The President’s E-Bouncer

by

Teddy Goff

Amid the blizzard of the millions of Tweets and Likes beamed through the digital airwaves consuming the DNC’s 2012 convention, Team Obama’s Digital Director Teddy Goff knows that, in a virtual world, actual gains come at a much slower pace. The rest, for now, is just confetti.

Tapped to head up Obama team’s digital operations back in May 2011, Goff ran a fiefdom of 25 battleground states and their networks during then candidate Obama’s 2008 electronically induced rise to the presidency. Drawing on his experiences from the ’08 race, Goff laid out his philosophy in an interview with Joe Rospar’s technology based firm “Blue State Digital,” saying, “Too many people think that in the age of social networks, movements just materialize wherever there is a good cause or good content.”

A throwback from the quaint Dean/Trippi era of, “The Revolution Will Not Be Televised,” Blue State Digital’s Rospar used to be Goff’s boss. Now, in 2012 it’s Goff at the helm, and Mr. Obama, as made clear in his acceptance speech, is no longer a candidate; he’s the president.

And when it’s the President of the United States creating the content, there’s bound to be a flurry of on-line activity, as evidenced by the record setting 52,000 Tweets per minute his speech ended up generating. But channelling that type of enthusiasm into other more productive campaign functions like canvassing neighborhoods, or phone banking, is a campaign’s bread and butter, “We had a massive staff working all day every day building an email list, engaging them, and getting them to take action,” said Goff of ’08.

At times favoring tactics over strategy, Goff’s campaign tech covers everything from obsessing over the size of a website’s donation button to domain squatting. In 2008, users searching certain strains of “Ralph Nader 2008” were redirected to the Obama campaign. In 2012, anticipating Vice President Biden’s over use of the word, “literally” in his convention speech, Obama’s digital team actually bought the term, and featured a promoted Tweet for @BarackObama at the top of the heap.

Outdistancing the RNC by more than 5 million Tweets, that kind of buzz certainly has its far reaching benefits; the president’s job approval is up five points since the convention, according to Gallup. But in the end, it’s about engagement. For web entrepreneurs, it’s link building through real relationships. For campaign tech staff, it’s about establishing those relationships and then honoring them, “People stop reading emails if they feel they’re being mistreated,” said Goff.

Getting supporters to commit to a single action, like sending a Tweet on behalf of the campaign is only the first step. What else are they willing to do, and how to keep them doing it? Focusing on fundamentals, Goff’s elaborate digital strategy, at its core, revolves around the small stuff, “$25 donors for the most part don’t expect a personalized note from the director of whatever organization they’ve just given to, and they certainly aren’t looking for glossy pamphlets or flashy Web apps — they just want to be acknowledged,” said Goff. So, while lighting up a network’s grid is a valuable metric to help gauge a campaign’s popularity, at the end of the day, those bytes need to be converted into votes.

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