Campaigning in the Cloud: A retrospective of Obama 2012

By Chris Lee

While social media was a key component of Barack Obama’s 2008 strategy, by the time of his 2012 re-election campaign, the digital landscape was vastly different. It was the first since the iPad’s invention; the first since wireless 4G networks had been introduced; and in 2008 Facebook was an eighth of the size it was in 2012.

The elections were no longer solely about policy and personality: the Obama campaign successfully demonstrated that listening and responding to a social savvy and constantly connected electorate was equally important.

But how did Team Obama gather this information, let alone monitor, analyse and react to it? And what can we learn from their strategy? To find out, NMK caught up with Xabier Ormazabal, product marketing director at Salesforce.com, whose Salesforce Marketing Cloud was behind the Obama social media campaign.

Real-time, data-driven decisions

Given the scale of the Team Obama campaign, sound data management was critical. There were more than 7,000 events and 7.2 million interactions from voters, peaking at 80,000 per day. These were then classified, tagged and organised according to the interests or requests of the correspondents.

As a result, the campaign team was continually in-sync with voters and could work closely and quickly to respond to enquiries, building stronger relationships and those valuable two-way conversations, Ormazabal told NMK.

“In an election where every vote counts, every voice counts. Being able to respond to somebody who might not expect a reply can positively affect the way that person votes,” he explained.

Michael Slaby, chief information and innovation officer for the Obama campaign, attributed the campaign’s success to “a technology platform that allowed us to engage with constituents and make data driven decisions in real time.”

Rapid response

By monitoring the chatter of the electorate, Obama’s team was not only able to swiftly respond to voters, but also adapt internally, tailoring their overall message to fit the focus of the nation, according to Ormazabal.

“In a campaign that lasted over twelve months, issues affecting the campaign were subject to constant change,” he added.” To combat this, volunteers were also granted access to all correspondence through the social platform, allowing them to remotely review and prioritise inquiries for the central campaign team.”

Ormazabal said that real life stories about how the President’s policies had personally affected constituents were submitted into the salesforce.com platform, with staff all over the country able to nominate promising stories for further promotion. One story submitted online by a volunteer was highlighted in President Obama’s speech at the Democratic National Convention.

“There are more than 4.5 billion social network users across the globe, and they are having more than 150 million conversations every day on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and more. But the social revolution is no longer just a consumer movement; it is creating a customer revolution for every business and government agency,” Ormazabal concluded. “Cloud, social and mobile technologies are enabling businesses and government agencies to build their complete social front office.”

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