Technology is always surprising.  I have no idea whether in 2016 or 2020 Facebook is still going to be what it is.  Maybe it will be even bigger.  Who knows?  Maybe something new will have taken over. 

Go visit a college campus and ask how many people have Snapchat.  You will not find one person who does not have Snapchat.  Is that going to be the case in four years?  I have no idea.  I do know that the overall direction of these technologies is quite clear and is not going to be reversed.  All of them collectively - whether one particular company does a better job getting users than the other - all of them collectively, sort of conspire to give ordinary people more information, more tools, more resources, more ways to connect with each other, more ways to influence conversations. They give us more power and a richer life.  And that’s not going to change.

Whatever technology comes and goes, the ability of a candidate or, for that matter, a brand to connect with people and show the people that they respect them and are about them and want to empower them is going to be increasingly important to the outcome because people aren’t going to tolerate anything less. There’s going to be a competitor who does respect that stuff and who does get that stuff.  

Come 2016, is it conceivable that a candidate who’s a digital luddite wins?  Sure.  But that’s going to be a real disadvantage for them.  Could a candidate win without TV ads?  Perhaps, but that’s going to be a real disadvantage for them. 

That’s only going to be more true in 2020.  And it’s not about tactics.  It’s not about finding the best possible copywriter for Facebook and Tumbler.  That doesn’t hurt.  You should go try to find a really good copywriter, but it’s about something more philosophical than that.  People have a different relationship now to the organizations they care about, in politics, to the brands they care about than they ever had before. 

The thing we used to say on the campaign is that in 2008 if we’d been not local enough, not timely enough, just off our game that wouldn’t have been good and people might have clicked away.  In 2012, they’d click away and Tweet about why they lost confidence in the President.  And that’s a really fundamental difference in terms of the power that people have.  We weren’t just risking losing them if we were off our game.  We were risking losing their entire network. 

That’s only going to become more and more true.  And so again, it's going to be the case that people are going to have more power in 2016 than they had in 2012 and more power in 2020 than they had in 2016.  And the candidates who get that and respect that and try to use that in a positive way rather than trying to play an inside game or trying to pretend like they get that but not without really getting it are going to be the ones that succeed or at least have a big leg up over their competitors. 

In Their Own Words is recorded in Big Think's studio.

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