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Thursday, November 6, 2008

The Anywhere Network powers a new era in political campaigns

[This post also appears under my byline on the Yankee Group blog ]

President-Elect Barack Obama's campaign over the past two years has been historic. But equally as historic has been the transformational force that today's Anywhere Network -- the near-ubiquitous Internet and mobile connectivity we enjoy today -- played in Obama's march to the White House. Consider just some of these contributions that the network made to his election victory:

  • Online contributions. Barack Obama raised more than $600 million in total for his campaign via, the vast majority of which was from more than 3 million Internet contributors. With money the lifeblood of politics, this ability to raise money in small amounts from a large number of contributors will force everyone to rethink political campaign strategies for years to come.
  • Socially-networked organizing. If you consider Obama's net-based fund-raising organization as a Silicon Valley social-networking startup, it went from zero to 700 people and raised more than $200 million in revenue in the 12 months prior to June 2008, according to The Atlantic. And unlike most social-networking companies, this organization is making money -- lots of it.
  • Text message announcements. Remember Obama announcing his vice-presidential pick of Joe Biden by text message? Not only did this initiative mark the campaign as net-savvy, but it also collected hundreds of thousands of phone numbers that could be texted again as the campaign wore on.
  • YouTube videos. The Obama campaign wasn't content to simply load a ton of content onto YouTube and promote it; it created its own branded YouTube Channel at And of course, that YouTube site features a very prominent "Contribute" button as well (see first bullet about money being the lifeblood of politics).
  • Mobile social marketing. The Obama campaign created a compelling mobile web site,, for its volunteers, voters, and donors and carried on the Democratic tradition started by Howard Dean. But the campaign's commitment to its Anywhere constituents broke new ground with mobile applications. As an example, the campaign created an iPhone application distributed through the Apple App Store that encourages an iPhone owner to call people from their address book in battleground states. The application not only suggests calls and logs calls you've made, but it also sends anonymized log data back to campaign headquarters so they can measure their outreach on this channel. The result: the Obama campaign created a viral phone bank army without spending a single dollar on office space, volunteers, or phones.
  • A networked army of Obama workers. The same Atlantic article linked above notes that by June, Obama's social networking provided him with more than 750,000 active volunteers, 8,000 affinity groups, and 30,000 events. To put that in perspective, the Obama campaign manages more employees using its network than the employees of Toyota, General Motors, and Honda put together.
President-Elect Obama's campaign discipline and inspirational messages were the foundation of this 2008 election. But those messages would have fallen flat if no one had heard them. Obama funded, created, and distributed that message to millions of voters using our growing connectivity and did it in ways not thought of just a decade ago. Just as President John F. Kennedy did with television, Obama has transformed both the message and the medium of political campaigning.

Yet, these campaign innovations that touched so many people are just a harbinger of changes we as consumers can expect in the coming five years. Today, the United States is a transforming nation in the $580 billion worldwide Anywhere Economy, with slightly more than one broadband line for every two people. But by the next presidential election in 2012, the connectivity revolution in the US will have passed a new watershed, what we call the Anywhere tipping point of one broadband line per person. Connectivity won't just be frequent then; it will be everywhere.

As Obama's first term of office draws to a close and he runs for re-election in 2012, he will have the opportunity to change the face of politics again. That year, as the networked strategies of this campaign promise, he can and likely will become our first Anywhere president. And that is a change all of us can believe in.

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