Viewpoint: Adam Cahill, Senior VP-General Manager, Carat Boston
The genius of Barack Obama’s approach to social media throughout the 2008 presidential campaign was that it was never actually about him (to paraphrase from his election night speech).
The goal was not to find an audience to whom advertising could be delivered. The goal was to build a movement — to create a community, to connect individuals to one another and to empower people by giving them the tools to organize and take action.
Now that he’s been elected, Obama has the potential to extend the social-media foundation he built as a candidate and transform it into something even more powerful.
So then, Mr. President Elect, here’s a social-media checklist that could help create the first truly digital White House — and fundamentally change the nature of the public’s relationship with its government along the way.
MyBarackObama.com, the hub of your campaign, becomes MyWhiteHouse.com. Here the public will have direct and unfiltered access to your priorities and positions. But this hub won’t be solely (or even largely) about information sharing. It will be the means by which you enable individuals to organize in their communities to bring your ideas (and ours) to life.
Reach Across the ‘Digital’ Aisle
Today there are hundreds of digital groups that are vehemently anti-Obama. Just as you’ll need to work with Republican politicians, you’ll need to bring these people into the fold. Have your team reach out to these groups, not with the immediate goal of changing their minds, but to demonstrate that their opinions are respected.
Multiple Points of Entry
While MyBarackObama.com was the hub of your campaign’s digital universe, it was by no means the only point of entry. You had a meaningful presence in numerous social networks, from the mainstream to the niche. The same should be true of your presidency: Let the public access the government on their terms, in their preferred environments.
Just as the most progressive brands have begun to co-create products and services with their customers, you ought to use social media as a way to bring the public’s voice to legislative creation and prioritization. Why should voting be restricted to Election Day? Let us “Digg” up the issues we want addressed, making every day an opportunity to “vote.”
Listening, Feedback, and Guidance
Make it easy to submit suggestions and feedback, and make sure you have a staff to respond thoughtfully to these submissions. MyWhiteHouse.com can become a link from the public to the government. Whether people submit queries on an issue as large as global warming or as small as a pothole on their corner, make sure you respond with the information they need to act.
Enable Grassroots Community Service
Your campaign famously created a new model for fundraising: massive amounts of small donations as opposed to small amounts of massive donations. You can now use social media to bring a similar model to community service. Grand programs that require huge time commitments (like Teach for America) will remain important, but there is the opportunity to greatly increase the overall amount of community service if you can enable us to contribute our time in smaller, more frequent ways.
All of this activity will be centered at MyWhiteHouse.com, which could become the “craigslist” of government service. Just as MyBarackObama.com brought individuals together at the local level to work on your behalf, MyWhiteHouse.com will bring individuals and organizations together to work on the country’s behalf. Make this happen and we’ll see Americans begin to help one another in historic numbers.
The great criticism of your candidacy was that “all” you were offering the public was hope. In and of itself, hope is a powerful thing. But if you remain committed to the social web as president, you’ll be able to silence those critics forever, by turning collective hope into collective action.