Barack Obama, the Democrat presidential hopeful, has launched his own social network which he's calling MyBarackObama.com. The site invites supporters to create a profile, blog their campaign experiences, plan and attend events, find other supporters, and help raise funds for the campaign. Obama already has an official presence on Facebook and YouTube, as well as an unofficial page on MySpace (presumably created by a supporter) which currently has 36,674 'friends'. Of course Obama isn't the only potential candidate to utilize social software (see my post 'YouTube on the campaign trail') but is the first to create a fully fledged social networking site of their own.
It's clear that the two main functions of Obama's social network is to help supporters organize events and connect locally with others - building on Dean's use of Meetup.com - as well as raise the cash needed to fund the campaign.
I think Obama (or his campaign team) are smart to build their own social network in addition to maintaining a strong presence across the main social destinations on the web. It's certainly not one or the other. I'll predict that whatever the take-up is, in terms of raw numbers, those that do join MyBarackObama.com will be highly active (both online and off-line) compared with those that simply add themselves to his Facebook group.
Related post: YouTube on the campaign trail