Lessons From Our First “Social Media” President

The enormity of the shift that occurred last night is still sinking in. Feeling the spirit of millions that have been moved and are primed to tap into vision and get behind this new leader was certainly profound. Ironically, it wasn’t until I saw a man in a live TV shot last night whom I’ve had zero affinity for in the past — the Reverend Jesse Jackson — shedding tears in Chicago’s Grant Park in the midst of tens of thousands of others, did it sink in how amazing this was for the African-American community.

Not that I’ve been unaware of Obama’s black 50%, but it’s been totally irrelevant since I, like more of us than ever before, realize that we’re all connected and in this together. What’s mattered to me is his vision, my belief in his intention for change, his certain inclusion of everyone, a refreshing intelligence, and the world-class thought leaders he’s already brought close to him as he crafts strategy.

What will be hyper-analyzed over the next several months, however, is that the Obama campaign leveraged the internet, tapped into the social media zeitgeist, and engaged with people in ways never before possible (and because so many of us are already connected with social media), and there are key lessons here for every company, organization, movement or individual wanting to sell, build brands, move an agenda forward, or build an ecosystem.

Observing and experiencing the Obama campaign’s use of social media over the last couple of years often made me break into a grin when I realized that they were methodically engaged in and hitting nearly every leading social media touchpoint where a potential voter, donator, or volunteer might be connected. Of course, they did this in addition to all the mainstream media which they couldn’t afford to ignore, and the result was unprecedented connection with the people.

The Obama presence on these various social networking and media sites were key to his victory: from Facebook and Myspace; to YouTube, Flickr, Digg, Twitter, Eventful, LinkedIn, BlackPlanet, Faithbase, Eons, Glee, MiGente, MyBatanga, AsianAve and their own well done (and deep) website, the authenticity, steadiness, transparency and values of Barack Obama were easily telegraphed to anyone willing to connect with his campaign.

Though I personally took in opinions, facts and intentions on both the McCain and Obama sides from a variety of “right” and “left” sources (as I mention in this post), Obama was so overwhelmingly obvious that he was what the USA needed now that I couldn’t help but be a strategist for Obama, in no small part due to how easy his campaign made it for me.

One way I was connected to the campaign was with the Obama campaign iPhone application. Besides the fact that it never crashed (which I can’t say for alot of iPhone apps…including one I use daily from The New York Times), it really kept me connected and abreast of what was transpiring in his campaign.

Even though the election results were in and it was clear he was our choice, I found an email in my inbox late last night which, curiously, made me smile again as I realized that his campaign was keeping the ‘conversation’ alive when they clearly didn’t have to:

Friend —

I’m about to head to Grant Park to talk to everyone gathered there, but I wanted to write to you first.

We just made history.

And I don’t want you to forget how we did it.

You made history every single day during this campaign — every day you knocked on doors, made a donation, or talked to your family, friends, and neighbors about why you believe it’s time for change.

I want to thank all of you who gave your time, talent, and passion to this campaign.

We have a lot of work to do to get our country back on track, and I’ll be in touch soon about what comes next.

But I want to be very clear about one thing…

All of this happened because of you.

Thank you,


Not “President-elect Barack Obama” or “Barack Obama” but rather a personal connection from this guy named Barack, not all fluffed up with faux importance and the abstraction that comes from most leaders who surround themselves with pomp and circumstance. Instead, his message stayed real and authentic while keeping the connection alive.

The lesson for you here is clear: connect and converse with people. Do so with your best intentions and no tricks or pretension. In the same way you can’t let a friendship wane and then call on that friend in your time of need and expect them to be there for you, don’t let the social media conversation wane once you’ve achieved your desired outcome.

One hope I hold is this and is my message for our new President-elect: Don’t stop the conversation. Find ways to get the masses to sign up for alerts and notifications from you once you’re sworn in. If you truly ask the American people to sacrifice, to read or view some content your Administration has created, or you see something we can fix if we all do it together, continue to leverage social media. You’ll continue to connect with the generation that will take over this nation when you and I are long gone.

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About Steve Borsch

Strategist. Learner. Idea Guy. Salesman. Connector of Dots. Friend. Husband & Dad. CEO. Janitor. More here.

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Podcasting hit the mainstream in July of 2005 when Apple added podcast show support within iTunes. I'd seen this coming so started podcasting in May of 2005 and kept going until August of 2007. Unfortunately was never 'discovered' by national broadcasters, but made a delightfully large number of connections with people all over the world because of these shows. Click here to view the archive of my podcast posts.