The Long & Winding Road: 2 things SM might learn from Obama v Romney

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I am no political hack nor would I ever want to be, there are enough people who think I am nuts as it is! For you guys in the USA, today is the day, the day you have been dreading/longing for over the past year …especially this last year.

Four years ago the Obama campaign stole a march on the opposition by mobilising an immense and vocal social media army. In a matter of weeks the democratic party ranks were swelled with new blood, energy and excitement. Far be it from me to say, they may well have been searching for that impetus ever since but it is clear that the social media behemoth that served so well in 2008 is a more refined and savvy beast in 2012.

The sheer numbers of participants each campaign has following and engaging with them is vast….hold on, back up….. engaging? Are they really engaging in the way we think they are? True, for both campaigns the numbers are there for all to see but that does not tell the whole story, it may prove not to tell any story at all, we will know in about another few hours.

Having spent 9 very enjoyable and interesting years living in the US, I am naturally drawn to news items and general day to day life events which take place or effect the US. Every day I trawl through great swathes of news items across a wide range of topics, looking for connections and ideas which might help illuminate the way. Much of what I write about each week is derived from something I have seen over the past week, or something I have been watching for a longer time. Today falls in to the latter category.

The social media experience this past year has been gathering momentum, like all good campaigns, as we enter the final stretch.
This is the first thing we might learn after today; being engaged in social media campaigns does not constitute a ‘result’.

Having one million people watching your YouTube video message does not mean that one million people agree with you and will do what you want them to do. Neither is the reverse true. So why all the effort? Well, as with all mass communication processes, the idea is to get your message out to the greatest number of people as possible in such a way that you can control the message.
Video has to be the most refined way of achieving this.Most of our communication is body language so video is a ‘no-brainer’!

Sometimes we see people preaching to the converted, driving home points which have already been made, hanging desperately on to the past and venting..and then we have the folks pledging allegiance to the candidates!!! Seriously though , we have to be careful to differentiate our social media analytics, yes they tell us when and where but not whether the message was received and understood. We still need to be masters of hindsight to fully evaluate our campaigns, as in the next few weeks the aforementioned candidates for President will do the same.
They say that these things are all about ‘winning the hearts and minds’ of people and in this trigger happy SoLoMo environment we live in it is hasty to assume that a response has been thought through and considered.

Second point we might learn after today; whatever the result , social media will be the most effective tool to re-engage and educate ALL people regardless of their political affiliations.

What is the very first thing the ‘new’ President will do once the results are final and a winner is announced? He will go on TV and the Internet, probably YouTube, and make a speech assuring everyone that they are ALL in this together and that he is there for ALL…. the power of video!

Again, as with any campaign being deployed in the marketplace , once the finish line has been crossed the success is really not in the crossing of the line but in the work done once the race officials have gone home.We have to focus on our quality messages and our efforts to educate definitely but we also need to react and cater for new ideas and respond to feedback. Social media, so far in this campaign, has been extensively used to send messages out, to whip up excitement and to sew the seeds of doubt in opposing camps. Both candidates have used the social platforms to test ideas, to look for ‘hot spots’ in public opinion but mostly for the purposes of getting an advantage in the race. When all is done they need to use those same platforms to educate and communicate across boundaries. The swapping of ideas and thoughts will be the legacy of the campaign, in this Presidential campaign and in your next marketing campaign as it is this part of the process which determines the success we all crave.

My hope is that after all is finished, social media will have truly ‘come of age’ in the sense that it will have finally demonstrated that not only is it ubiquitous but that it is essential.

see you on the long and winding road…….. Patrick

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