I resisted the incredible urge to add my voice to the post-election noise for most of yesterday and today, but my perusal of InformationWeek has forced my hand. Mitch Wagner wrote a very good analysis of the president-elect’s pioneering use of Web 2.0 and social-networking technologies. Mitch hailed the election as “the end of the era of television presidency that started with JFK, and the beginning of the Internet presidency.”
Mitch then went on to quote SocialSphere advisor Joe Trippi, which is of course when my ears perked up. Mitch wrote that
Obama used a combination of television, the Internet, and social media to recruit volunteers and supporters, and cement relationships with them. He asked supporters to supply their cell phone numbers, and sent out regular text-message blasts, even announcing his selection for vice president over text message. Using a custom social-networking site, created with the help of a Facebook co-founder, Obama supporters were able to log in and find lists of people they could call, or whose doors they could knock on, to try to persuade others to vote for their candidate.
And it’s only the beginning, said Trippi. That kind of networking will likely transform the White House. Trippi anticipates Obama will create a similar social networking for his legislative initiatives, and recruit supporters to lobby Congress to get his policies enacted into law.
The result will be further increase of presidential power, and erosion of Congressional authority. “Congress will be put between a rock and a hard place, if millions of citizens sign up to help the President pass his agenda,” Trippi said. “If the President says, ‘Here are the members of Congress who stand in the way of us passing healthcare reform,’ I would not want to be one of those people. You’ll have 10 or 15 million networked Americans barging in on the members of Congress telling them to get in line with the program and pass the healthcare reform bill. That will be a power that no American president has had before. Congress’s power will be taken over by the American people.”
Mitch and Joe paint a picture that is at once scary and inspiring. Setting the political implications of a weaker congress aside (this isn’t a political blog, after all), this will—we hope—be a new kind of presidency. But don’t get fooled—BusinessWeek reminds us that Barack wasn’t the first presidential candidate to be good at tech.
The real test will be in how well Barack is able to transform his social media marketing machine into a true engine for change. Don’t get me wrong, we’ve taken the first step toward change by electing him, but his mastery of social media will not be solidified until his social media adoption becomes more than marketing. As Mashable’s Adam Ostrow writes, “How Will President Obama Use His Massive Social Media Influence?” Or as FreshNetworks asks,
How would [the Obama/Biden administration] use social media and online communities to continue to engage with people when they are in power[?] Social media can really help engage people when it provides away for them to have a real exchange about things that matter to them, where they can find out information on things they are interested in, share ideas and thoughts with peers and with politicians, report things to them and feel that they continue to be part of a campaign.
Newsweek cautions us that his road will not be an easy one, and the American public may have to be patient. Keeping us feeling connected is one way to do that, and social media is the way to do it. I hope I’m still getting emails from him two years from now (and maybe tweets too!).