RahafHarfoush didn’t show a single photograph of Barack Obama until the veryend of her presentation on social media and the U.S. presidentialcampaign, and it’s not the kind of picture you’d expect. Yes, it wastaken at the victory party, and Obama is standing with his wife’s armsaround him, making a wave. But the image, taken by Harfoush herself asshe stood in the crowd, is surprisingly personal, with Obama’s gazeappearing to make its way through a sea of arms.

“I always feel like he’s looking at me,” Harfoush told the crowd atLac Carling 2009 this week. “It’s like he’s saying, ‘Hey Canada, thanksfor your help with the social media,’ and I’m like, ‘No problem.’”

For all her use of electronic tools to inform, connect to, solicitfrom and share with potential voters, Harfoush has come to realize thepower of the personal. Her book Yes We Did: An Inside Look At How Social Media Built The Obama Brand,was published last week and she offered the government delegates at LacCarling a glimpse similar to the one provided to OCAD a few monthsback, which we covered on ITBusiness.ca.What interested me, however, was how business organizations are tryingto tap into her expertise and their occasionally clumsy attempts toreplicate the presidential campaign’s success.

“I’ll have clients who will say, ‘We want to do everything thatObama did,’” Harfoush said. “This is really no different than all thehard work that goes into any effective marketing campaign.”
Much has been written, for example, of the pioneering use of the MyBOsocial networking platform and its ability to gather donations in smallamounts. Like many others who are embarking on social media, however,Harfoush suggested her team followed the 10/100 rule: that it’s best toengage the small number of highly active users first to make sure theWeb site or social networking service is regularly kept up to date. Shebuilt on that approach, however, by making a concerted effort to thenconvert the low-end users by what she called “hyper-segmenting.”

If you only used MyBO once or twice, for example, you were likely toget an e-mail from the Obama campaign. Not just a generic message, butone that was tailored to the demographic information you had submittedupon registration. This could include information about the party’sstance on local issues and opportunities for direct engagement. Shealso said that every use of social media by the Obama campaign wasdesigned towards some kind of offline activity, whether it meantshowing up at a rally or doing some local canvassing.

I suspect most businesses, if they are using social media at all,are focused on merely encouraging usage and tapping into the crowd as afeedback mechanism. How many IT managers are using social media to“convert” the low end users, much less get them to show up for aface-to-face meeting? Yes, these are challenging objectives. Yes, theObama campaign achieved them. But so could a lot of other social mediapioneers, and they should.

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Jim Love, Chief Content Officer, IT World Canada
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