With analysis still flowing in, Rob Blackie, EMEA Managing Director at Blue State Digital gave GCN a sneak peek at some early insights gleaned from the digital element of  the 2012 Obama campaign.

2008 to 2012

Check the websites and at first glance there is little difference between 2008 and 2012. It is less that the campaign was radically different but that for 2012 the lessons had been learned, techniques refined and a data driven, relentlessly audience focussed campaign put in motion.

Five Big Things that Worked

listen to ‘Overview of Obama event by Rob Blackie’ on Audioboo

  1. Use digital to drive word of mouth at scale. The campaign reached out to influencers, investing resource in a huge internal communications effort to motivate activists; using Facebook Social Graph data to prompt activists (contact named friends in key states); going to where activists are e.g.  Reddit Ask me Anything event ‘Redditors for Obama’; share the Obamacare calculator personalising costs and benefits.
  2. Speed of response is vital. It wasn’t necessarily the source of the story but being first that helped capture the audience. For example, the campaign bought ad space on the Washington Post website homepage and used the space to stream  their live debate commentary feed, effectively providing instant rebuttal.At a previous GCN event Carla Buzasi of the Huffington Post spoke about the power of pictures to generate stories and the Obama campaign was no exception. Live photography was used to provide a swift response and captured the lead on stories such as This Seat’s Taken posted in response to Clint Eastwood’s Republican party convention appearance.
  3. Optimise for mobile or risk losing a quarter of potential web traffic.  Use responsive design, make sure the site looks good and functions on all devices. Smartphones are increasingly the primary means of accessing the internet in the US andUK.  The campaign improved action pages such as Quick Donate (single click donation, a lesson learned from Amazon). This was a vital tool in a campaign where funding is a key issue and helped overcome the reluctance of donors to complete forms on the phone.
  4. From animated gifs to infographics to more complex and personalised emails about Obamacare, the campaign matched the message complexity to the degree of interest.
  5. Data is king, if it can be measured then measure it, analyse and constantly iterate. Data was discussed at the top table hourly, not just digital responses but all owned data sources.Although resource intensive, this constant review of data paid off, driving the allocation of available resource and supporting tactical micro targeting.  From the data reviews the campaign teams were tasked with small incremental improvements, a weekly 2% on key data measures the cumulative effect of which can be dramatic particularly in swing states.

Three lessons for government communicators:

  1. Know your strategy, place digital at the centre of your strategy not as an add-on. For more on integrated digital and social media strategies check out the GCN event with Lindsay Baldwin from Gatwick Airport on their award winning approach. You can also check out our digital courses which can help you start to do this.
  2. Own your data, making it easier to; identify gaps, improve, refine data and drive down the cost of data manipulation
  3. Relationships are always on – it’s not  a big database, it’s a bunch of relationships that need to be maintained, not just tapped at peak periods.

The presentation from this event is not currently available, we hope to have this soon.

We also pulled together a Storify of tweets from the event:

 Image used under Creative Commons from Alessios85