As political analysts pour over reasons that led the Obama campaign to victory, one fact reveals itself: he better understands the role of the Internet as the predominant medium for reaching and activating the populace. More than a convenient way to fund raise and present his message in a readable (brochure ware) format, he really understands the active, engaging ideas of SOCIAL MEDIA. In recent weeks as his opponents and pundits tried to slander him as a socialist, they weren’t far off, but they were still thinking of the word ’socialist’ in 20th century terms. If anything, Obama’s team makes a great case for redefining the term. Social (media) -ist might best describe this involvement in terms of leveraging the nodes along our digital ecology (see previous posts) into active organization of a movement.
From Facebook organized ‘groups,’ ‘events,’ and ’causes’ to Obama’s status as the ‘most followed on Twitter’. Note here, number two on that list is Kevin Rose founder of Digg, which is no surprise. For Obama’s campaign, bridging the generation gap to the younger voters wagered this strategy: get the word out everywhere online and let it self-propagate via the networks. This means: be as active as the top players in the field, such as Mr. Rose.
In case you haven’t already, peruse his website’s statement on technology, and take into account these several statistics from the campaign. These statistics do not present that large a portion of the 50-60 million voters that cast their ballots yesterday, but that’s really not necessary. At nearly every large point in the campaign, whether a speech, debate, crisis, or attack, social networks were ablaze with activity, people were creating art, music, clothes, organizing, donating. Actions, via tools (iPhone’s Obama ‘08 app. is one example, Facebook apps another) engaged and enabled users to USE the Obama message daily, instead of passively receiving a message. This is the key difference here, the use of the message allowed it to continually regenerate beyond the campaign’s control or power to do so. Obama’s message became a living ecology.
The immediate effect was that the buzz spreading through social media networks coalesced into production: designers made posters, musicians published songs, and participate in the effort by. This took the campaign’s points of discussion and crossed over from one node of digital media (see graphic from two posts earlier) to the next: into emails, conversations over the phone, call-ins to radio and TV talk shows, music videos, gigs at clubs, activating channels across what could be considered the greater digital ecosystem.
It’s difficult to ascertain everything that this election’s outcome will influence, but it’s certain that the socialists (media socialists that is) played to win — and did. Yes, indeed, we can!