My relationship with Obama can be described as a honeymoon period that never ended. I admired this man since my freshman year of college in 2008. I didn’t follow politics or listen to NPR. I didn’t know who he was until his presidential run. But when I first heard him speak, he had that swagger that was hard to ignore.
His communications campaign and use of social media captivated me beyond belief and motivated me to pursue a career in public relations. It had a profound impact on my life and career. It also forever changed politics in the digital age.
It wasn’t just a political campaign, but a well-calculated and strategic communications strategy targeting young, educated students on the platforms they used most. It ultimately won him the 2008 election and helped build a larger online community that helped him win a second election in 2012. Social media outreach also allowed the Obama campaign to collect important data on his audience and use that data to create content and strengthen the campaign as it gained momentum. Volunteers signed up to help with campaigning, followers gave up their personal information for tickets to rallies and other events. Politicians worked hard to get this kind of information from voters. Obama got it with little to no effort, but his supporters didn’t care. They were a part of something big, a blue wave that reached every corner of the internet.
It helped that Obama was the first presidential candidate who was not a baby boomer. He was young, charismatic and open to new technologies and ways to bolster his support online and in-person. Social media offered everything Obama and his team needed to reach constituents and engage with voters.
It also allowed him to speak to his followers directly without the need for traditional outlets like TV, radio and newspapers. He set the foundation for government communications campaigns and ushered in a new approach to campaigning online in the 21st century.
That 2008 campaign broke a lot of new ground on platforms that were not widely used when he ran his first presidential campaign. That’s what makes this accomplishment even more special. With very little experience and knowledge of social media and how it could be used, Obama still realized its potential and poured a lot of time and resources into it. It’s what made Obama such a great leader as our president and a visionary in the social space.