Sunday, November 16, 2008

Obama, McCain and Third-Party Campaign Sites

The 2008 Presidential election was historic in many ways. The most obvious being the election of the first African-American to be leader of the free world (Barack Obama in case you hadn't heard). This election will also be remembered by history because of the revolutionary way Barack Obama used the internet as a tool for organization and communication.

In my Digital Influence class we recently looked at some of the effective strategies that the Obama campaign employed on their web site. My research shows that the Obama campaign's work on third party sites was monumental as well. Let's look at YouTube as an example:

Barack Obama's YouTube channel, had a huge presence receiving a lot of attention and notable milestones:

32nd most viewed YouTube channel of all time.
34th most subscribed YouTube channel of all time.

By comparison John McCain's YouTube channel, didn't even crack the top 100 in either of these categories.

There is also a clear difference in the degree to which each campaign used YouTube.

The McCain campaign posted 330 videos. Of those only three were viewed more than 1,000,000 times. His most popular video "Celeb" pulled in 2,200,000+ views.

On the other hand, Obama published 1,823 videos (clearly very active) and as of this writing has 12 videos with 1,000,000 views or more. His most watched video "Obama Speech: 'A More Perfect Union'" was viewed nearly five and a half million times (5,440,000).

The Obama campaign was clearly in tune with how to use the internet, whereas the McCain campaign was not. The numbers show that McCain didn't get as much attention on YouTube as Obama did. This may be due to the fact that McCain didn't have the same amount of public excitement around his campaign. However, this doesn't seem to be the case. Another glaring example of third party site use was the difference in each campaign's use of Twitter on election day.

On election day I visited Twitter's Election 2008 page. The Twitter Election 2008 page shows the feeds from each campaign at the top of the page and allows users to post their own personal campaign related "tweet". Here is a screen shot of the top of the page from election day:

In his tweet Obama asked supporters to vote for him and provided information on how to find one's polling place. McCain on the other hand provided a link to an article on his web site that attacked a pundit. A check of McCain's direct Twitter feed shows the tweet in question was posted on October 24th, a week and a half before election day.

McCain's Twitter feed didn't lose the election for him but his cash strapped, unenthusiastic campaign missed opportunities to reach potential voters and motivate existing supporters with free third party sites. According to David Burch of TubeMogul Obama earned 14,548,809.05 hours of free video time on YouTube (length of each video x views). In the same article Joe Trippi estimated that if the Obama campaign had tried to purchase that much TV advertising it would have cost about $46,893,000.

The internet is changing the way elections are being run. Had McCain made better use of the free online resources available to him he may have had a fighting chance.

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