my name is Angie and I'm a volunteer with Barack Obama. I was attracted to Barack's campaign because I want to see an end to the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. You see, my husband is active duty and I know that if we continue these wars, he'll be sent again and again to fight them. Barack Obama has pledged to bring home troops from Iraq and to focus our attention on Afghanistan. That's why I'm going to vote for Barack this November.
We taught thousands of volunteers how to introduce themselves in similar ways. Everybody had a reason for working for the campaign, be it health care, ending the wars, or just the historic nature of the campaign itself. We all were riding on a tide of hope and we learned how to translate our hope into words to convince others to vote as well.
In the US, voting is not mandatory. We have to get people to the polls on election day. Everything that the Obama campaign did was in support of that final goal - election day and votes. In the US, we call it GOTV, or Get Out The Vote.
What the Obama campaign did differently from all other campaigns is to use new media to gather a data base of potential voters. People who are engaged vote. Every attempt at gathering more names was also an attempt to engage people in a conversation of some type or another.
Every attempt at contact also included a call to action - messages via email, cellphone, and twitter all made direct asks for donations to the campaign, for volunteer time, for attendance at rallies or at houseparties, and, finally, for your vote.
Obviously, the campaign's use of new media was a huge part of Obama's success. Richard Edelma, a public relations executive, points out:
Three million donors made a total of 6.5 million donations on-line adding up to more than $500 million in funds raised. Of those donations, 6 million were in increments of $100 or less. His email list has 13 million addresses. A million people signed up for the text-messaging program. Two million profiles were created on MyBarackObama.com, his social network, plus 5 million supporters in other venues such as Facebook and MySpace.
When you compare these same numbers to John McCain's, there is a stunning difference:
Obama: 2,379,102 supporters
McCain: 620,359 supporters
Obama has 380% more supporters than McCain
Obama: Friends: 833,161
McCain: Friends: 217,811
Obama has 380% more supporters than McCain
Obama: 1792 videos uploaded since Nov 2006, Subscribers: 114,559 (uploads about 4 a day), Channel Views: 18,413,110
McCain: 329 videos uploaded since Feb 2007 (uploads about 2 a day), Subscribers: 28,419, Channel Views: 2,032,993
Obama has 403% more subscribers than McCain
Obama has 905% more viewers than McCain
Obama: @barackobama has 112,474 followers
McCain: @JohnMcCain (is it real?) 4,603 followers
Obama has 240 times more followers in Twitter than McCain
After the fact, a staff member of the campaign's headquarters in Chicago, Rahaf Harfoush summed up the New Media experience into these six simple lessons:
- Give new media a seat at the strategy table.
- The new digital tools are useless without a blueprint.
- As with any communications campaign, social media campaigns require consistency in messaging.
- Map out the digital landscape of your target audiences (find the conversations relevant to your strategy).
- Include a call to offline action.
- Be ready to give up control to your communities
My part of the job didn't jump in until low on this list... number 5. I was a part of the call to action and then I became the person who initiated calls to action.
I volunteered on two different levels. For the primary in Texas, I was neighborhood captain. I trained with Camp Obama and learned how to recruit other volunteers. I led teams phonebanking and canvasing. I basically learned how to be a political campainer in just a few weeks.
During the main election, I worked as the Out of State Coordinator for San Antonio, Texas. This, too, was a volunteer position. I basically controlled recruitment, training, and deployment of volunteers from the San Antonio, Texas greater area into states that needed greater support. We understood that Obama could not win Texas so it was more important to place our resources in states where we could possibly change the electoral college votes. We sent folks to Colorado, New Mexico, Pennsylvania, Florida, and Virginia. On election day, I managed a huge phonebank where we made tens of thousands of calls to GOTV in other states. It was an amazing day.
I used the website MyBarackObama.com more times than I can count for both volunteer positions. The tools made available to us as volunteers were unbelievable.
- I could meet other Obama supporters online, both from my own town and from other towns around the country.
- I could post meetings and events easily and people could RSVP. This made planning house parties a breeze.
- I could find events posted by other people and see what kind of impact the campaign was having not only in my neighborhood, but in places all around San Antonio, as well as Texas and the rest of the United States.
- I could refer to the website whenever I was asked a question I couldn't answer about policy. The answer was usually there. If it wasn't, we could click on a link and send the question to a staffer and would receive an answer within a day.
- I could share my thoughts with 2 million other Obama users by writing a blog.
- I could join groups of like minded people within the Barack Obama world... I could join other military wives to speak out about military issues. We actually designed an ad that played online and on the air in Nevada and Florida.
- I could phonebank from my home using the tools on the website. This opened up a whole new world of potential volunteers.
- I could see my results on my BarackObama page - I knew how much money I had donated, or had raised, and how many calls I had made. The campaign rewarded you on a point system. Personally, this was my least favorite but I know lots of people wanted to see their standing on BarackObama go sky high.
Folks over at webofchange agree:
"...Online volunteer organizing essentially built the campaign a structure in places where it didn't exist, letting paid staff parachute in and immediately take command of a working political army." All this was managed through an enterprise-level database unprecedented for political campaigns.
Another reason the campaign was smart to design it's own interface is explained by
Scott Goodstein, a Washington D.C.-based campaign manager:
The problem with MySpace or Facebook (which are examples of external organizing) is that you as a campaign don't own all of the data. You may not have the person's e-mail address or you may not have the person's phone number -- if the person opts out of that social network, you have no way of getting in touch with them. But they are useful because there are hundreds of millions of people that use these social networks as a daily part of their life.
So, this might leave you wondering what the next campaign in 2012 will look like. Rumor has it that it won't be just more of the same... they will make things better and look to add new technologies... would you like to direct a campaign from your smart phone, anyone?