Web 2.0 and Campaign Contributions
The Obama ’08 campaign used their Web 2.0 and social media strategy to
break all previous records for online fundraising. By the time it was all done,
they brought in a record amount of nearly $ 750 million for Senator Obama’s
presidential campaign, exceeding what all of the candidates combined col-
lected in private donations in the 2004 election (Luo 2008). So what socio-
technical factors enabled this record-breaking achievement? One key factor
was the persistent and personalized e-mails. The Obama ’08 campaign was
able to generate exceptionally timely and personalized e-mails. These e-mails
would be sent with a variety of signatures, ranging from David Plouffe, the
campaign manager, to Valerie Jarrett, John Podesta, Michelle Obama, and

of course the candidate himself, Barack Obama. These personalized e-mails
would often come right before or right after a key event and were designed
to make the constituency feel as if they were ”there,” as if they were an
”insider,” and personally ”close” to the candidate. Each of these messages
always included a very large and bright red ”Please Donate” button. As we
discussed in our conceptual framework, there was no hesitation on the part
of the campaign in asking for financial support.
Many of these e-mail requests for donations included ”special offers”
(e.g., if you donated more than $ 50 at that time, you would receive special
Obama ’08 items, such as a fleece jacket). These features also contributed
to the feeling of being an ”insider” in the campaign. Shea and Burton
(2006) say that in the information age candidates cannot rely on personal
relations alone; we found out that the Obama ’08 campaign e-mails felt per-
sonal to the constituency. There were reports of complaints that suggested
supporting Obama was taking a heavy toll on people’s inboxes (Rolph
2008); some argue that ” . . . the flurry of fundraising e-mails had some sub-
scribers pleading for a break from the solicitations and raised questions about
whether Obama has figured out how to harness the power of his online net-
work once in the White House.” (Vogel 2008).
Finally, as Gueorguieva (2008) argues, controlling the candidate’s image
was challenging thanks to the capacity people have to create their own con-
tent in Web 2.0 technologies. The Obama ’08 campaign hit fundraising ”hard
times,” several times, especially as the McCain-Palin team started to gain trac-
tion with the Republican base, aided by Web 2.0 tools. For example, several
”rumors” that persisted about candidate Obama were stoked by e-mail-
campaigns generated by his opponents. One particularly illustrative instance
of these viral email campaigns was a video capturing negative outbursts at
rallies, which was uploded to YouTube and spread quickly across the
web. The strategy backfired, and perhaps more infectious were the spoofs
of these events and of opponents’ numerous press conferences and inter-
views gaffes that were captured on comedy shows like Saturday Night Live
and then spread through YouTube and other social media. While these were
of course not sanctioned by the Obama ’08 campaign, they nonetheless had
an important impact on blunting criticism of the candidate.

Beyond the Campaign: The Networked Nation
Our final research question asks whether the Obama campaign helped to
facilitate an ongoing social movement that will influence his administration
and governance. Our conceptual framework suggests that when several
key elements converge, there is both the motivation to participate in a
new social movement as well as the organizational capacity to harness that
motivation. On the one hand, these key elements include capitalizing on a
sense of ”identity,” whether that is generated by gender, race=ethnicity,

culture, or social class. Through politics, ideology and culture transform into
social action. This transformation is aided by lifestyle choices that encourage
activists to live the ”private” life more in public, which has become a near
mantra of Web 2.0 technologies. On the other hand, the organizational
capacity and the ability to harness the resources that are mobilized by the
increased energy and attention generated toward social action must be
present. From this perspective, our findings suggest that a new social move-
ment was formed out of the Obama ’08 campaign. This finding is supported
by a recent book by John Heilemann and Mark Halperin, Game Change:
Obama and the Clintons, McCain and Palin, and the Race of a Lifetime
(2010). In describing a dilemma faced by the struggling primary campaign
of Senator Hillary Clinton, they report, ”she worried that Obama seemed
to be building some kind of movement in the cornfields. ‘Movement’ was
the word [Hillary] kept hearing from Maggie Williams, who told her it was
easy to run against a man, but devilishly hard to run against a cause.”
(2010, p. 152) However motivated the movement generated by the Obama
’08 campaign was, the question remained as to whether it would meet
a second test of sustainability. Thus far, the movement’s role in the
Sotomayor Supreme Court nomination and the historic health care reform
would suggest yes.
The paper finds that the Obama campaign was able to use Web 2.0 and
social media tools together into a coherent nationwide virtual organization,
which motivated 3.1 million individual contributors to contribute significant
amounts of money and to mobilize a grassroots movement of more than 5
million volunteers. Clearly, the Obama campaign utilized these tools to go
beyond educating the public and raising money to mobilizing the ground
game, enhancing political participation, and getting out the vote. The exten-
sive use of these tools also raises significant national security and privacy
The Obama network was capable of establishing and reproducing
relationships that were usable whether by fundraising or volunteering. This
network allowed the campaign to interact with people in a different way
(Greengard 2009). Also, these tools suggest two possible long-term develop-
ments. Following Putnam (1995) we could see ”networks of civic engage-
ment [that] embody past success at collaboration which can serve as a
cultural template for future collaboration,” or we could see the fading away
and withdrawal of resources and engagement.
Finally, the Obama-Biden transition team utilized many of the strategies
used in the campaign and developed even more to facilitate the transition
team and continue their attempt to transform political participation and civic
engagement to influence their own administration and Democratic Congress.
Since the inauguration, this network has been mobilized on a number of
occasions to support the public policy agenda of the new administration
(e.g., stimulus package, Sotomayor nomination, health care reform).

Obama’s enormous online constituency of 13 million constitutes a major

political asset (Borins 2009). Borins (2009) predicted that ”the most signifi-
cant use of the political constituency, however, could be for pushing legis-
lation through Congress,” and in fact it has been so, with the nomination
of Judge Sotomayor and health care legislation.
Thus far, there is substantial evidence that the networked nominee is
transforming government to lead the networked nation we predict. For
example, after the election but before the inauguration, the Obama-Biden
transition team adopted nearly all of the Obama ’08 strategies to aid in the
planning and execution of the transition into the White House. The same
type of targeted e-mail used in the campaign, which integrates Web 2.0 tools
such as video and social media, was used to start a dialog about the health
care system and to motivate activists to support the plan and process for
the massive health care legislation that subsequently made history with its
passage. We would argue that this landmark legislative reform was in no
small part due to the continued use of these Web 2.0 tools in the President
Obama’s ”networked nation.”
For the transition, they changed the approach to include not only
Obama supporters but the whole nation, according to a report by Vogel
(2008). ”In the campaign,” he said, ”we had a relationship between Barack
Obama and a whole lot of people who supported him and his policies
and his ideas and his vision for the country. When he becomes president,
he needs to be president of all the people.” The Obama representatives
expressed that for government the focus would be ”more on transparency
and accessibility and service and these kinds of things, rather than imple-
menting a legislative agenda and sort of having a political organization”
(Rospars in Dinan 2008) . . . though the tools would be the same.
A transition Web site was also operated in parallel with Change.gov:
Transition.gov, the official Web site of the Office of the President-Elect.
Change.gov and Transition.gov integrated all of the Web 2.0 strategies from
the Obama ’08 campaign: user-generated content, blogs, social media,
events, video, and much more.
Transition.gov and Change.gov were the first ever Web sites created for
a presidential transition period. These Web sites were similar to the cam-
paign’s; they had the same look and feel as well as the same functions and
Web 2.0 characteristics.
In the U.S. system of government, an old adage is that there can only be
one president at a time. This truism has evolved because at exactly noon on
Inauguration Day, the U.S. Constitution dictates that power will be trans-
ferred from the sitting, incumbent president to the president-elect, who at
that instant becomes the president (regardless of where the official ceremony
is or whether they have been sworn in yet). In the case of the networked
nominee, at exactly 12:01 p.m. on Tuesday, January 20, 2009, the official
Web site of the White House (WhiteHouse.gov) switched from the control
of President George W. Bush to that of the new President Barack Hussein
Obama. Consistent with the campaign and transition Web sites, the new
WhiteHouse.gov includes tight Web 2.0 integration and is now built on the
popular and powerful open source content management system Drupal.

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