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Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Online and Viral Marketing: A National Tutorial

The moment I realized our country was witnessing it's first, honest to goodness, online campaign of a presidential candidate? My blogging, facebooking, YouTubing, web surfing little heart started going pitter patter from the excitement of it all.

I spend a lot of time talking to small business owners, trying to convince them of the value of the internet, the importance of creating a web presence and the necessity of staying up to date with what's going on online. Being on the internet is not a new thing, it's not a geek thing, it's not an only for young people thing: Its the future. It's the evolution of marketing. I think Barack Obama's campaign was a national tutorial that made very clear the importance of embracing technology now, not later.

At this point there seems to be a consensus in the media by both his supporters and detractors that when it came to the web, Barack Obama mastered online marketing leaving both of his toughest competitors, Senator Clinton and Senator McCain, wondering what just happened. How did he pull ahead so quickly? Seemingly effortlessly at times? Part of the answer is that Obama used the internet to reach out to, and connect with, a specific group of potential voters.

When Obama's numbers approached then began passing Senator Clinton's in the primaries was when I first really took notice. That initial pique of my curiosity became a full blown obsession the day he announced he would be using text messaging to inform his supporters of his VP pick... That was truly the moment I realized he had a tremendous edge over his competition. Why? It's as simple as this: Early on Obama realized that the internet was a medium that up until his campaign had never been fully utilized by any politician in the past.

A week ago Bloomberg said: "For almost two years, Obama, 47, has dominated the politics of the Internet, where his YouTube videos have been watched 90 million times, his social-networking site has recruited 8 million volunteers and he has more than 2 million supporters on Facebook." (His Facebook page now has over 3 million supporters.)

Another key point to consider: Some of Obama's most successful online marketing was not initiated by Obama or his campaign. His supporters used viral marketing to further his cause. The "Yes We Can" music video, created by a supporter, then posted by multiple users on YouTube, became a quintessential online sensation and has been viewed more then 23 million times. Many like myself, heard about it on tv, went to YouTube out of curiosity and entered "yes we can" into the search box then clicked "play." That is the power of viral marketing.

His use of social networking websites like Facebook, Twitter and Youtube (which are free services) was pretty darn brilliant. And don't forget or underestimate yourself: These are tools you can also use to market your own company. 

So if you are a small business owner and are asking yourself "Do I need to update my website" or "Why should I make time for a blog?" Or if you are wondering if you need a Facebook profile or think that Twitter and tweets are for the birds... This is a pretty stunning example of what happens if you don't participate online but your competition does. They will, with the right marketing plan, gain a tremendous advantage over you. It doesn't matter how long you've been around or how impressive your credentials are. What matters most is connecting with the public and using your web presence to show them who you are, what you have to offer and why they should become a client, supporter or fan.

CNN: Obama launches Web site to reach public

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