Similar Strategies, Different Results

Technological innovation has spurred a new era of social networking and communication. It is now utilized by most Americans who are on the internet, and is now an integral part of mass communication. In the realm of politics, the use of the internet and social media has been tinkered and experimented with. There were few campaigns that used it to its full potential, and many that failed to see what social media can do for them. Howard Dean was a strong advocate of campaigning on the internet, pioneering the use of fundraising, gathering volunteers, and gaining supports online. He was rather successful at those goals, but all that support did not translate into votes. It created an interesting dilemma in the world of politics. How can online support turn into votes? Barack Obama found the answer. He was able to get the votes from his online campaign that Dean wasn’t able to get. Engagement is a very important concept when campaigning on the internet and it was heavily managed by Obama, and not maintained by Dean.


Interest and support are the keys to a great online political campaign. Maintaining a strong level of engagement of a candidate’s social media sites can make a huge difference in translating support into votes. Americans enjoy the fact that they have access to resources that usually are only for the political operators. (Lutz, 2009) While Dean did well in gaining support throughout his campaign, he did not offer as much information as the public would have liked. His personal portrayal on the internet was not maintained as well, leaving him to be ridiculed for lack of preparation. Another factor that Obama improved upon was the use of data analysis to improve his campaign. He was able to spur engagement online through these analytics, along with updating his activities based on the interest of his supporters. (Lutz, 2009) Obama almost copied the Dean campaign, except for some very crucial updates to keep his supporters involved.


Obstacles still face candidates who campaign online. Staffing for internet activities is one of the big issues that still impact political campaigns, and whether or not you have enough people can make or break the success of websites and social media outlets. (Gueorguieva, 2009) Additionally, Dean’s shortcomings are still a possibility today. With issues like these still haunting candidates, is it too early to make a full transition to online campaigning? Can Obama’s strategy be improved upon?

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3 Responses to Similar Strategies, Different Results

  1. kcwassman says:

    It’s definitely too early to transition to entirely online campaigning. While it’s necessary for a campaign to have a strong presence online, it cannot rely on this medium alone. The age demographic of the United States, and particularly the demographic that votes most consistently, isn’t ready to make the leap to only online. One problem online campaigns can run into are hackers. This is a problem Organizing for Action faced the other day when it was hacked by a Syrian group ( Apart from this issue, Obama’s online strategy is a well-oiled machine.

  2. John D'Adamo says:

    Yeah, fully transitioning to online campaigning is kind of a joke, to be honest. Door to door campaigning is still by far the most effective at swinging votes, from the national level on down. Answering phones, while less effective, still has a great role in winning. Online campaigning is a piece of the puzzle which Obama used effectively in both of his campaigns. Reading David Plouffe’s “Audacity to Win” highlights just the kind of social media strategy they used, implementing their “MyBO” system which allowed volunteers to compete for points which they could use to get Obama swag. While Obama’s team were far more effective in keeping the movement for change centered around the candidate, I definitely couldn’t make a leap in saying all campaigning should go digital. Shaking that hand is still a very special, personal experience which can’t be imitated through pixels.

  3. Neha says:

    I think that, putting Dean’s shortcomings aside, it is still too early to transition to online campaigning, fully. I was just thinking of this recently, and the thought of not having a tangible presidential campaign is kind of scary. Our online media environment is not yet perfect and we still live in a generation where online access is not 100% available. I think it is very important to maintain a physical, traditional campaign methodology, while promoting and reinforcing ideas online to the people who can access them.
    As much as I do agree with the changing technological environment in which we live, I am not so sure we are in a place where online and digitized encounters can take precedence over real, physical interactions.

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