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The content king

The US election confirms that the conversations that matter are now taking place on social media
Barack Obama not only retained the US presidency yesterday, but he also affirmed his position as the world’s most tech-savvy, social media-aware politician.
Barely had his victory been confirmed, and hours before he gave a more traditional winner’s speech, Obama took to social media to proudly proclaim ‘four more years’. The announcement came in the form of a photo of the re-elected president embracing his wife Michelle posted on Twitter and Facebook – a photo that has now been retweeted over 737,000 times and received almost 3.7 million ‘likes’.
In terms of online appeal, the responses on both social media platforms are records, with Facebook confirming, ‘This Barack Obama photo is the most-liked Facebook photo of all time’.
The immediacy of social media has also been a boon for other politicians from around the world, with many taking to it to congratulate Obama.
Not all tweeters, however, are so enamoured of the result. Donald Trump, in particular, has taken to the micro-blog site to voice his disapproval: ‘This election is a total sham and a travesty. We are not a democracy!’ he proclaimed.
All of which confirms that if you want to be in on the conversation, you have to be on social media.

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Enough already!

This time around, it looks like Barack Obama’s social media strategy could backfire
There is a widespread perception that Barack Obama owes his presidential victory in 2008 to a skilled, concerted social media campaign. The Message has already reported how the president’s team plan to unleash the ‘Holy Grail’ of digital campaigning.
Only, it turns out that said Grail may be more of a chipped, stained coffee mug found lurking in the dusty, forgotten recesses of the office kitchen…
A BBC report reveals that Team Obama has embarked on a massive Facebook campaign. At first glance, it would seem it has been successful, with the number of likes increasing by a million a day, compared with about 30,000 a day in recent weeks. (At time of writing, 30,680,559 people like the president, while 3,200,317 are talking about him).
Those are the sorts of numbers most brand CEOs and social media content marketers would happily dance naked around the Washington Monument to receive, and yet not only do they not tell the whole story, but they also may be coming at a White House-costing price.
Aggressive advertising
The Obama campaign has paid for ‘Sponsored Stories’ to appear in some users’ Facebook news feeds. The kicker, though, is that they appeal regardless of whether the recipient wants them or not. And therein lies the problem.
Users have taken to social media to express their irritation at being bombarded in such a way, with comments including:

‘Why is Barack Obama on my Facebook newsfeed?’
‘I’m getting really sick of those Obama ads sponsored on my Facebook page’
‘Quit trying to promote yourself on my Facebook and Twitter feeds. I never “liked” or “followed” you’ (Posted on Obama’s Twitter account)

It comes at a time when both Obama and his Republican opponent Mitt Romney are ramping up their online efforts. Both have taken to social media to present themselves to voters and while Romney stumbled initially, his online presence (like his performance in the recent presidential debate, which he was widely acknowledged to have ‘won’) has become increasingly confident.
From posting cutesy family shots on Instagram to revealing his song list on Spotify, Romney (unlike John McCain four years ago) has more than matched Obama’s every social media move. That includes plastering social media – and even video games – with advertising.
When content marketing backfires
Clearly, both candidates believe online ubiquity will help them win the race. However, research conducted by the University of Pennsylvania suggests otherwise.
The university’s School of Communications surveyed 1503 Internet-using US adults. The findings were significant, with 86 per cent saying they did not want to receive tailored political messages, and 70 per cent saying that seeing ads from a candidate would make them less likely to vote for that candidate.
‘The findings represent a national statement of concern,’ Professor Joseph Turow, lead researcher on the study, told the BBC.
‘We have a major attitudinal tug of war – the public’s emphatic and broad rejection of tailored political ads pulling against political campaigns’ growing adoption of tailored political advertising without disclosing when they are using individuals’ information and how.’
It would seem that both presidential candidates have broken the golden rules of content marketing – that people don’t want to be sold to, they want to be engaged with through good use of content.
Four years ago, Team Obama seemed to understand that. Losing sight of it this time around could well cost them the election.
The Message is brought to you by Tick Yes – providing solutions for all your digital and content marketing needs.

Networking voters

Barack Obama is preparing to unleash the ‘holy grail’ of digital campaigning
Four years ago, the use of social media for drumming up support, attracting donations and encouraging people to vote was credited as a key factor in Barack Obama’s successful bid for the American presidency. According to the Guardian, the 2012 campaign is going to set a new benchmark, with the president’s team of ‘tech gurus’ preparing to ‘unleash the Holy Grail of digital campaigning’.
This ‘secret weapon’ is called Dashboard and is ‘an online tool that the campaign hopes will vastly increase its ability to mobilise volunteers and potential voters across the US’. Theoretically, the information gathered from Alabama to Alaska should be available in real time to the Obama campaign bosses.
Over 100 statisticians, predictive modellers, data mining experts, mathematicians, software engineers, bloggers, Internet advertising experts and online organisers have been involved in the operation, which the campaign believes will ‘make a huge difference in how we organise for 2012’.
The Guardian reports: ‘The cutting-edge tool seeks to put in place what Obama’s digital gurus tried to achieve in 2008 but ran out of time and resources within that presidential election cycle. Its aim is to amplify the electoral impact of campaign organisers and volunteers on the ground by connecting them to each other in real time and to the central HQ through the internet.
‘The hope is that it will become the election equivalent of the Facebook games CityVille and FarmVille, where online participants cooperate with their social networks to run a city or manage a farm. In this case, Dashboard’s creators hope to bring the power of the social networking right to the doorstep of the American voter.’
It’s a great idea and, if successful, the people behind it will doubtless be lauded as visionaries. But what they call ‘secret weapon’ and ‘holy grail’ is simple social media marketing. We told you it was good!
The Message is brought to you by Tick Yes – providing solutions for all your digital and content marketing needs.

Bin Laden papers to go online

A year after the death of the world’s most-wanted man, documents including his diary are being turned into online content
On 2 May, 2011, the news broke that Osama bin Laden, al-Qaeda leader and the world’s most wanted man, had been killed in a US operation in Pakistan. Like the organisation he headed, bin Laden refuses to go away – although that seems to be in part because American officials, from President Obama down, don’t want him to go away.
It has just been announced that documents found at the compound where bin Laden was killed will be posted online this week by the US Military Academy’s Combating Terrorism Center. The papers reportedly include bin Laden’s hand-written diary and communication between him and his associates that reveal he considered changing al-Qaeda’s name as so many of the group’s senior figures had been killed.
Bin Laden’s personal musings may not garner the headlines of the Hitler diaries 30 years ago (or even last week’s news that Mein Kampf is to be reprinted, but the fact that they are being turned into online content shows how far the digital medium has come as an outlet of choice (and doubtless pre-empts them being published on Wikileaks down the track).
Politically motivated content?
But questions are also being asked about the timing of the announcement – as the presidential race between Obama and Republican challenger Mitt Romney starts to get serious. The BBC’s North American Editor, Mark Mardell, makes several interesting points in his assessment of the issue:
‘It is hardly surprising that President Obama wants to use Bin Laden’s death as a symbol. It may not be the only success of his administration. But it is the only one unadulterated by party politics.
‘The only one that was celebrated by just about every American, of every political persuasion. It was greeted with glee by some of those who might usually see Mr Obama as weak on national security.
‘When some worry that he is a consensus-seeker, a ditherer, this version of the president is a gutsy risk taker. The crudeness of the presidential pitch may put some off, but any row that is created only serves to highlight that Bin Laden was indeed killed on Mr Obama’s orders.’
And coming at a time when this Bill Clinton-narrated campaign video makes even more of the bin Laden operation, it raises the suspicion that this particular content is politically motivated.

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The war on content suppression

The US announces sanctions against authoritarian regimes that block access to online and social media content
As The Message reported last week, social media is perceived as helping individuals make a difference. The flip side is that, as a report in The Guardian reveals, technology has also been used ‘to track dissidents or block Internet access’.
Specifically, it is reported that ‘Iran has provided the regime of Syrian president Bashar al-Assad with technology to jam cell phones and block or monitor the social networking sites rebels would use to organise demonstrations’.
Now, however, the West – and specifically the US – is taking steps to stop such totalitarian controls, with president Barack Obama signing an executive order authorising sanctions ‘against foreign entities and individuals who help authoritarian regimes use technology to crack down on dissidents’.
Although the penalties (which include financial restrictions) are said to be particularly aimed at Syria and Iran, The Washington Post reports that ‘it could be extended to include other countries’.
The Message is brought to you by Tick Yes – providing solutions for all your digital and content marketing needs.