[Book Review]: Yes We Did, Rahaf Harfoush
Rahaf Harfoush's "front row seat" on the Obama campaign's social media tactics and strategy, along with skills honed in the researching of Tapscott's Wikinomics, make her timeline of digital prowess and must-read for anyone in the marketing, comms, community-building or campaigning line of work. For the rest, it's a fascinating look into the actual role of technology in the famous election campaign, and how "tech toys" were really about inspiring offline community-building and fundraising.
Some would say the book is too simplistic, but I think it's just simple: describing social media tactics for what they are, as simple, reflective and responsive actions rather than a grand strategy only gurus can prepare. If the book reads itself quickly, it's thanks to a clear, consistent design (from Scott Thomas, Obama's design lead, talking here about that experience at Behance's 99%) and a writing style that breaks everything down to its simplest components. This makes it great for those not running large marketing, comms or media budgets, but for those of us who seek to make small iterative steps in the longer term.
She takes us through
- how simple thoughts on branding, and providing branding elements for fans to use, was a solid grounding from which to build online services;
- how social networking elements went to existing groups and networks rather than trying to recreate everything from scratch;
- the power of email, potentially the central tool in the campaign;
- the emerging potential of text messaging to influence and cajole;
- how blogs were used to give a voice to many people in the campaign, not just to broadcast about me, me, me...
- some of the techniques to make the most of video (i.e. produce lots of it, regularly);
- how analytics proved a vital element in understanding how to communicate with the audience.
Harfoush spoke last week at Lift in Geneva on the power of social networking in the campaign (I spoke there two years ago on the power of social networking for learning communities) but, as Kevin Anderson points out in the first comment on Stephanie Booth's liveblog of the talk, it wasn't the newer, more social technologies that wielded the greatest impact on the political journey - it was email. Once again, it is the lowest common denominator technology that makes the biggest impact, something both Clay Shirky in Here Comes Everybody and Esther Dyson have picked up on, the latter putting it as:
sometimes we call intuitive what is really just familiar.