Barack Obama is one of the most loved presidents in modern US history. He owes a good deal of this success to his continued success on social media. Find out how he effectively used various platforms for his presidential bid, and his current use, in this social media case study.
What Barack Obama does on social media
The former president is currently the third most popular person on Twitter, with more than 98.2 million followers. One of his most retweeted posts was a photo with his wife Michelle after winning his second term, which was retweeted nearly a million times.
Four more years. pic.twitter.com/bAJE6Vom
— Barack Obama (@BarackObama) November 7, 2012
Obama also attracted a large following on other social media sites. His official YouTube channel has over 500,000 subscribers. Meanwhile, the official Obama Facebook page is followed by 55.3 million people.
How Obama used Twitter marketing
During his 2008 presidential campaign, Obama relied on Twitter to introduce himself and his platforms. He used his personal handle, @BarackObama, to talk about various issues like the Iraq war.
Thinking we're only one signature away from ending the war in Iraq.
Learn more at http://www.barackobama.com
— Barack Obama (@BarackObama) April 29, 2007
Twitter’s real-time nature helped Obama quickly reach out to and communicate with voters. It also helped him gauge voter opinion through the responses to his tweets.
Obama’s success on Twitter showed that it can be used to introduce and popularize a brand. Consistent engagement, like you’d get with our Twitter Auto Engagements service, did so much to bring attention to his particular brand of politics.
Continuing Twitter into his presidency
After becoming president, Obama used the @POTUS official Twitter account. All of his tweets have since been archived on @POTUS44. Amusingly, the account was set up only during his second term. Obama himself posted a hilarious reaction to the milestone.
Hello, Twitter! It's Barack. Really! Six years in, they're finally giving me my own account.
— President Obama (@POTUS44) May 18, 2015
He would go on using the account to talk about more serious matters like climate change.
The science couldn't be clearer – we owe it to our kids to do everything we can to combat climate change. pic.twitter.com/497Wkkve58
— President Obama (@POTUS44) January 25, 2016
In 2010, Obama became the first president to personally send out a tweet. He used the American Red Cross’ official Twitter handle.
President Obama and the First Lady are here visiting our disaster operation center right now.
— American Red Cross (@RedCross) January 18, 2010
President Obama pushed the button on the last tweet. It was his first ever tweet!
— American Red Cross (@RedCross) January 18, 2010
Meanwhile, the @BarackObama handle used in the elections remained active during his tenure in office. Control of the account was handed over to the Organization for Action, a non-partisan group that advocates Obama’s agenda. The organization kept the “cool” persona established for the account, tweeting plenty of amusing comments alongside more significant messages.
Tomorrow: @HouseOfCards. No spoilers, please.
— Barack Obama (@BarackObama) February 13, 2014
— Barack Obama (@BarackObama) February 12, 2014
OFA explicitly stated in the bio section that it was the one running the account and not the president himself. Nevertheless, the move proved effective in maintaining the former president’s presence online.
After leaving office in 2017, Obama returned to using the @BarackObama handle. The handle’s tweets became more personal in tone since he now directly handles most of the content.
ME: Joe, about halfway through the speech, I’m gonna wish you a happy birth–
BIDEN: IT’S MY BIRTHDAY!
— Barack Obama (@BarackObama) November 20, 2017
Even as a regular citizen, Obama remains an influential figure on Twitter. Three of his tweets became some of the most popular posts in 2017. This included his denunciation of the violent white supremacist protests in Charlottesville, Virginia.
"No one is born hating another person because of the color of his skin or his background or his religion…" pic.twitter.com/InZ58zkoAm
— Barack Obama (@BarackObama) August 13, 2017
Obama’s call for peace, quoting the great Nelson Mandela, was liked more than 4.6 million times and retweeted 1.7 million times. Rest in peace, Tata.
How Obama used YouTube and video marketing
During the elections, Obama’s team created a dedicated YouTube channel where they uploaded plenty of explainer videos. These videos provided more details about his campaign platforms. Additionally, the team posted interviews where Obama talked about his stance on issues like the Federal Spending Transparency Bill.
The videos were organized into playlists covering different topics. This made it easier to find specific content on the channel.
Building public support through video marketing
Besides serious campaign videos, Obama’s team uploaded plenty of lighthearted content, like a video of him imitating Al Green.
The video attracted almost 5 million views and helped establish Obama as a more relatable figure in contrast to other candidates.
The team also encouraged the public to make videos in support of his candidacy. “Crush on Obama” by Amber Lee Ettinger and Key of Awesome Productions was the most popular of these user-created videos.
This is an example of the effectiveness of user-generated content as it generated a tremendous amount of support for Obama. The song was everywhere online when it came out!
Using YouTube for promoting policies
The Obama administration used YouTube and online video marketing to bring its policy statements to the public. In 2015 alone the White House uploaded more than 400 videos on its YouTube and Vimeo channels. This included Obama granting an interview to YouTube’s Steve Grover in 2010, where he answered questions from the public.
The half-hour interview was watched by a million viewers and helped clarify some of the policy statements he made during the elections.
In 2014, his administration organized a YouTube Creators Summit at the White House. The summit was aimed towards building support for the Affordable Care Act. Some notable participants were:
- Michael Stephens: Creator of the YouTube channel VSauce.
- Iman Crosson: Popular Obama impersonator, known online as Alphacat
- Mark Douglas and Ben Relles: Creators of the “Crush on Obama” video.
These celebrities used their channels to encourage people to use the Affordable Care Act.
How Obama used LinkedIn for networking
Obama also leveraged LinkedIn for his presidential campaigns. The former president used a simple LinkedIn page layout, quickly giving visitors important information about him.
His profile summary relayed both his job title and professional philosophy concisely. Meanwhile, the Experience section listed all the positions he had occupied.
Building his influence using LinkedIn
Due to his status as a prominent public figure, Obama has been included in LinkedIn’s prestigious Influencer group. His team closely worked with the site’s content creators to develop articles that tackled issues like improving the country’s tax system. These articles helped attract more than 2.7 million followers to Obama’s account His success demonstrated how creating great content can help build your status as a thought leader on the platform.
The former president also participated in LinkedIn’s Answers campaign, where prominent figures get to ask questions to the public. Obama’s question was directed towards small business owners and entrepreneurs. This forum helped him reach out to both leaders and members of various industries.
How Obama used Facebook for his campaigns
Obama’s campaign team began building his Facebook presence in 2007 with the launch of his official page.
The team created additional Facebook accounts for his wife Michelle, Vice Presidential candidate Joe Biden, as well as ten other accounts, including:
- Veterans for Obama
- Women for Obama
- African Americans for Obama
These accounts were used to reach out to specific voter groups.
Building support through content sharing
The former president also hired Facebook co-founder Chris Hughes to help in developing his social media strategy. Obama furthered the use of Facebook for his 2012 re-election bid, utilizing it to encourage young people to cast their votes. His team developed a Facebook app that looked into supporters’ friends list to find younger voters. The team then asked supporters to share online content with these voters. More than 600,000 supporters responded to the call, sending content to over 5 million contacts.
During his presidency, Obama continued to use Facebook to reach out to the public. In 2016, he became the first president to go live on the site, just before his final State of the Union Address.
What Obama teaches about social media marketing
As this social media case study shows, Obama’s effective use of various social media platforms helped greatly in his presidential bid. Marketers can learn many things from his example:
- The importance of establishing a distinct social media persona is one lesson that Obama’s success highlighted. Obama has always presented himself as a likeable and approachable person during campaigns.
- His team made sure to carry that persona over to his social media presence. Obama went further and brought that persona into his term as president, using it to attract support for his policies.
- To strengthen that persona, Obama ensured that he remained authentic on social media. That included showing his lighthearted side. For instance, he tweets just like any other sports fans.
— President Obama (@POTUS44) October 23, 2016
Follow his example by creating a persona that your audience can relate to. This will make it easier for them to connect with you on social media. Sharing in your audience’s interests is an effective way of solidifying that persona.
Actively engage supporters
The former president and his team actively engaged supporters on social media, getting them to rally behind him during the elections. Obama continued this active engagement well into his term, turning social media into an important channel for gaining support for his policies.
By directly engaging your audience, you too can turn them into brand advocates. This will help quickly increase your reach. Use clear calls to action to help spur this activity
Have a clear focus
Obama had a clear message during his campaign: that of inclusive change. His team’s use of social media helped bring this message to millions of voters. The clear focus on the message also made people feel that they were part of the effort and not just voters being campaigned to.
We need Hope, Progress and Change – The Barack Obama "Hope" poster is an image of Barack Obama designed by artist Shepard Fairey, which was widely described as iconic and came to represent his 2008 presidential campaign. pic.twitter.com/QXg7KKaGr5
— Guilherme Müller (@guigmuller) December 5, 2017
Build your personal brand on social media like Obama
Barack Obama’s election success illustrates how effective social media can be for building a personal brand. The strategies he used can work for those outside of the political spectrum. Use the lessons you learneed in this social media case study and become a social media influencer in your chosen field just like Obama.