Harris Media

Obama faces brave new Web world

From Politico

“There’s an increasing understanding among savvy operators: not just young people are using these tools,” said Adam Conner, associate manager for Facebook’s public-policy division.

But the rise of social networks as the place to see and be seen comes with its own downsides

The Obama campaign ran a famously tight, closed-shop digital operation – building their own social network at my.barackobama.com from scratch rather than surrendering control of their platform to a third-party.

That strategy grew from the style and personality of Obama and his chief aides – but also from a cautionary experience. In 2008, a group of liberal Democrats upset at Obama’s stance on the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act revision, created a group on the Obama campaign’s own social networking site called “Get FISA Right.” Their demands went viral and they quickly became the most popular group on the site — even drawing an official response from Obama himself.

The flap was a lesson to the Obama digital brain trust, and the president’s team has been wary of their own campaign social network ever since the president was sworn in – concerned about how an open platform could leave the president vulnerable to criticism from within the ranks of his own supporters.

“Once you’re in office, the stakes are so much higher in running an open platform where anybody can post and anybody can comment,” said Finn

And as the 2012 campaign ramps up, these concerns about openness versus control will be front and center for the campaign’s digital media team.

“It’s going to be incumbent upon them to use these third party platforms,” said Finn. Voters, she said “feel empowered – and they want to decide how to campaign for a candidate.”

And unlike in 2008, Twitter and Facebook are no longer mere social networks – rather, they’re robust, sophisticated digital platforms with developer tools that let third parties build entire services around them.

“Facebook is so many different things now. It’s obviously a place where people talk about politics and people interact,” said Conner. But, “it’s also a technology layer. It can be integrated into websites.”

“Overall, you see significant budgets going to Facebook – because that’s where users are,” said Vincent Harris, a Republican media consultant who helped run the digital shops for Mike Huckabee and Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell.