So one of the questions that everyone likes to ask or write about is why didn't Senator McCain's team embrace social networking? My answer is, well we did but we were challenged by money, people resources, and our own supporters.
First a little disclosure. It is no secret that I am not a believer in using social networking sites for PAID online advertising. That's especially true for MySpace which is where I believe good advertisers go to die, especially if they do direct deals with them. Facebook, I have a little more faith in, but I am hard pressed to recommend them for advertising too. YouTube I love and I've run campaigns there; I especially love YouTube because they are powered by Google which always makes me happy. So, standard display advertising is a waste of money on most social networking sites, but I do (and did) believe they are critical for involving supporters and pushing CRM messages. OK, so what do I think happened. Three things....
- No Money - as much as social networking costs next to nothing when compared with advertising, it still costs money to develop widgets and content. When compared with Senator Obama, we were at a significant disadvantage.
- No People - social networking done correctly needs people to do the outreach. Unofficially I've heard that Senator Obama's eCampaign totaled around 95 and Senator McCain's totaled around 15. At that level of disparity you have to make choices by prioritizing items.
- Different Supporters - While I believe there were quite a number of people that supported Senator McCain that would spontaneously create videos, Senator Obama as well as Congressman Ron Paul had a much larger pool of people that would create content. Here's a screen shot of videos when you search on YouTube for Barack Obama and John McCain (filtered out crap). Other than "Dear Mr. Obama" and "Obama's Citizenship Problem" the number of positive McCain supporter videos are nowhere to be found and even if they were further do on the list, they would not have nearly as many video views. Heck, even our best professional fan video - Raisin' McCain by John Rich only generated 152,000 views.
McCain's team had a Facebook page and we pushed messaging through it added widgets, and had 600K+ supporters. To put that in perspective, we had 3.85 times as many supporters as Hillary Clinton. Yes, Obama was a monster when it came to Facebook but then again you could argue he had inside help to get him started. We did some advertising in Facebook and for a very small micro-target it performed great, but didn't scale.
We used YouTube from the very beginning. When the campaign imploded during the Primary season we had to use YouTube to push out video ads. Web videos was a key strategy for us especially before we won New Hampshire.
The blogosphere was also very important but it was a tough row to hoe prior to wrapping up the nomination and then it took some time after that. The vast majority of Republican blogs are very conservative writers and those are our activists. It was BRUTAL during the Primary season. Town Hall bloggers were rough, Michelle Malkin, RedState, Race42008, and so on. I should know because I monitored posts. I made comments. I reached out to bloggers. I mixed it up with people. I interacted with Mitt Romney's army of supporters and took on Ron Paul's zealots. Town Hall's Hugh Hewitt DROVE ME FRIGGIN CRAZY and years later I still find it difficult to read his posts.
I marshalled bloggers to help John McCain win TechCrunch's Tech President endorsement. Heck, who do you think put John McCain's SecondLife together just in case? If you were one of my Twitter followers in the last month of the campaign you saw campaign posts from the Daily Briefing. We pushed out widgets, video contests, tried donation gathering from MySpace, Yahoo! Answers, MySpace Townhall, etc and etc.
So when people say John McCain's team wasn't social, they are wrong. We were very social. Did we run into the greatest use of social networking marketing in the history of the internet in the form of Barack Obama? YES.
If we were more social would we have won the election? No. We still had to deal withan unpopular President, the economy, and money problems. Senator McCain's eCampaign Team was VERY SOCIAL and any marketer should be jealous of what we accomplished; that is unless you were on Senator Obama's campaign.