Today was a good day. At four o’clock this morning our time the polls closed on the west coast of America and exit polls led to the networks calling the Presidency for Obama. What’s phenomenal about Obama is that he came from practically nowhere two years ago, and despite running against established rivals – first Hillary Clinton and John Edwards, and then John McCain – managed to not just take the White House, but surfed into it on a landslide. Obviously psephology is phenomenally complex, but one thing is clear: Obama used technology to motivate his base and get the vote out. But just how did he do it? Here are five uses of technology that helped win it.
1) Facebook – Obama made a splash initially by appealing to young voters, who were typically apathetic good-for-nothings. Unlike his rivals, Obama was ‘down wid da kidz’ from the beginning, becoming one of the most popular celebrities on Facebook, with over 2.5m supporters. This provides Obama with a direct line to them – his campaign had been sending out daily messages to everyone’s Facebook to get the message out and motivate supporters.
2) Twitter/UStream – Okay, so this may not have been as pivotal as Facebook, but @barackobama‘s 120,000-odd followers got regular updates on where he was and were regularly provided with links to watch rallies being streamed live over the internet.
3) YouTube – Obama’s base could be described as the “YouTube generation”, and thanks to the magic of modern technology, all of the major events from the campaign can be found on YouTube (apart from Daily Show and Colbert Report appearances, grumble, grumble). Obama’s big speech on race has been viewed over 5 million times on the site, which is more than the combined cable news audience who watched it. Similarly, YouTube has become a campaigning tool for more grass roots support, with one music video putting an Obama speech to music has had over 11 million views. And these are just two small examples.
4) Joe Biden text – Rather than announce his running mate in the traditional way, Obama tried to eschew the old media route and instead urged people to sign up for a text alert to be the “first to know” who Obama has picked. Millions of people signed up to receive this. Admittedly, when Obama finally picked Biden it was leaked to the press early resulting in the need to bulk-text millions of Americans in the early hours of the morning, but I doubt the Obama campaign were complaining about all of those phone numbers of voters they’d harvested.
5) Not being technologically inept – Poor old John McCain is rubbish at using computers and technology, whereas Obama was pictured many times tapping away on his Blackberry – a sure sign that a candidate is modern and has his finger on the pulse. Did Americans really want a man with his finger on the nuclear button if he didn’t really know how to work the machine?