In many ways, this presidential election is unlike any we have ever had in history. Either a African American man or a woman will be elected to one of two of the most powerful positions in the world. We face an economic crisis not seen since the Great Depression. And the history books will certainly mark the 2008 election as the first to be influenced by social media.
It has been both a blessing and a curse for both candidates that this election has been the most recorded in history. A blessing, because sites like YouTube have been able to carry their campaign messages to the voters that they have been unable to reach via traditional media. A curse, because both candidates are getting attacked with past words that contradict current positions.
It’s too early to tell if YouTube made or broke the election for either candidate’s bid for the white house. But I can guarantee you that YouTube made or broke millions of independent votes for both of them. Highlights of campaigns like the “Joe the Plumber Moment” or the “Colin Powell Moment” spread rapidly within minutes via email, Facebook and of course Twitter.
But the real fascinating story thus far is how the Presidential campaign turned the tables on social media and changed the way we used it – most of all via Twitter. Whether you love Obama or hate him, I believe this was one of the most brilliant moves his campaign made:
– Barack Obama’s first post to Twitter
By being such an early adopter of Twitter, Obama forced his opponent, his fans, and even mainstream media to pay attention to this little tech startup based on the simplicity of sending 140 character messages to your friends.
Twitter can now be found being incorporated into live broadcasts from CNN, MSNBC, and Fox News. CurrentTV broadcast all of the debates with a stream of live Twitter commentary captions beneath the candidates. And now if I want the absolute latest news on the campaign, I know I will find it on Election.Twitter.com before I will find it anywhere else.
I honestly think that Twitter is now on the way to becoming a part of all of our everyday lives.
Obama & McCain Battle for
The Brilliance of Campaigning Via Twitter
To make this relevant for business owners, the use of social media and Twitter in this campaign was a strategic and brilliant marketing move straight out of Seth Godin’s book Unleashing the Ideavirus. Based on the premise that in order to induce a viral response to your campaign, one must first sell the idea to the “Sneezers”. Sneezers are at the core of any ideavirus. Sneezers are the ones who when they tell ten or twenty or 100 people–people believe them. Obama found his sneezers on Twitter. And McCain has now, too.
Step By Step, Here’s how Seth Godin’s Ideavirus Tactics Work
· Make it virusworthy.
If it’s not worth talking about, it won’t get talked about.
· Identify the hive [Target Market].
You won’t get the full benefit of the ideavirus until you dominate your hive.
· Expose the idea.
Expose it to the right people, and do whatever you need to do to get those people deep into the experience of the idea as quickly as possible.
· Figure out what you want the sneezers to say.
You’ve got to decide what you want the sneezers to say to the population. If you don’t decide, either they’ll decide for you and say something less than optimal, or they won’t even bother to spend the time.
· Give the sneezers the tools they need to spread the virus.
After you’ve got a potential sneezer, make it easy for him to spread the idea. Give him a way to send your idea to someone else with one click.
· Once the consumer has volunteered his attention, get permission.
The goal of the ideavirus marketer is to use the virus to get attention, then to build a more reliable, permanent chain of communication so that further enhancements and new viruses can be launched faster and more effectively, under your control this time.
· Amaze your audience so that they will reinforce the virus and keep it growing.
Why do some viruses burn out more quickly than others? The simplest reason is that marketers get greedy and forget that a short-term virus is not the end of the process, it’s the beginning. By nurturing the attention you receive, you can build a self reinforcing virus that lasts and lasts and benefits all involved.
Whether or not either of the candidates’ Twitter strategy works to get him into the white house is yet to be determined. But it did work to change the rules of the game – and no presidential election will be the same again.
Edited to add side note: A story came up today about the McCain campaign’s frustration with blogging coverage of the election:
“[The McCain campaign has] become to be rather disdainful of the hyper-blogging that takes place on the press bus, and they think it has increased this mind-set of “gotcha” journalism, where every time John McCain would say something, instead of asking a follow-up question, people would go scurry off to their laptops and post to their blogs. And the McCain campaign believes that’s not what journalism ought to be.”
I agree that the immediacy of reporting via blogging is changing the dynamics of campaign coverage. Stories are indeed breaking faster and over shorter periods of time as blogs break news. And it brings up the old argument of the fuzzy (extinct?) line between mainstream media and blogs.
I guess the question is that if blogging is not going away (which it isn’t), what, if anything, should bloggers and candidates do about it?