Did the Social Media Strategy Playbook Get Lost?

by David Bullock

Apparently, the social media marketing playbook got lost within a year. Folks, we outlined the blueprint as it was happening in 2008 in www.barack20.com.

  1. We did not go with a major publisher.
  2. We did not spend a fortune on advertising.
  3. We used social media just like the typical small to mid-sized business to prove the point that any business could use these new media effectively.

Guess what?  The methodology worked and continues to work. Now it seems that the political world is waking up to the fact the social media is powerful if it is used correctly.

Presidential, Senate and Local Elections: A Different, Closer Look

Doing the same things will yield the same results. The tools are available for use for those who have the foresight to use social media correctly.

Both the Democrat party and the Republican party have recently seen clear victories with social media as the apparent point of leverage. Is that really the case? Or are there other factors beneath the surface that we can uncover with a cross-discipline inspection? Let’s take a look.

2008 Presidential – National Race (Global Reach)

2010 Gubernatorial – Statewide Race (National Reach)

2008 County Election – County Race (Statewide Reach)

The major media and pundits have weighed in with very superficial analysis about the effectiveness of social media.

In the January 19, 2010 Wall Street Journal Article you can read about the large disparity in the number of:

  • Twitter followers
  • Facebook friends
  • YouTube views

And don’t forget about the “under the radar technology”:

Let’s take another look at what happened beneath the surface, away from the social media story that is dominating the landscape.

What elements are critical as any business looks to deploy social media? These political events are most telling because politics is the highest level of conceptual marketing.

Definition: Leadership is an idea that has no form until someone executes an order or creates policy.

Now follow me…

Selling an idea is the first crucial step for any business venture. Selling the idea is the bedrock of sales and persuasion. If you can sell the idea of the product or service, then selling a product or service can naturally follow. The critical path for selling an idea is to make it relevant to your listener.

Listener Relevance Axiom: No one has the time or the energy to deal with or listen to ideas that are not relevant, important and meaningful to one’s own life. We live in a world of information overload. If you are not relevant you will be filtered out and marginalized.

I spent several hours analyzing the messaging and positional setup of the Massachusetts state senate campaign between Brown and Coakley, and a few things became very clear.

Rule 1:  Use All Available Media Channels from the Very Beginning. Should the other opponent not use social media at all, the social media savvy challenger will win. It is therefore not so much that social media “won” the election for the candidate. Social media was used to disseminate the message to a space beyond the market boundaries. This was a statewide race that was promoted to a national market, with complete saturation of the target market and pressure on the local market to pay attention, mobilize and act.

  • In 2008, the Obama Presidential Campaign embraced Social Media from the very beginning – not as an afterthought.

Rule 2:  Create a Short Meaningful Message, Speak It and Let It Work. Having a clear message and establishing a clear position in the marketplace is key to communication (Marketing 101).

  • In 2010, Brown’s message was “This is the people’s seat.”  This powerful language cuts through the clutter of the marketplace and penetrates the mind of the listener. Take note that the Democratic Party had to use this same langauge to rebutt Brown. To make matters worse the message of “this is the people’s seat” came from this video.  Watch it here with Brown first at the 38 second mark.  He uses very powerful language and then pushes forward with data to support his position.

The opponent then had to use the very same language later:

  • Do you see how you can surround your target market by using new media tools?
  • Do you see the powerful use of language and messaging here?

These are the first of many lessons that can be derived from this campaign.

More coming…


We are dusting off the social media playbook that we documented in the 2008 Presidential Campaign in www.Barack20.com. Yep, we have the playbook and we have used our own playbook over the past year.

Here are the media and positional results based on using the strategies mapped out in the “Barack Obama: Social Media Lessons for Business” workbook.

The rules have not changed. The only thing that has changed is the players and the technological environment that continues to exhibit interesting dynamics.

This year will prove to be interesting.  This time we can refer back to over two years of real world experience as we read between the lines and extract the new media lessons for business.



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