Turn Online Activity into Offline Action

The Obama presidential campaign was one of the most successful social media campaigns to date. Last month I went to see Rahaf Harfoush speak about her time spent in the "trenches" as a member of Obama's new media team. She gave a good overview of how a variety of online tools and applications were used to rally supporters, build awareness and raise funds. Rahaf emphasized one important theme which was featured in every online initiative. It was simple: aim to turn online activity into offline action. It's one thing to rally online support for something or someone, or have a huge number of fans, followers or friends, but it's a lot harder to turn that momentum into something meaningful offline. MyBOThe Obama camp did a great job of this. MyBO (my.barackobama.com) was launched early in the primaries to unite communities and supporters already active online. The site grew to over 2 million profiles and 35,000 volunteer groups. This activity translated into 200,000 offline events and over 35 million dollars raised by personal fundraising pages alone. The new media team also used a number of other social applications including YouTube, Facebook, MySpace, LinkedIn and Twitter to build support and provide fans with shareable content. This helped get Obama's message out and also directed traffic to MyBO, where fans could be converted to volunteers. High levels of engagement with supporters led to millions of dollars of small donations. By building strong online communities, divided by region, Obama's team could spring into action offline whenever and wherever they needed to.

Other successful campaigns have also benefited by keeping this rule in mind:

Dunkin' Donuts uses its Facebook page to bring fans together to share pictures and videos of themselves expressing their love for DD. It also uses Dunkin' Run, a site where customers alert their friends and co-workers when they are about to make a "run" and invite them to submit items to their order. This activity has created a sense of community online and also increased DD's in-store sales.

BlendTec made a series of inexpensive "Will it Blend?" videos, which are housed on its YouTube channel. The videos generated hundreds of thousands of views and led to a 700% increase in sales.

Starbucks launched its My Starbucks Ideas site where members can share ideas, give suggestions, vote and chat. The aim was to tie Starbucks fans closer to the brand and allow them help "shape the future of Starbucks". By also adding an "Ideas In Action" section, contributors can see the suggestions that earned the most votes and which ones will be called to action offline.

Canada Dry Mott's recently launched a Facebook page and Twitter account to energize fans and followers around their goal of making the Caesar Canada's official drink. Not only are they becoming more engaged with their community, but they also have a clear goal of 50,000 signatures before they can take their petition to Parliament Hill. This campaign is still young, but looks like it may develop a strong following.

In your next online campaign or initiative, remember to ask yourself how it will translate towards your online goals.

Do you have any other examples of campaigns that have succeeded by employing this strategy?

The Obamafest in Berlin

Sorry for the delay, but some tummy bug prevented me from writing anything about the Obama visit in Berlin. Anyway, in case someone still cares, here're my impressions: From The Times

And so the Child told his disciples to fetch some food but all they had was five loaves and a couple of frankfurters. So he took the bread and the frankfurters and blessed them and told his disciples to feed the multitudes. And when all had eaten their fill, the scraps filled twelve baskets.

The multitudes were fed indeed as was their thirst quenched. Welcome to Obamafest. I made the mistake to start my pilgrimage a little bit too late with the consequence that I was stuck somewhere in the middle of 200,000 people, barely able to see (not even a screen). But at least I could hear what Obama had to say.

He had to appeal to two very different sensitivities: To the German audience and, more importantly, American voters. In this respect invoking to the shared past and its struggle for freedom was a good strategy. Ernst Reuter was cited, Reagan called upon, and indeed walls came down at least sixteen times during the speech: Not only in Berlin, but also in Belfast, between the rich and the poor, between races and religions.

Yet I couldn't stop wondering: Would the reactions have been as enthusiastic if a German politician – or, God beware, Bush – uttered those words? Probably not, Bush would have been laughed at, a German politician would have been criticised for a number of things. What one has to remember is that Obama did not only appeal to a shared past but also to the responsibilities of a shared future. For him this future, amongst other things, is fought for in Afghanistan. The deployment of German troops in order to rebuild this war-torn country is already controversial amongst the German left; possible combat operations would cause an even greater stir. Obama is going to pursue a more protectionist policy to counteract the recession, he supports the death sentence for child molesters, defends the right of Americans to bear arms. American policies under Obama will see more continuities than his German disciples probably wish for, albeit they chose to ignore it.

Where\'s Obama?

Something which also goes to show the naive romanticism of German sentiments towards the US. Not only would an Obama presidency mean a change in skin colour but also in world views; a sudden change in perception from anti-Americanism towards a promise of salvation, a world without climate change, without a war in Iraq, a dream that somehow must come true because this time one is on the good side (and Germans are especially prone to develop a certain spirituality when it comes to saving the world). McCain all the while remains the great unknown, the average German Obama fan probably doesn't know much about him except that, you know, he's the evil one and some puppet of the war lobby.

On a sidenote: I found it somewhat ironic to be in a crowd demanding "change" when the last time this nation was allowed to vote it opted for a grand coalition of Germany's two biggest parties which is mainly characterised by being extremely inflexible. But then again maybe it's exactly this yearning for modernity that German politics can't fulfil that makes (up) some of Obama's appeal. Cultural pessimism, promises to conserve the state of affairs, a desire for bygone days and clichés shape the political landscape; if Merkel was a man and therefore didn't embody a grain of emancipated modernity some voters probably would have died of boredom by now. Along comes a new icon, young, exciting, promising and somehow progressive, causing people to screen their unfulfilled desires on him.

And there's another argument for the young hopeful: In case Obama wins the presidency American tourists wouldn't have to pretend to be from Canada anymore to avoid being confronted about the alleged evil-doings of their nation by self-righteous Germans and their drive to save the planet by ruling out gas powered heat lamps.


Yahoo's Summary on the Candidate's Stand on Videogames

Super Tuesday is upon us and Ben Silverman of Yahoo! Games wrote up a summary on how the top three candidates from both parties stand on video game legislation. Yeah, wars and immigration and stuff are certainly important, but who wants to take away your Pokemons? But then again this is also about how the frontrunners intend to deal with the intertwining topics of violent media and free speech. Democrats Hillary Clinton Despite her good intentions, Hillary's scary track record might be enough to dissuade gamers from putting another Clinton in office.

Barack Obama Obama is more skeptical of how violent games affect behavior than his rivals, and in turn seems less inclined to legislate right off the bat. That should ring true with gamers.

John Edwards
 Edwards is the only candidate willing to outright commend the ESRB's actions, and while he tempers that with a warning, he puts more trust in the industry than anyone else. If you favor the ESRB, you likely favor Edwards.

Republicans John McCain
 Compared to his more conservative opponents, McCain is a viable option for Republican gamers, although his ties to Lieberman are worth noting.

Mitt Romney
 Obscenity laws? Societal cesspools? Unless you're wracked with gamer guilt, Romney is one hard sell.

Mike Huckabee
 He's no Mitt Romney. That's gotta count for something.

Yes, yes, Ron Paul is missing, despite him being the ONLY candidate we can depend on to NOT regulate the Internet and guarantee our First Amendment Rights...

(via gamepolitics)


Low response rate on 10 Questions

TechPresident has created a website called 10 Questions were the presidential candidates are asked to participate by answering questions sent in by the readers. This might sound familiar as the CNN/YouTube debates have been going on for quite awhile now. A new feature about the 10 Questions site, however, is that the readers are asked to vote on the sincerity of the answers presented by the political candidates. Unfortunately, only three of the candidates, respectively Obama, Huckabee and Edwards, have decided to participate on the site so far. -Espen

The Decline of the PC Market and its Impact on Communication: Microblogging to the Fore?

If one feels homesick for the future Japan seems the country of choice. Now you can witness a trend that might be an indicator of how our way of communicating is going to change. As Newsvine reports the PC's role in Japanese homes is diminishing, as its once-awesome monopoly on processing power is encroached by gadgets such as smart phones that act like pocket-size computers, advanced Internet-connected game consoles and digital video recorders with terabytes of memory. Writes Newsvine:

Japan's PC market is already shrinking, leading analysts to wonder whether Japan will become the first major market to see a decline in personal computer use some 25 years after it revolutionized household electronics — and whether this could be the picture of things to come in other countries.

One of the reasons for the decline of the PC market is the increasing popularity of sophisticated mobile devices such as cell phones. According to a study conducted by the Ministry of Internal Affairs more than 50 percent of Japanese send e-mail and browse the Internet from their mobile phones. The increased use of cell phones to access the internet obviously affects the websites itself. From the Newsvine piece:

The fastest growing social networking site here, Mobagay Town, is designed exclusively for cell phones. Other networking sites like mixi, Facebook and MySpace can all be accessed and updated from handsets, as can the video-sharing site YouTube.

If this really is the picture of things to come of course one has to ask how this affects blogging and its use for political campaigns. Content will have to comply to the nature of cell-phones with small screens and users used to short messages due to the lack of a keyboard. Consequently this makes a rise of microblogging likely. Already used by John Edwards and Barack Obama to inform their followers what they are up to at pretty much any given time and post quick event updates it also, as Asbjørn Sørensen Poulsen points out, "does seem to give the debate an edge when you are forced to express yourself in 140 characters".

While microblogging seems certainly seems a good way of keeping one's devotees up to date and very quickly reacting to new developments I think it might be problematic in the way that it adds to a shallowness of the process. It's not really based on exchange. To be forced to express oneself in 140 characters also comprises the danger of reducing politics to even emptier slogans and phrases, simplifying a complicated world.

As a complementary communication tool, microblogging certainly seems like a good idea. Tanding by itself though there are issues and challenges that need to be addressed if we really are following Japan in our communication habits.

(If that's ever going happen. As Parker reminded me by sending me this link to Deep Jive Interests the whole wireless-infrastructure of Japan is way more sophisticated than in North America or Europe and there's no sign – or demand for that matter – that this is going to change anytime soon. At least the "tremendous heritage in other technologies such as console gaming" is gaining foothold with consoles having overtaken PCs as the favorite gaming platforms).


Ban Or Embrace Bloggers?

I just read at the Beltway Blogroll that the Obama campaign banned an Ohio blogger from covering an event he had travelled all the way to New Hampshire to see. The event, free and open to the public, was not open to the press, and when Jerid, the banned blogger, told some of the officials at the Obama event that he was a blogger, he was met with the following response: "Oooooooh, I'm sorry, but you'll have to leave," […] "These events are closed to the press."

Strange indeed! Pretty ridiculous according to the Daily Kos:

Psst, Obama? It's stupid to keep people out of events because they have a blog. In today's world, everyone has a blog, or writes at blogs, or has a MySpace or Facebook page, or participates in online forums like bulletin boards. It's 2007. Please have your campaign update its SOP accordingly. As for bloggers, don't say that you are bloggers. I'm not sure what benefits you get from announcing it to the world.

Judged by the response that the banned blogger’s post about his experience being banned from Obama’s event has received in the blogosphere, I have to say that I agree.

Here’s Jerid’s take on the situation:

The Obama campaign, along with some of the other prezzies, don't understand the concept of citizen journalists. There's a lot of old school politics out here on the NH campaigns - some of the communications folks desperately need to refresh their understanding of how bloggers work. You see, we're not all the same. Just like regular folks, there are friendly bloggers that want to help, and there are bloggers bent on screwing you. It's up to a campaign to discern who's who and dole out special access depending on such. However, we're regular folks too - we volunteer, vote, and try to help because we believe in the Democratic party.

The problem is that it raises this ENORMOUS question of transparency and access. How will blogs be treated by this wave of presidential campaigns; will they they take a dynamic approach to determining who's friendly and will they recognize that a lot of blogs are run by the same folks on their volunteer rosters; or will they stonewall? Obama's approach actually encourages bloggers to be dishonest with his campaign for fear of access - that's not a smart strategy.

News Feed: The Caucus on Politics and Cyberspace

The New York Times’ political blog, The Caucus, reports:

We caught up the other day with a conference about campaign politics and the Internet, where Joe Trippi took time out from baking, er, burning pies with the Edwards campaign to trace the arc of the influence of politics on cyberspace, and vice versa. A few of the e-advisers to the campaigns, namely those with the Clinton, Obama and McCain operations, also attended. They didn’t give away many trade secrets, but offered some insights into what works and what doesn’t at this stage of the election cycle.

Read the article here

Presidential Candidates' Attitudes Towards Digital Games

So we have seen that digital games would be an ideal vehicle to convey political messages and explain policies. But what do the presidential candidates think about a medium that is already shaping the imagination of a generation? A lame start with Barack Obama: As much as he’s campaigning in all the of virtual spaces that the intertubeweb has to offer, gamewise he’s stuck in the early 90s.

Obama’s Austin appearance was part of a campaign swing across the country to raise money for his two-week old candidacy and build his reputation nationally…

Obama told the Austin crowd that they should try to recruit their friends to support his campaign. “I want you to tell them, ‘It’s time for you to turn off the TV and stop playing GameBoy,’” Obama said. “We’ve got work to do.”

Not even the slightest hint of moral panic? C’mon, Obama. We all know that you can do better than that! In fact we don’t have to look further than Obama’s closest contestant Hillary Clinton. Her basic message: Digital games are as dangerous as cigarettes, that’s why they must taxed accordingly – while the ESRB is not to be trusted. Instead she introduced her own Family Entertainment Protection Act, which would impose fines of $1000 dollars or 100 hours of community service for a first time offense of selling a "Mature" or "Adult-Only" rated video game to a minor, and $5000 or 500 hours for each subsequent offense. A stand she’s not particularly shy about (quite frankly: coming from a country whose record on the freedom of speech is somewhat… so so and which is trying hard to tie in with old times by planing to completely ban violent games I have to say: things could be worse America! Cold comfort, I know). While it’s all quite on the McCain and Guiliani front the antipathy towards the new media folk devils makes some Republican backbencher candidates even overcome political camps. Take Sam Brownback for example, who, with Clinton and others, is co-sponsor of the Children & Media Research Advancement Act (CAMRA). Brownback also supports the Truth in Video Game Rating Act, which would require the ESRB to review all playable content before doling out those M, T or E ratings. Fair enough you might say, maybe after playing the game for 50 hours+ all of a sudden all avatars are naked. But how would you be able to rate games which basically don’t have an end – like MMORPGs? Do have the people responsible for the ratings have to reach level 60 before they can give a verdict? And what about the inappropriate language and obscene gestures of other players? Let’s have the republican contender Mitt Romney the last word on the issue. Addressing a conservative Christian audience at Regent University in Virginia Romney said:

Pornography and violence poison our music and movies and TV and video games. The Virginia Tech shooter, like the Columbine shooters before him, had drunk from this cesspool.

Ah, finally: ungrounded, hysterical moral panic at its best!


Obama’s MySpace handling – How to control a voter-generated campaign

Many of you should by now be familiar with the problems Barack Obama has experienced in regards to his MySpace profile. If not, here's the short version - The full version can be read over at TechPresident, Mydd, or MTV, or you can watch Anthony speak about the incident in person via phone here:

In November 2004, Joe Anthony started an unofficial fan page for the then newly elected Senator Barack Obama on MySpace holding the valuable URL of myspace.com/barackobama. When Obama launched his campaign in January the site had already attracted more that 30,000 friends. The site has continued to attract friends as the camapign has commenced, generating plenty of headlines about Obama winning the “MySpace Primary”. April 30, the site counted 160,000 friends. Over the night that changed. The site has now only about 25,000 friends. The reason: As attention to MySpace grew over the campaign the Obama team wanted control over the URL and forced Joe Anthony to give up the control of the profile. -Not the best move fromTeam Obama...

In regards to the incident TechPresident’s Micha Sifry asks:

Is it true that once a voter-generated site gets major traction, the campaign affected has to control it? Can a front-running presidential campaign–even one as devoted to empowering supporters to take their own initiatives and connect to each other through social network tools as the Obama campaign–afford a major site run by a campaign volunteer outside their control? Is such control even possible?

The Bivings Report’s Todd Zeigler answers the question:

To me this is a really simple issue. The Obama campaign has to have ultimate control over www.myspace.com/barackobama. Period.

Having ventured into the MySpace wilderness looking for candidate profiles, it is almost impossible to tell the real profiles from the fakes ones. Users can be easily mislead into friending the wrong person. By owning the most common profile name and maintaining an official presence, the campaign provides clarity to users, most of whom are looking for the endorsed version of the profile. I’m all for supporters creating their own groups and conducting their own activities, I just see value in having an official presence in addition to the voter-generated ones.

I agree with Zeigler.

However, reading a post by Zephyr Teachout, former Director of Internet Organizing for Howard Dean's presidential campaign, comparing the dilemma faced by Obama over his MySpace profile to the many dilemmas Teachout and her team experienced during the 2004 Dean campaign I realized just how complicated this question is.

I would encourage anyone that plans to work on or with an internet related campaign to read Teachout’s piece discussing the strategies related to the degree of control a campaign should have over grassroots generated campaigns. I personally learned a lot from the piece.

Here’s Teachout’s conclusion and solution to the issue, for those of you that don’t have time to read the whole piece:

In relation to grassroots relationships campaigns should:

…for each relationship, choose whether it is one of absolute control, or no control. In those with no control, you can still communicate, but don't command. In the long run, clear roles won't confuse the press and the thousands of people writing in--at first, perhaps, and on the margins, but they will learn. When in doubt, no control is better, just as it is in friendships--your friends will do everything they can to represent you well and be your supporter, until you start telling them what to say about you.

When you have read Teachout's piece you should further pay Mydd a visit and read what Jerome Armstrong has to say about Team Obama's handling of the incident.

Then you should off course go to Obama's official blog and read how the official campaign experienced the incident.

...And then... when you have read every link in this piece you can go to The Bivings Report's unofficial poll and cast a vote: Should candidates maintain official profiles on MySpace? - Just for fun...

You'll probably not have time to do all the serious stuff you were supposed to do today if you do take my advise, but what the .... You'll always have time for that later.


Joe Anthony's response to the Obama team's handling of the incident can be found here.

- Espen