“Yes We Did” gives lessons for all in using social media from the game-changing 2008 Presidential campaign of Barack Obama

By Jean Latz Griffin

When a political campaign changes an industry as dramatically as the Obama Presidential campaign changed political marketing in 2008, you can be sure a lot will be written about how it happened. Analyses started even before the election was over and won’t stop for a long time. YesWeDidCover

One of the most recent books on the topic, “Yes We Did: An Inside Look at How Social Media Built the Obama Brand,” written by Rahaf Harfoush, research coordinator for “Wikinomics,” and a contributor to “Grown Up Digital,” is a welcome addition.

Harfoush, first a supporter of Hillary Clinton, joined the New Media department of the Barack Obama campaign as a volunteer in June of 2008. She writes of her excitement on her first day, “I was taken aback by the size of the operation. The campaign took up an entire floor of the building.”

That insider status of working within the campaign gave her a minute-to-minute look at what happened, why crucial online choices were made at many of the turning points of the Obama campaign and what one can learn from them.

For example, when it became clear that Obama was going to win the Democratic nomination, the word went out that every avenue of online communication had to be supportive of Hillary Clinton and welcoming to her followers.

The Obama campaign “led by example,” Harfoush writes, “showing the online community how to act rather than just telling them,” by encouraging online members to send positive messages to the Clinton campaign and by posting many of the messages on the campaign’s official blog.

Campaign blogger Christopher Hass wrote:

We’ve seen Obama supporters expressing their admiration for Senator Clinton, Clinton supporters declaring their support in the general election for Barack, and people on both sides taking pause to acknowledge the historic nature of this seventeen-month contest.

“Yes We Did” (New Riders/Peachpit Press, 2009) also focuses on the success the campaign had in translating online strategies into offline, real world political activity, including knocking on doors and showing up for rallies.

The structure of the 200-page book would make it useful as a college textbook, a resource for campaigns who want to learn how to best use  social networks, or a darn good read for anyone interested in politics, President Obama, marketing or how technology changes a society just as the society is creating new technologies.

Each chapter ends with a list of “Social Media Lessons” and explanations of how they were used in the Obama campaign and why they are important.

Some are quite specific to political campaigns. The lessons in the chapter “The Road to Denver,” for example, are The Power of Small Asks, Let Your Advocates Support You, Lead by Example, and Deputize the Willing.

In many cases, however, the information in the book would be as helpful for someone trying to market their company or sell their books as it would be for a political campaign. The chapter on video, for example, focuses on the following techniques that were used in the campaign: Build a History, Speak Directly to Consumers, Keep Videos Short and Sweet, and Share Your Content.

The full-color book has photos and quotes from many people involved in the campaign – graphic designers, blog editors, and interns.

As befits a book dealing with new technology, anyone who buys the book gets free online access to a searchable version for 45 days with a code inside the book. There is also a regular index for determined printophiles.

Book launch is June 4 in Toronto.

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About jeanlatzgriffin

Jean Latz Griffin is the owner of CyberINK, a small business that produces quirky skeleton-themed products. She has finished the first draft of a historical fantasy and received comments from her agent. She has turned to Orson Scott Card for tips on the second draft. She is author of "In the Same Breath," and "One Spirit: A Creation Story for the 21st Century." She has a certificate in creative writing from the University of Chicago's Writers Studio. Griffin is a member of the growing community of former Chicago Tribune reporters, enjoys Weekend Writing Warriors and the Story Studio in Chicago. Her Sheltie, Thunder, likes to "type" on her computer keys, and Dr Wu, a Weimaraner, likes to lick her ear when she is trying to think. Her husband passed in June of 2011. Her three fabulous grown sons live nearby. She plays violin in an amateur string orchestra.

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