The world of presidential Internet campaigns is new and largely uncharted. Unfortunately, some of the lessons will be learned the hard wayâ€”like Senator Barack Obama’s campaign learned this week.
It all started three years ago when an Obama fan, Joe Anthony, created a MySpace page for the then-candidate. The Senator’s presidential campaign team came across the profile and, with Joe’s cooperation, made it into the “unofficial” MySpace page for the campaign. The page amassed more than 160,000 friends, making Obama’s far and away the most popular of all the presidential candidates’ profiles.
But the site soon became unwieldy to maintain. Joe found maintaining it to be a large draw on his time, even though he’d given the campaign access to the page. He did what most Americans would do in the situationâ€”ask for money. But not just a little money. According to the Wall Street Journal, he asked for $39,000 for the time and effort he’d put into the site over the years.
The Obama campaign didn’t want to fork over the cash. Joe changed the site’s password. The Obama campaign appealed to the MySpace powers that be.
What did MySpace do? It sounds like they cut the baby in halfâ€”the Obama campaign received the name of the profile, but had to start over with their friends (TechPresident has them numbering 25,000 now). Joe received a blank profile with 150,000+ friends, according to his personal MySpace page. Oh, and an apologetic phone call from Obama himself. (Joe explains that this certainly isn’t Obama’s fault, but his campaign didn’t handle it terribly well, either.)
I think the thing that probably most concerns me is this quotation in the WSJ article:
“We’re flying by the seat of our pants and establishing new ways of doing things every day,” Joe Rospars, Mr. Obama’s new media director, said online. “We’re going to try new things, and sometimes it’s going to work, and sometimes it’s not going to work.”
In the long run, it’s doubtful that this will hurt the campaign. Anything that gets a candidate’s name in the press might be considered a net positive. Still, I think I know where they might find one or two people who have tried these “things” before and have learned a few things about what works for Internet campaigns and online reputation management…