A Historical Breakthrough in Social Media: The Obama Internet Campaign


A while back I had the opportunity to hear Scott Thomas ( @simplescott ) at an event held by MIMA (The Minnesota Interactive Marketing Association.) Scott was the media design director for the Obama campaign and he worked with a talented team of innovators who made it work. The campaign was groundbreaking because it was the first time in history that a campaign was approached as a brand that tied in the marketing communications component as well.

The Obama website, was designed to be a consistent face of the campaign. They engaged people in registration and participation, sent out regular team emails for those who registered on the site. They made the user experience and bringing groups together easy. In the end there were more than 150,000 planned events by the public. The site had 1.5Million+ visitors and raised more than $6 Million U.S. dollars

Their approach shifted away from the traditional “about us, how can we make you love us campaign model and focused on how does what we are doing going to influence lives? That is how the new face of advertising is supposed to work.

They learned how to listen to internet chatter and leveraged search engine optimization (SEO), bought pay-per-click advertising with sponsors. They participated in other platforms like Twitter, YouTube, Facebook and more.

One perfect example that fascinated me, was being on Twitter during the debates while watching the live stream. I was blown away because I knew I was watching history in a way we had never seen before and it was happening right in front me. Every time McCain said a number or fact was wrong, within seconds I would see a fact check pop up and was amazed at how they were able respond so quickly. I was in awe.

I asked Scott Thomas about it and he described managing the changes in the campaign like “building an airplane while in flight.” Interesting illustration.

What did I learn? It seems they weren’t afraid to make changes when something didn’t work right. They learned from their mistakes and were given the freedom to be innovative. They were trusted for their business judgement. When it comes to social media, I think this is a message that the corporate world will eventually embrace. I believe they are starting to catch on, slowly and we are moving in the right direction. What do you think?

Below are four key take away lessons he learned

  1. Deliver clear, concise messaging focused on “we” rather than “he” encourage participation and activate people
  2. Keep the message of hope while dismantling the notion of being aloof. Hope and change are two different messages so they figured out how to create consistency between the two.
  3. Establish consistency and balance to exemplify stability and the experience. They had trusted web designers who knew the experience, type face, design, etc.
  4. Communicate historic atmosphere by pulling from imagery of the past & current information next to each other to unify the message of “we the people.”

By Kakie Fitzsimmons

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About KakieF
Thanks for stopping by. In case you were wondering, my name, “Kakie“, is pronounced like the color khaki. Writing is a creative outlet for me and I founded this blog as a tool to do something worthwhile. I want to take my passion for learning and use it to create connections by sharing knowledge. Everyone has a story to tell and when we give, we get. I care about the work I do and enjoy using my curiosity, creativity and resourcefulness to solve problems and turn them into opportunities. Using our common experiences to collaborate can result in the power to grow, teach, learn, connect and be better for the experience. As I work with dynamic people and organizations trying to figure out how to adapt to, and approach this new world, it thrills me each time we teach one another. So let’s get started and begin conversations about possibilities that help us be even better! My professional journey has woven in and out of Fortune 500 corporate environments and startup ventures, through roles that bestowed titles such as; VP, Award Winning Entrepreneur, Author, Blogger, Strategic Management Consultant, Marketing Director and more. As an Executive MBA Graduate, I have been fortunate acquire skills that position me as a great learner, leader and team builder who knows how to create a vision and provide inclusive direction that brings everyone along. My resourcefulness and analytical thinking skills help me make assessments that result in thorough research and analysis to make good business decisions, while maintaining flexibility to change direction when necessary. International business study and travel have taught me the importance of remaining relevant as a global citizen. As a Project Management Institute (PMI) Certified Project Manager (CPM), I am an implementer who knows how to take initiative, stay focused on the end goal and get results on time and under budget. Imagine a world where we all become the great leaders we aspire to be. It can be done! New doors are opening every day and I am optimistic about our future. It is my belief that successful people want to help each other and my desire is to have discussion about things that are meaningful to you. Please don’t keep me a secret. I would love to connect with you and others you think I should meet. Thank you for joining the conversation!

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