Still Fuzzy On Social Networking? Consult The Obama Team

Speaking before hundreds of small business owners Thursday, directors at Google and Facebook highlighted Barack Obama's online media campaign during the 2008 election to explain how organizations can participate in, and influence, conversations taking place on the internet. So what's so strange about that?

In a presentation to members of the Irish Internet Association (IIA) at their annual Internet Congress, Ronan Harris, Google's Director of EMEA Online Sales, said that a combination of paid advertising, viral video and online wikis helped Obama's new media division get a "ridiculously high return on investment" from its usage of Google tools and applications.

"They were constantly analyzing and looking at the data streams from interactions with potential voters then tweaking their presence in real time to make sure that they were connecting," Harris said.

In addition to Google Ads, Harris said, Obama implemented Google Docs, an online service for sharing and collaboration, to interact with and organize volunteers on the street who were directly speaking with potential voters.

The FCC reported that in 2008 Barack Obama spent $7.5 million of his $16 million online advertising budget on the Google advertising network. John McCain, Obama's Republican opponent, spent a small fraction of that, around $3.6 million. "McCain got it, but he got it further along the process and he was just sort of playing catch up," said keynote speaker Colm Long, Facebook's Director of Online Operations. "[Obama] and his media team were very smart at using and leveraging online to get to a demographic that other people just weren't getting to."

The campaign spent just 4% advertising budget on Facebook - $643,000 - but saw real value from the Barack Obama page, a free service on the social network which today has over 6 million fans.

Obama leveraged rich media as well and Harris specifically mentioned the "A More Perfect Union" speech, given to address the issue of race and politics in America, as a way the campaign was able to more effectively advance its message.The video has been seen over 6 million times on YouTube.

The context for yesterday's comments was focused around how companies can conduct "better business online in a tough economy." Harris and Long were chosen to speak about monitoring and marketing, respectively, and how Google Analytics and Facebook's suite of marketing products - Ads, Pages, Connect and Applications - can be used.

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