*Disclaimer: these are my notes from the conference. As such they are mostly in point form so don’t expect a well written novel!
Hosts: Sandy Fleischer and John Hall
Keynote introduction by the Dean of the Sauder School of Business: Dr. Daniel F. Muzyka
Keynote Speaker: David Plouffe
The mind behind Barack Obama’s social media marketing / online campaign
Obama has called him the “unsung hero of the campaign”
Obama hadn’t done any of the typical prep work for becoming President. He made the decision late compared to most people who run.
Could we put together a winning campaign? A remarkable campaign?
Knew that they needed a grass roots campaign with technology at its core.
Organization, fundraising and message were the focus
Campaigns have 2 fundamental pillars
Message and Electoral theory / strategy. In Biz you have to ask or know what your growth model is.
If you flail around you will fail. You’ve got to have a strategy, a message and a product. You have to put a lot of time into it.
First was fundraising. Going up against the best fundraising machine in the history of the country.
Via our social networking site, people would donate money and then get others to donate and they could track this. Obama would call people and let them know it was appreciated.
$750 million was raised, 500 million of it online. John McCain actually did it right against Bush but got it wrong this time. People raised $ on their own, built ownership of the campaign. 4 million contributed, 60+ million voted. Half had never given money before. The financial muscle allowed Obama to compete.
16 of 50 states were going to decide the presidential campaign. We did not run a national campaign. The financial muscle allowed them to go into “red” states. They had determined the playing field of the election.
Organizational part of it had never been done well in politics before. Our supporters live through technology. Encouraged people to organize online early in the campaign.
Because of strong grass roots presence in certain states, they placed staff in those states early.
Why is Obama President? A lot of reasons but if we had not had those grass roots supports and staff in those states we would not have won.Â The only chance they had was to get an organizational head start. The organizational side was why Obama became a candidate.Â Used tech to change the electorate – this is the holy grail.
If you could change the 20% of customers who buy a lot to 40% you could retire early. This is what we did. Usually you take the electorate as it is. Obama tapped the untapped. Iowa was the gate.
Demographics is destiny in many cases. We had to get people to do hard things like switching their voting registration.It’s easy to identify problems, it’s harder to execute.
Put huge premium on getting younger people to participate.Â
We changed the electorate, it happened because people were texting each other, im’ing each other etc. It taught us we could change the electorate. So we did not accept the electorate as it was. Could we make it younger, could we make it more African American. We relied on people who did not have a voting history.
We did a lot of informational advertising. Here’s were you vote, here’s where you caucus. 25-30\% of people came in through our advertising. Had a lookup tool to find out where you caucus etc. Used these tools to follow up. Info was so important and technology was the driver.
Voter registration: spent millions on it. Here’s how you register, here’s how you early vote. 30% of voters vote early.Â We thought we knew about 99% how you would vote. We tried to figure out how everyone in every state would vote. Discovered under 25 group was not voting as strong as they could be so they did research into it. A lot of them wanted to be there on election day.Â Use of technology was enormous. Â Registration of voters is considered a waste of time in the U.S. however, Obama’s group focused a lot of time on this. Volunteers did it all.
Moving of message is the thing that is least appreciated and least understood.
People don’t sit there and accept information anymore. What they trust is the people they live with.Â We tried to build a message and a group of people who would spread that message. By the end of the campaign they were sending out 13 million emails, increasingly they did video. Video is king these days. People were more prone to open it and spread it. Â They sent out an email explaining in detail their budget in Florida. People felt they were being levelled with and the response was huge.
We put pressure on our volunteers. It was brazen and it worked.
Non profits questioned their message. We needed supporters volunteers to know how important they were, that the strategy was built around them. Communicated news directly to their supporters. We wanted them to hear from us first. President is still doing this directly to supporters. What’s important is what their hearing day to day. Everything is soon going to play out on mobile devices.Â
The power and belief in people talking to people is only going to get more powerful. It’s not sexy but it’s what won the election. People took ownership of the campaign. We tried to be in every space. TV, video on demand, radio, email, internet, at your door, on your cell, at community events, we tried to be everywhere so if you have an opportunity to capture them you need to do it. It all has to be coordinated. It all has to be synced. Not possible without technology. Real time message guidance for supporters who were talking to people. We were big believers in data.
Big drivers were email and the Internet. Did a good job of not falling in love with new things, you have to be involved in new things but marry your strategy with them.Â Mobile was used primarily to provide information. Â People aren’t consuming a lot of video on mobile yet but that is changing. What is your central belief on what tech will support your objectives. Â At the core was email and the Internet.Â
Power of people and the power of technology.
What is not replicable is the passion between a group of people and their cause, the tactics and strategy can be used by anyone. Obama and the campaign inspired people to do things they had never done before.
David Plouffe: my friends and family tune me out but..
We had unusual message deliverers and validates…people believed because their neighbours said it….
Questions: Blue State digital only digital firm you worked with? Built a big in house staff. One of the four founders of facebook came in. A lot of great talent. Blue state hosted the site, dealt with email.
Did graphics in house… Blue State had to learn how to grow with us to handle what we needed to handle. A lot of people from the high tech community got involved early. New media strategic plan.Â Instead of putting together the best social media site and website ever done in politics they tried to create the best site ever period.
“Challenge to something is always a more rallying cry than maintaining the status quo.”
People over 70 spend more time online than the under 30 crowd.
You just can’t fabricate this. You can’t create it out of thin air.Â It was a belief that Every state mattered every delegate mattered. Everyone;s got an idea, most important word is no in politics…if you know why you make decisions and this is clear to everyone, decisions can be uneventful. Obama followed the strategy. You have a well laid plan and it gets messed up because of political….instead of sticking to the plan.
We would listen to people but they had no way to
AK: What I wanted to ask during the keynote (but ran out of time) Question: How did you decide what technologies to focus on and how you would use those technologies to achieve your objectives?
Quick recap: this was one of the best keynotes I’ve listened to since seeing George Lucas and John Chambers speak at Dreamforce 2007 in San Fran. Great stuff. Very interesting and inspiring.
Hope you got an idea or two from all of that!
Here is a bit more info on David: