The Obama Brand

The night of the election, my roommates and I were anxiously waiting to see what states would pop up red or blue as voting ended across America. I constantly refreshed Twitter, Tumblr, Instagram and Facebook to see what people were thinking. It’s interesting that for that night, my sources of information were coming from these types of sites. Twitter provided to be a useful tool for updates on the election status up until the end of the election where, much before the electoral maps sites were updated, Twitter was already exploding with tweets that Obama had won.

In the article “With a Single Tweet, President Obama Revealed How to Become a Powerful Social Brand” Simon Mainwaring writes about the significance of Obama’s tweet after it was clear that he had won the election. He calls this tweet a revelation into just what social branding is meant to do. Mainwaring defines social branding as:

an organization that engages in a real-time dialogue with its community using social, mobile, and gaming technologies to build its reputation, profits, or social impact.

What Obama’s team did during his presidential re-election campaign was just that. In this tweet, what he did was voice the opinion of Obama supporters. It was an intelligently articulated tweet, much like a great sentence would be in a book, or a great verse would be in a poem. Their team actively used Twitter and made it work to their advantage. Mainwaring argues that the picture accompanying the tweet touched Obama voters in a way that invoked the same emotions that Obama supporters might have been feeling that night. Mainwaring claims that this engaged the audience and made the brand of Obama more as:

 …the chief celebrant rather than celebrity of its community

In “I Tweet Honestly, I Tweet Passionately: Twitter Users, Context Collapse, and the Imaged Audience” by Alice E. Marwick and Danah Boyd, the authors argue that most celebrities have a disconnect with their followers. While Obama certainly follows a lower amount of accounts than he has followers, he has a connection to his followers in this historic tweet.

I also find it interesting that since the days of the article “Tweet, Tweet, Retweet: Conversational Aspects of Retweeting on Twitter” by Danah Boyd, Scott Golder and Gilad Lotan, the ways of retweeting have changed. It has gone from the manual quoted “RT,” to the retweet button, and now users can see how many times a tweet has been retweeted. Before, users could only see that a popular tweet was retweeted or favorited “50+” times, and now users can see the actual amount. I believe that this has made it easier for people to see the amount of retweets that Obama’s tweet got.

Mainwaring claims that this tweet demonstrated that social media is a new channel in which one can show emotion. It’s interesting how I almost completely experienced the election online, and only had my roommates to celebrate with. A point that one of my roommates made was that we noticed that no one was running out on the streets celebrating like many had when the NY Giants won the Super Bowl. Though I don’t think that it’s because there wasn’t that support for Obama, but that much of the celebration was going on online.

I think that Obama’s social branding team built their brand to this moment. According to Mainwaring, social brands drive to have this amount of success in sharing, and not just followers. Mainwaring is right in that there is a specific right way for social brands to promote themselves, it’s not just about mindlessly posting out tweets of self-promotion, but involving the followers and the imaged audience into the conversation as well. In this way the Obama social brand has built up emotions and what Mainwaring would call a”story” to connect to the moment that Obama was re-elected.


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