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Online Campaigning by the Obama Campaign

The final speaker in this ECREA 2010 session is Sabine Baumann, whose interest is in online grassroots campaigning especially in the past US presidential election. There, of course, to win a candidate not only needs votes, but campaign funding in the first place, and the Obama campaign was exceptionally successful in attracting campaign contributions (collecting twice as much money as John McCain, mainly from small donations under US$200).

Spending figures are also interesting in this regard – McCain spent some US$4.6m on Internet campaigning, Obama spent a whopping US$24m. The Obama campaign Website also prominently displayed its donation and online merchandise functionality, of course; the online store was hugely successful, in fact (offering campaign clothing and art from notable designers and artists).

Additionally, the Obama site was also an important tool for collecting information on voters, especially their online and mobile phone details; the announcement that Joe Biden would be the running mate was also made via SMS to registered supporters, in fact. Indeed, Obama was everywhere online – on Facebook, MySpace, Twitter, YouTube, Flickr, and all other major social media sites, and even on his own social media network, MyBO was a tool for enabling supporters to organise local events as well as for pushing campaign information and materials out to voters.

Such activities also continued past the election campaign itself – the transitional site similarly included interactive features, enabling users to provide feedback on where they saw a need for political change, and the new White House site continues some of that functionality. That said, these sites have been far less successful than the original MyBO site, partially also for other reasons like the various current crises, of course.