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Using the web like Obama

Joe Rospars, the new media director of the Obama Presidential campaign spoke at the excellent Labour 2.0 conference last weekend.

He had three lessons for progressives looking to organize on the web.

Build real relationships through content – The web is about getting your message. It’s not just about raising the candidates profile, it’s about showing people what the candidate stands for – he pointed out that not all the videos and content included Obama, much of it was about the message of Hope and Change.

He also cautioned against simply using a website as another channel for press releases and TV ads.  He highlighted that for the Obama campaign written contents was really important. They invested heavily in recruiting people to write for the blog and used it as a space for storytelling the experiences of people linked to the campaign, or who had been inspired for the first time

Put people to work – This was a campaign about inspiring people online to do something off line. The campaign used the web to get people to do the traditional campaigning. They incorporated traditional organising tools into the website, a new approach to an old problem. Obama was originally a community organiser.

For example the web contained details for the phone bank where people could call undecided voters, allowed people to organize (and promote)local events, many of which formal Obama campaign staff had nothing to do with, or use it as a way cheaply distributing resources to field staff. The web was able to lower the barriers to entry for these activities, including many people who hadn’t been involved before.

It wasn’t about the money – The web was about raising money in ways that hadn’t been done before, and using new ways to do this. For example the ‘Dinner with Barack’ fund raising drive, which allowed all those who gave $10  or more to the campaign the opportunity to have dinner with Obama.

More from the conference to come over the next few weeks.

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