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Obama Says – Yes We Can, With Social Media & More

Empirical Evidence

We all want empirical evidence that Social Media works and look often at organizations that adopt Social Media for affirmation of our own early adoption in real estate.  Many chalk social media up to a water cooler or chat buddies, but many of us simply see more- I personally see it as a tool in which to rally a base, counter misinformation, and most importantly, personally connect with perception.

  • Listening using streams

Barack Obama Gets It

Campaigning is simply another way in which to sell a product, in this case, (and let’s set aside our personal politics for a bit) Obama needed to sell himself, and he needed to do it in all kinds of ways.  Looking at every demographic he needed in order to carry the election, you can really get a sense of just how massive his canvas had to be.  He would need to address Seniors, Middle America, Urban Americans, Latinos, Women, Men, and others, and he would need to do it both on and offline.

He left no approach untouched, be it 2.0 or 1.0- Obama and his team would blend and marry both approaches and make no apologies for it.  Not only did he host massive rallies, and use the internet to add to the crowd gathered by word of mouth, television, radio, and newspapers, but he had a plan for once they arrived.  For your participation, you gave up your cell phone from which data was collected, emails and calls we’re made from the lists, and guess what? By the time you arrived home, there was a thank you email, and a request for a donation in your own inbox based on giving up your email when attending the rally.  Consumers gave up information and made no apologies to their friends and family that also received calls, emails, and more, and what’s really interesting, was that the caller was often the list owner converted into the volunteer.

  • Developed Lists (mining)
  • Cold Calling/Warm Calling
  • Emailing
  • Asked for Donations

Why Can Obama Do it?

Because he built a grassroots cause. Actually, he had several.  Looking at the political hurdles he had to overcome, he knocked over the hurdles and turned them into rally cries.  Whether the hurdle/cause was ending the war, change (the all inclusive verb), or becoming the First African American President, you as a voter could find something to become a part of.  People love to be a part of something and Obama definitely offered that.  He built ground swells around simple issues, delivered a simple message, and he delivered it using every possible media- the great majority of the media was internet video, virtually costing nothing to circulate or host, and relying on the viral nature of the video itself.  The popularity of pop-video and that same viral nature saved him cash and multiplied viewers when they landed on television.  Remember, two years ago, Obama essentially bootstrapped his campaign with little money and little notoriety except for being the liberal Senator on the floor of the DNC in ’04.  He built an entire campaign on the viral nature of pop culture.

  • Developed Simple Action Verbs
  • Developed a Cause
  • Bootstrapped using 2.0
  • Tapped Viral Video & Pop Culture
  • Used the Press

He Didn’t Abandon It

Once Obama had the wind at his back in the primaries and won them, he didn’t drop social media, in fact, it seemed to become more of a focus.  Twitter, and every other hot spot online was populated with Obama, and virtually millions of “FANS” to the Obama cause, Obama didn’t really have to work that hard any longer in the social stream. The current was with him; in fact, his millions of online supporters damage controlled for him, and pumped out their own information to counter other information (right or wrong) using blogs, and microblogs such as Twitter and others.

  • Gave Fans a Megaphone
  • Developed a Referral Base
  • Developed Fans as Reputation Managers
  • Used Blogs & Microblogs
  • Controlled the Message

Where Did The Social Stream Lead?

It led directly back to the Obama website where you’re greeted with a landing page to make a donation with “Change” as the headline.  From a marketing point of view, the word Change says so many things, and in this case, Change is a message to donate tangible change.  The Obama campaign made no bones that a donation of $5, $10, or $100 or more was appreciated; it simply didn’t matter so long as whatever you had laying around could be used. 

Once you turned the page from the landing, you were asked to volunteer, get a shirt, get a sign, get on the phone, email a friend, or whatever you could do, aligned right along side a blog.  This blog was everything going on in the campaign on every single day and where to go that day, and where the campaign would be.  An invitation was always attached, inviting you out to the current rally in your city.  Like a well-oiled machine, it repeated itself and its growth in every swing state over and over again.

  • Polished Landing Page 2.0 flavor, 1.0 Messages
  • Used Clear and Direct Action Messages
  • Data Collected
  • Encouraged Referrals and Involvement
  • Informed & Educated
  • Repeated

The Ultimate

The Obama campaign knew it would need to turn out the vote, and in order to do that, Obama began a new cause, and that cause was to get off your couch.  Whether it was “Drive for Change,”  or “Dial for Change,” or others, he was closing the deal with those in the stream- get out and vote and take not one friend, but your entire neighborhood.  He called on average voters to door knock, call your phone list, and more, and he reminded them, that it was up to them.

  • Asked for the Sale
  • Asked for Referrals
  • Door Knocking
  • Cold Calling/Warm Calling


We all look at social media for our own businesses and wonder how we convert a political campaign into a business campaign, and it’s easy.  This post is really a reminder that you cannot dump one for another, but with 2.0 a bootstrap can essentially dump high cost for free and viral pop.  You can use the viral nature of social media to give your fans a megaphone, and you can turn them into a referral base.  You should also throw out the first rules of 2.0 and blend your 1.0 for ultimate success. 

The Obama campaign used all of these and more:

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  • Word of Mouth
  • Cold Calling
  • Asking for Referrals
  • Email Marketing
  • Snail Mailers (Print Marketing)
  • Door Knocking
  • Smart Rhetoric
  • Social Media (Facebook, Twitter)
  • Fan Managed Reputation
  • Online Education (more online reputation managment)
  • Viral Video
  • Radio
  • Television
  • Newspapers
  • The Press
  • Fashion (Presentation)
  • Social Objects (Change bracelets, T-Shirts)
  • 2.0 Facing Website (presentation) with 1.0 Modeling (verbiage)

From a Sales Perspective

  • Simple Message
  • Action Message
  • Staging (visuals that sell)
  • Asked for the sale
  • Asked for Referrals
  • He Closed, Delivered, Rewarded

There’s a lot to cover in a campaign the size of a Presidential Campaign, and I am sure I missed a few innovative things they’ve done, but if you think about it, look at how many 1.0 things they’ve done that fly in the face of some of the new rules of 2.0 and overwhelmingly won the popular vote.  It stands to reason that your campaign in sales is so much smaller in scope, some larger if you’re larger to medium broker that you two can bridge the 1.0 and 2.0.

Benn Rosales is the Founder and CEO of The American Genius (AG), national news network. Before AG, he founded one of the first digital media strategy firms in the nation has received the Statesman Texas Social Media Award and is an Inman Innovator Award winner. He has consulted for numerous startups (both early- and late-stage), and is well known for organizing the digital community through popular offline events. He does not venture into the spotlight often, rather he believes his biggest accomplishments are the talent he recruits and develops, so he gives all credit to those he's empowered.



  1. Paul Terry Walhus

    November 6, 2008 at 10:52 am

    Great article, Benn! You and Lani are doing great work popularizing social networking and social media. I hope to use some of these ideas in my Austin social network about-to-launch.

  2. Benn Rosales

    November 6, 2008 at 11:15 am

    Can’t wait to see it Paul, and thank you.

  3. Kent Shaffer

    November 6, 2008 at 12:55 pm

    Nice analysis!

    This is probably the most comprehensive overview I’ve seen on Obama’s campaign.

  4. Matt Stigliano

    November 6, 2008 at 1:08 pm

    I think what amazed me about the way the campaign was run, was the sheer audacity to do it, bank on it, and show it can be done. I’m sure more than one political advisor/strategist said, “What in the world is this guy doing? This will never work.” I felt it was all very cutting edge and to chance something as big as a run for the presidency on it, was a big leap of faith for him and those involved, but its obvious that they believed in it and now, I’m sure, they’ve changed the face of politics because of it.

    Now of course, what will interest me most, is to see the next election cycle and how new candidates will use it. A lot of times when something becomes “hot” it will be used by everyone, but you will see plenty of people that just don’t get it and use it all wrong. Not to say that people can’t adapt and learn new technology, just that there is often a certain part of the population that is just using it to spread their old-school methodology and will throw money at it, but will never quite get it right.

  5. Benn Rosales

    November 6, 2008 at 1:24 pm

    @Kent Thank you, I hope folks learn a thing or two.

    @Matt I’m not worried about the influx of politicians to social media, social media has a way of rejecting bs when they see it and accepting things that feel real.

    On the same note, just like few in the real estate profession are taking it all that seriously, I think that’s okay. I think that if the space grows slowly and steadily it will only become more robust as opposed to just ‘hot’.

    As an aside I’m not writing here from a political slant, I’m writing more to help agents understand how many of the 1.0 ideals they’ve been told are dead, are actually alive and well when used in a fresh and modern way…

    Thanks for sharing your thoughts…

  6. Joel

    November 6, 2008 at 1:43 pm

    Great analysis Benn. Obama’s campaign will surely go down in history as one of the most brilliant uses of technology in politics.

    You forgot one thing though; ‘Catalist’. ( The Obama campaign’s use of a $15-million database. Their use of highly sophisticated data-mining techniques to source likely Obama voters obliterated Hilary in the primaries and ultimately McCain in the general election.

    More here:

  7. Erion Shehaj

    November 6, 2008 at 3:08 pm


    Outstanding perspective! His campaign’s use of technology and most importantly, its avoidance thereof in certain occasions, was simply stunning to me. I just had never read an article than crystalized that thought in such an effective manner.

  8. Mike Mueller

    November 6, 2008 at 7:28 pm

    Joel makes a great point. One thing that slid by was the use of Twitter not being genuine. Yes, he was on twitter but it was not him it was a staffer. Thoughts on that?

  9. Benn Rosales

    November 6, 2008 at 8:08 pm

    I don’t see an issue with that at all, unless it’s a robo tweet. Lani is our media face, and I often suggest the same for others.

    When you look at how they turned their fans into reputation managers, I wouldn’t totally call it fake. The obama staffers also use social media, the key players all the way down to the local players in many cases we’re also using social media – my friend, that’s how it’s done.

    Thanks @Erion it was pretty amazing to observe, you noticed a dip when McCain surged after the RNC, but it was like once they got a message to run with, it was like the flipped a switch.

    I’m still interested in talking about 1.0/2.0 over the politics though.

  10. Brian Tercero

    November 6, 2008 at 9:49 pm

    Very good analysis of the campaign. I was amazed when I saw Obama ads appear pretty much everywhere online. When the ads appeared on, I couldn’t believe it, this guy was everywhere!

    Very powerful campaign, and we keep hearing it over and over, the rules for campaigning have changed. I feel bad for the crew that has to run against Obama in 4 years, they better bring their A game!

    This will open the doors of opportunity for a new generation of campaign managers, and the blueprints Obama laid out can be followed even on the smaller, local political level.

  11. Steve Simon

    November 7, 2008 at 7:16 am

    Benn, I read your posts regularly usually I either enjoy them or am informed by them; this one had assumptions that I disagreed with and so I make a brief comment:
    The campaign efforts being attributed to the man is without substance. That was his campaign staff. Being a young man his familiarity made the acceptance of the route that was taken a bit easier, but that doesn’t mean he was the “Pathfinder”
    The inovations of the tech. for campaign use was smart and certainly does deserve praise; but just who to give the Kudos to remains a little obscure.
    As far as the political aspect (I have a decade in the high backed chairs for personal reference) nothing in this campaign showed an abiltiy to govern.
    There were very questionable associations; there were very vindictive responses to challenges of any type; the message changed for different groups (which plays well in the marketing arena, but will not float in office).
    The use of the internet and the iPhone(s), brilliant. Who’idea to do so? unknown. Who’s implementation? certainly not the man’s (Mr. O). Ability to govern, yet to be seen…
    Just my thoughts:)

  12. Debra Drummond

    November 7, 2008 at 11:32 am

    Regardless of your political persuasion, you can’t help but be impressed by the campaign’s use of social media. Their success forever changed the way campaigns will be conducted.

    Additionally, their efforts serve as notice to real estate agents of the technological shift in our business. Those who don’t dive in, will be left treading water or plain left behind.

  13. laurie ruettimann

    November 7, 2008 at 5:16 pm

    I love how the development continues with and the transition website. If we can reinvent government with social media, maybe we can create an engaged group of citizens in this country!

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