Tweeting Brown and web Cameron: How to win votes Obama-style

Summary:But it's not online election perfection yet: Why UK politicians are still floundering in a web 2.0 whirlpool

But it's not online election perfection yet: Why UK politicians are still floundering in a web 2.0 whirlpool

When it comes to digital election strategies they don't come much better than the one used by Barack Obama to secure victory in the 2008 US presidential elections.

Obama's online campaigning generated $500m in donations and created an army of supporters fired up enough to cold-call voters and host hustings in their homes on his behalf.

It is little surprise then that the campaigning platform has spawned a host of imitators in the 2010 UK elections:, the Liberal Democrat campaigning social network Act and the Labour Doorstep website.

All of the elements that fuelled the enormous groundswell of support for the US presidential wannabe are present within the UK parties' online apparatus. The web-based database of phone numbers for canvassing voters? Check. Tools to allow supporters to set up rallies and campaign meetings offline? Check. Thermometer-style fundraising widgets to allow people to donate online? Check.

The close resemblance of the UK political parties' online strategies to that of the Obama campaign has not escaped the notice of Joe Rospars: Obama's new-media director for his 2008 presidential campaign and a founding member of the agency Blue State Digital, which built the campaigning platform


US President Barack Obama mounted a highly successful online campaign in the 2008 US presidential election
(Photo credit: archiei via Flickr under the following licence)

"We put the opportunity to connect with people through the web at the centre of our campaign in 2008 and all the parties are replicating that - the notion that this is a place where relationships can be built and sustained," Rospars told

"What remains to be seen is how well they co-ordinate it with the offline and the volunteer operation, which was what ultimately helped us win."

Rospars said the key to a successful web election strategy campaign, and what clinched the deal for Obama, was making people feel like they could play a pivotal role in his election campaign, and then making it as easy as possible for them to do so, in their case using

"The potency of the grassroots energy for Barack Obama was partially for him as an individual and a leader, but also for the organisation and ordinary people's roles within it," he said.

The reason people felt like they really had a role to play in getting Obama elected was that made it so easy to get involved, donating was as simple as clicking a button and local rallies were easily located on maps displaying locations and details.

The upshot was that money flowed into the Obama campaign, not from multimillionaire patrons, but from the pockets of blue collar America, with the average online donation standing at $80 and many people donating multiple times.

"We had people making two donations because they wanted to fund the kind of operation where they were the leaders of the campaign, they wanted to own a piece of the political process."

And yet where there was a meteoric rise in popularity in the US the bump in support and donations for the UK parties has been much more... conservative.

Continued on next page...

Topics: Tech Industry


Nick Heath is chief reporter for TechRepublic UK. He writes about the technology that IT-decision makers need to know about, and the latest happenings in the European tech scene.

Contact Disclosure

Kick off your day with ZDNet's daily email newsletter. It's the freshest tech news and opinion, served hot. Get it.

Related Stories

The best of ZDNet, delivered

You have been successfully signed up. To sign up for more newsletters or to manage your account, visit the Newsletter Subscription Center.
Subscription failed.