By James Chan

Yesterday in class, we said anyone can use social media, but only some use it well. And that is what made President Barack Obama’s campaign so successful. He knew how to use social media to his advantage.

Using Surrogates

In politics, we often talk about having surrogates in a campaign. For instance, Barack Obama was not the clear contender in the 2008 election for the Democratic nomination. However, he started to have party leaders endorse him for the nomination, which eventually put him above Hillary Clinton, who was the originally presumed nominee. This same strategy could be used in a political campaign on social media. People often say Barack Obama got one of his first high endorsements from Oprah, which put him in the spotlight. The strategy is to use other individuals or organizations with high name recognition to showcase you. For example, that’s how Wendy Davis became a national star. Even President Obama and high profile organizations, like Planned Parenthood tweeted about her filibuster. By the end of that night, everyone in the Democratic Party knew who Wendy Davis was.

digital activism

Engaging Your Audience After the Election 

Most of the time, people think of using social media to win an election. But, it’s important to use social media well to keep your followers engaged. There’s no better politician that does this than President Obama. Even after the election, the POTUS knew he had to have an engaged audience to be able to implement his change while he was in office. He held different events like Townhall events on Twitter and LinkedIn to keep his followers engaged. He kept his followers engaged on Facebook during important events like the ACA fight and the Shutdown fight.

Wendy Davis also did this well. After her filibuster, everyone wanted to know what her future plans were and most encouraged her to run for governor. When she finally decided but didn’t announce her plans officially, she engaged her enthusiastic followers by asking them to sign up to be the first ones to know her plans. In a matter of weeks, she fundraised tons of money from across the country and amassed a huge following on Facebook and Twitter. Continuing the conversation about using surrogates from above, she was able to increase her reach by using nationally recognized progressive organizations to spread her word, like the Democratic Governors  Association, Emily’s List, and Planned Parenthood.

The ability to have a huge online presence is important. However, the ability to engage your followers and mobilize them is extremely important to winning elections and further your agenda.