Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Obama's "mobilization network"

Interesting talk by Sam Graham-Felsen who was chief blogger for the Obama campaign.*

Here's what the Obama campaign blog achieved:
  • 200,000 offline events organized
  • 1.2 billion minutes of video consumed
  • $500 million raised online
Sam highlighted the major problem facing the Obama team: How to transform enthusiasm for the candidate into an actual victory? The key lay in organizing people.

Sam said, "Given that our organizing must be bottom up -- our boss was a community organizer -- we internalized our leader's enthusiasm for organizing people into victory."

With regards to its online aspect, Sam spoke about some of the major principles that the campaign stood by until the end:
  • "This campaign is not about Barack Obama, it's about the movement for change."
  • "We cared about authenticity. . . . Bringing that authenticity into the website -- the blog -- was key. Sam discussed the stories of various Americans he interviewed and featured on the blog. The campaign's (and the blog's) intention, Sam notes, was to highlight Obama's supporters and their lives.
  • "Goals never about money, but about people. Not raising 2,000,000 dollars by a set date, but getting 75,000 donors."
  • "We wanted everything online to have an offline purpose. It was not a social network but a mobilization network."
Sam said, "Within 24 hours of setting up the website, we had 1,000 groups. Most of the super-active groups were using the website to organize themselves. " He added that "by the time the election rolled around, these groups had been around for a year. They had trained themselves. This was in marked contrast to the other campaigns."

Another important outcome of the website was that some diarists became famous and popular.

A Controversy

What happened when some supporters on the website took issue with the candidate? The FISA bill rebellion presented such a challenge to
  • Never considered censoring the group.
  • Obama wrote a personal note directed to the protest group. Note was respectful of the group's point of view. Gave supporters a sense of a 2-way conversation.
  • Incident shows that "many of your critics are in fact your supporters."
I blogged about Obama's controversial FISA bill vote here.
* Sam is now with Blue State Digital.

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