Howard Dean used the Internet in a novel way to gain support for his campaign. He pioneered the use of the Internet for fundraising, gathering volunteers, and spreading his campaign. Although he was successful at these aspects, his strategy to bolster online support did not translate into votes in the end. Dean’s campaign and team failed to garner the votes necessary for his win. The Obama campaign took Dean’s Internet strategy and vastly improved upon it, which proved to be successful with a presidential victory. Obama’s campaign used a variety of techniques and social media platforms to help reach its presidential goal. Through blended networking, which incorporates online and offline networking, Obama and his team were able to translate online support into meaningful campaign action.
By using online platforms such as Youtube, Facebook, and Myspace, the Obama campaign was able to raise the candidates’ exposure at a low cost while simultaneously increasing the campaigns ability to reach out to a variety of demographics. Similar to Dean’s Internet strategy, Obama’s also aided in fundraising and volunteer recruitment. However, they recognized that they were not able to have total control over the candidate’s image and message because outsiders would generate content. This is a huge challenge of social media use in campaign strategies. The Obama team recognized the need to heavily manage this content and stay engaged with its creators. Obama sought to develop a more intimate relationship with these content-producing supporters than Dean. For example, Obama’s team worked closely with smaller blogs to help disseminate information (Kreiss). They also inspired activists to share and create information. Lutz contends that, “the campaign could not possibly have generated this much content on its own. And it was better that it didn’t…the most trusted source of information is consistently ‘a person like myself’” (7).
In “Friend the President,” Slotnick explains how Obama’s use of social media in his campaign led to his eventual victory. By reaching out to a younger generation online, while simultaneously targeting the older generation, Obama was able to rally the support of a wide and diverse group of potential voters. He branded himself in a way that made him relatable and accessible to both the younger and older generations. As a result, his campaign was backed by both the younger and older generations. Obama’s campaign encouraged and excited voters of every age to participate in the election and take action by spreading his message.
How do you think social media will be used in the next presidential election? Which platforms do you think will be considered the most important? Will the campaigns encourage activists to create and share their own information as Obama’s team did?