Obama's Win a Victory for Social Media?

Courtesy of transplanted mountaineer

"Yes we can! Yes we can......." goes the deafening din in Grant Park, Chicago as history was made yesterday. America and the world is now celebrating the decisive win of Democract Barack Hussein Obama over Republican John McCain in the 2008 US elections.

Was Obama's win a Web 2.0 Windfall?

For sure, Obama employed social media to the hilt when he triumphed over both the Democratic Primaries and the main Elections itself. His associates deployed a staggering array of new media tools and channels to get the message out to anybody who is online in the US. These include a very Web 2.0 friendly campaign website, Facebook account, Twitter, Myspace account, and tonnes of embedded videos, widgets, applicaitons and so on.

The Obama campaign also appeared in practically all online advertising platforms that are relevant, like Google ads, online banners, and so on. I suppose one of his biggest coup is to get the guru of the online world, Google's CEO Eric Schmidt to endorse him.

He even developed a cool iPhone application (kudos to Kevin for pointing this out) to encourage folks to vote for him and pass the message on, and has advertised on video games to reach the youths! Friends, this guy knows all about word of mouth marketing on the Internet!

You can get more detailed analyses of Obama's new media advantage here, here and here.

Is he the world's first and truly Internet president? Well, let us look at the other facts which tipped the balance in his favour.

First, we need to know that his background and story alone provides substantial fuel for both mainstream and new media sensationalism. Mr Obama is the first black candidate (technically, he is actually half black and half white, which actually makes his story even stronger) to gain such a major advantage in history. He is also a junior senator who completed his first term, and comes from an unconventional background of academic and community activism (as opposed to corporate life).

Next, we need to know that Obama also employed a lot of advertising in mainstream media. This includes the historic 30 minute superbowl television commercial (seen below). Banners, posters, newspaper advertisements, leaflets, magazine advertisements, radio advertisements and the full works was employed during his campaign.

Obama also hired a truckload of publicists to garner mainstream media coverage. This is evident in the positive coverage which he garnered over numerous newspapers, broadcast channels, cable TV, radio, magazines and others.

There is also no doubt that his strong charismatic presence, amazing speech making ability, and immense relationship skills have helped. The world hasn't seen such power and persuasion in election speeches for a long time. The man also embodies the traits of what many in America and around the world have always rooted for - fairness, equality, can-do spirit, resilience, magnanimity, and a love for humanity.

Don't forget too that Howard Dean, another social media savvy Presidential candidate, failed miserably against a more traditional foe - John Kerry - at the last Democratic primaries. The fact that John Kerry failed to win against an even more traditional and less tech-savvy president George W Bush is another thing altogether.

Does that mean that social media alone isn't quite what its hyped up to be? Well it certainly does help. Without the barrage of social media tools and channels at his disposal, Barack Obama is unlikely to gain such phenomenal traction as he did.

However, just depending on social media alone isn't enough. You need to get your fundamentals right. In this game, Obama had an entire election strategy mapped out which stood him in good ground over all 21 months of it.

Social media certainly helps in generating word of mouth, buzz and positive network effects. However, you still need to be rooted in more traditional disciplines like marketing strategy, business acumen, PR savvy, and plain old emotional intelligence (EQ) to get there.

Obama isn't just a social media phenomenon, but a total phenomenon.

Update: Siva just informed me that Obama also had armies of folks doing cold calls, visits and other related activities too.

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