What Can Internet Entrepreneurs Learn From Barack Obama?


What Can Internet Entrepreneurs Learn From Barack Obama?


Social media marketing (SMM) is big news for internet entrepreneurs. If you want to learn what SMM is take a look at 'The Essential Social Media Marketing Guide'.

Today, social media marketing is the most powerful way of building brand and relationships on the Internet. Its impact will diminish as everyone jumps on the bandwagon, but for now it's the biggest show in town. With focus and persistence it could revolutionize your personal and business brands.

To demonstrate just how powerful it can be, read the article in the International Herald Tribune, "Electoral triumph built on a Web revolution" by David Carr. It describes how Barack Obama used social media marketing as the foundation of his campaign strategy, which resulted in him winning the presidential election. Results don't come much bigger that that!


Here are a few valuable exerts from the article, with my comments (in bold) about the lessons that you and I can learn:


In February of 2007, a friend telephoned Marc Andreessen, the founder of Netscape and a board member of Facebook, and asked if he wanted to meet with a young man with an idea that sounded preposterous on its face.

Always game for something new, Andreessen headed out to the San Francisco airport late one night to hear the guy out. A junior member of a large powerful organization with a thin, but impressive résumé, he was about to take on far more powerful forces in a battle for leadership.

He wondered if the power of social networking, with its tremendous communication capabilities and aggressive database development, might help him beat the overwhelming odds facing him.

"It was like a guy in a garage who was thinking of taking on the biggest names in the business," Andreessen recalled. "What he was doing shouldn't have been possible, but we see a lot of that out here and then something clicks. He was clearly supersmart and very entrepreneurial, a person who saw the world and the status quo as malleable."

And as it turned out, Barack Obama, now president-elect, was right.


Barack Obama himself embraced the Internet and social media marketing. It was this personal committment that made the campaign so successful. As an entrepreneur, you have to lead your social media activity. You can't leave it to marketing.


Like a lot of Web innovators, the Obama campaign did not invent anything completely new. Instead, by bolting together social-networking applications under the banner of a movement, they created an unforeseen force to raise money, organize locally, fight smear campaigns and get out the vote that helped them topple the Clinton machine and then the Republicans.


Adopting social media marketing is easy; everything you need is available, much of it for free. The key to success is how you use those tools.


As a result, when he arrives at the White House, Obama will have not just a political base, but a database, millions of names of supporters who can be engaged almost instantly. And there's every reason to believe that he will use the network not just to campaign, but to govern. His e-mail to supporters on Tuesday night included the line, "We have a lot of work to do to get our country back on track, and I'll be in touch soon about what comes next."


The real advantage of social media marketing is it builds long term loyalty; it's not just a one-off, one-way pushed message, like advertising. It should be an ongoing conversation, with both parties listening and contributing.


The Bush campaign arrived at the White House with a conviction that it would continue a conservative revolution with the help of Karl Rove's voter lists, phone banks and direct mail. But those tools were crude and expensive compared with what the Obama camp is bringing to the Oval Office.


Social media marketing tools are so cost effective and powerful, when used correctly, they can drown out the messages pumped out through traditional media channels, even if millions of dollars have been spent.


"I think it is very significant that he was the first post-boomer candidate for president," Andreessen said. "Other politicians I have met with are always impressed by the Web and surprised by what it could do, but their interest sort of ended in how much money you could raise. He was the first politician I dealt with who understood that the technology was a given and that it could be used in new ways."


This is an important point. If you think of social media marketing as just another way of promoting your services and generating sales you will fail. Social media is about building relationships which are mutually beneficial. Sales and making money will be the result of building trust.


The juxtaposition of a networked, open-source campaign and a historically imperial office will have profound implications and raise significant questions. Special-interest groups and lobbyists will now contend with an environment of transparency and a president that owes them nothing. The news media will now be contending with an administration that can take its case directly to its base without even booking time on the networks.


Again this is an important point. Today, every online entrepreneur is beholden to Google. If Google decides not to index your site for any reason, there is a good chance your business will fail. Social media marketing reduces this risk by putting you directly in contact with your audience, cutting Google and the other search engines out of the loop.


More profoundly, while many people think that Obama is a gift to the Democratic Party, he could actually hasten its demise. Political parties supply brand, ground troops, money and relationships, all things that Obama already owns.

And his relationships are not the just traditional ties of Democrats - teachers' unions, party faithful and Hollywood moneybags - but a network of supporters who used a distributed model of phone banking to organize and get out the vote, helped raise a record-breaking $600 million, and created all manner of media that was viewed millions of times. It was an online movement that begat offline behavior, including producing youth voter turnout that may have supplied the margin of victory.


Many large organisations are learning about the power of social media marketing the painful way. Individual bloggers, 'twitterers' and networkers can make share prices plummet with a single post. Why? Because they have an audience who trust their opinion more than they trust the propaganda pumped out by most corporate communications departments. Apple be warned!


"Thomas Jefferson used newspapers to win the presidency, FDR used radio to change the way he governed, JFK was the first president to understand television, and Howard Dean saw the value of the Web for raising money," said Ranjit Mathoda, a lawyer and money manager who blogs at Mathoda.com. "But Senator Barack Obama understood that you could use the Web to lower the cost of building a political brand, create a sense of connection and engagement, and dispense with the command-and-control method of governing to allow people to self-organize to do the work."


This sums it up. People who understand social media can build brand, business and multiple revenue streams for a fraction of the cost of using traditional media.


All of the Obama supporters who traded their personal data for a ticket to a rally or an e-mail alert about the vice presidential choice, or opted in on Facebook or MyBarackObama, can now be mass e-mailed at a cost close to zero. And instead of the constant polling that has been a motor of presidential governance, an Obama White House can use the Web to measure voter attitudes.


All successful online businesses are built on relationships and trust. The only way to build trust is to be in regular contact with your audience, and email remains the best way to do this.


"When you think about it, a campaign is a start-up business," Mathoda said. "Other than his speech in 2004 at the convention and his two books, Obama had very little in terms of brand to begin with and he was up against Senator Clinton, who had all the traditional sources of power, and then Senator McCain. But he had the right people and the right idea to take them on. When you think about it, it was like he was going up against Google and Yahoo. And he won."


Amen! Power to the entreprenuer!


There is tremendous power in opening up citizen access to government - think of how much good will and support Mayor Michael Bloomberg garnered by coming up with 311, a one-stop phone number for New Yorkers who had a problem.

Obama's 20-month-long conversation with the electorate is entering a new phase. There is sense of ownership, a kind of possessive entitlement, on the part of the people who worked to elect him. The shorthand for his organizing Web site, "MyBo," says it all.

"People will continue to expect a conversation, a two-way relationship that is a give and take," said Thomas Gensemer, managing partner of Blue State Digital, the folks who helped conceive and implement Obama's digital outreach. "People who were part of the campaign will opt in to political or governing tracks and those relationships will continue in some form."

The founders of America wanted a government that reflected its citizens but would be at remove from the baser impulses of the mob. The mob, flush with victory, is at hand, but instead of pitchforks and lanterns they have broadband and YouTube. Like every other presidency, the Obama administration will have its battles with the media, but that may seem like patty-cake if it runs afoul of the self-publishing, self-organizing democracy it helped create - say, by delaying health care legislation or breaking a promise on taxes.

That's the thing about pipes today: they run both ways.

"It's clear there has been a dramatic shift," said Andrew Rasiej, the founder of the Personal Democracy Forum, an annual conference about the intersection between politics and technology. "Any politician who fails to recognize that we are in a post-party era with a new political ecology in which connecting like minds and forming a movement is so much easier will not be around long."


This final point is a stark warning. Once you start down the social media marketing route, you are public property. You and your organisation will be expected to listen AND ACT when your followers call for change. If you don't, they may turn against you.

The web is a fickle world. There are individuals who no-one had heard of two years ago, who can move markets with a single comment. On the other side of the coin there are entrepreneurs and businesses that have been destroyed because they did not understand the power of the crowd.



Conclusion

This is a great article because it provides a case study of just how powerful social media marketing can be.

I recommend you take the time to learn about this subject and start using it to build your personal and business brand.

Just remember:

  • You are what you publish, so think carefully before you click 'submit'
  • SMM is about a two way conversation so listen and interact
  • Focus on building a relationship with your audience, not on promoting or selling something
  • SMM is about building a long term loyal following. Don't think of it as a marketing campaign
  • Don't be afraid of social media, but do be aware of the possible consquences of becoming visible on the internet

Enjoy!


Original Article from the International Herald Tribune "Electoral triumph built on a Web revolution" by David Carr.