The Secret Sauce
In an interview today with Cause Global, Rasiej credits Team Obama's "culture of belief in the Internet" for building a movement for change among ordinary citizens energized via social media into a community of engaged, viral marketers for Obama's campaign. The Web strategy, says Rasiej, was critical in helping the Illinois senator win the White House.
Team Obama also saw an opportunity in exploiting the flagging credibility of mainstream media—again chiefly among younger voters. "[Obama's team] leap-frogged the mainstream media by producing content that they knew would get distributed for them [via social media] once it was uploaded," techPresident's Rasiej said. Especially in the final days before November 4, Obama's campaign sent daily emails and text-messages directly to supporters, urging them to vote with friends, participate in phone drives, and volunteer at campaign events—even offering up a contest in which last-minute donors could be selected to attend Obama's election-night party in Chicago. Says Rasiej:
Adds Rasiej: "What we really saw here [with Obama's Internet strategy] is the reaction of a new network publicsphere—or, you could argue, a whole new political media ecology, a generational shift that's empowering an entirely new human experience of participatory, civic engagement. It's taking our former notion of civic engagement and redefining it as something that should be continuously very relevant to people's lives."
For more on the lessons for nonprofits in Election 2008, check out Tom Watson's post today at onPhilanthropy.com, where he is a consultant and writer. Watson is also the author of the forthcoming CauseWired, a book about the use of social media in advocacy.
Writes Watson: "While there is a temptation among those who track causes and online fundraising to separate political organizing from philanthropy, I think that's a mistake - it's wishing for a division that the audience simply won't tolerate going forward. It's like hoping that a print classified operation will continue to grow during the age of Craigslist. Young people don't separate their causes into neat little boxes labeled politics and charity. They simply respond to what moves them, what their friends recommend, what they believe might change the world.
"...It's no accident that my nonprofit clients are asking about websites like Barack Obama's. The [old] order is rapidly fading."
(Photo by Marcia Stepanek)