Well, another election has come and gone, but unlike other elections, this is the first election where social media had an impact on the outcome.

Obama used a grass roots based approach building and managing the organization. Just 4 years ago, it would be hard to imagine the level of organization and communication required to build and manage such numbers as those involved in the Obama campain through traditional top down means. But with youTube, Facebook, twitter and even the iPhone and Blackberrys; social media and the hand held tools that expand their reach has changed politics.

First, lets think about fund raising, something I’m sure everyone will agree was one of the major factors in this election’s outcome. What the Obama team did was focus on small donations via the internet. Although web based fund raising is not new, the way it was done was different.  In this campaign, we saw donate buttons on web pages and emails. Then, what I consider the first markable impact of social media, the ‘yes we can’ video.

Although the lyrics are entirely quotations from Sen. Obama’s concession speech in the New Hampshire[3] the Obama campaign had no involvement in its production.[4] The viral music video, shot in a sparse black-and-white, features Barack Obama’s image in collage fashion; the performers (celebrities including musicians, singers and actors) echo his words in a hip-hop call-and-response manner as his voice plays in the background. The song was produced by will.i.am; the music video was directed by Jesse Dylan, the son of singer Bob Dylan.[5] The music video (which Joe Klein of primary,Time later characterized as “brilliant”)[6] premiered on the national media on ABC News Now‘s What’s the Buzz entertainment program on February 1, 2008.[5] On February 2 it was featured on the Obama campaign’s community blog,[7] and later promoted as a viral video by the campaign on its website.[8] Obama played the clip prior to a February 12 rally of nearly 20,000 at the Kohl Center on the campus of the University of Wisconsin-Madison. cit-http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Yes_We_Can  at this writing, there has been 1,035,880 views on youtube.

Once this video went viral, not only did the word get out, and people become inspired, but social media links were established. As the campaign wore on, the obama campaign used all forms of social and digital media where they could, even to the point of putting ads in video games.

What really impressed me during the summer, was how the campaign was starting to show up everywhere I normally was. Twitter, Facebook, my iPhone!  I wrote about an Obama campain aid app from iPhoneDevCamp, there were plenty of twitter sites dedicated to the Obama message and discussion, the 1 million strong Facebook group, and on and on.   Have a look at this info from speakmediablog:

Election 08 Social Media Showdown – Here is a look at the activity surrounding each candidate’s social media outreach.Senator Barack Obama

Senator John McCain

The McCain campain was late to the game, and also, its younger voters that tend to use social media tools, so that needs to be taken into consideration when looking at these numbers.

Whats interesting about how smartphones plays into this is how iPhones, blackberrys and other smart phones allow the users to stay connected and more inportanly, report in. The iPhone in paticular with the Obama app and other applications that came later; allows a campain volenteer to not only canvas, but become a reporter armed with pictures, movie recordings if you have a jailbreak, SMS, and emails. During the election I saw many people taking pictures of their polling sites. A tool was created to allow reporting of odd goings on (talked about it here) .  Once can imagine that if people needed help at a phone bank, a twitter could go out to get more people in a flash.  Finding that your are canvacing that area as someone else?  Email back to HQ with a screenshot of your map and double check to see if you are in the same area.

I think we have seen how future campaign will be run.  Integration will ALL media, TV, Radio, Blogs, Social Media and even SMS feeds as where Obama offered to provide news of his VP pick via SMS before it’s announced.  Although the SMS messages did not go out to everone at the right time, the orginal goal of expanding the contact lists was successful. We will see future campain websites embracing social media in the model of what we saw with Obama.

screen shot of the Obama web site