Business, Community & Government

Harnessing Social Media

David Axelrod and Karl Rove

Lesson time 10:39 min

David and Karl explain how essential social media is to modern campaigning. Learn how to use social media to spread your message, target voters, solicit donations, and find volunteers.

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Topics include: Expand Your Network With Social Media • Today’s Campaigns Must Use Social Media • Twitter as a Messaging Tool • Making Viral Videos


Social media was something that emerged at the end of my consulting career. It was obviously pivotal to, uh, the two Obama campaigns. Barack Obama was a natural candidate for Facebook because he represented change, and he was hip and he was young. It was cool to be involved with Obama. He was anti-establishment. He was challenging the status quo, and he was a nationally known figure. And there's a lot of buzz around him. You know, local candidates don't start that way, but you can build steadily through social media. You can do it in part just by the followers that you acquire. You can promote-- you can promote things that will accelerate that process and gain more followers. And your goal is to build a network not only that can volunteer for you, but where you can convey messages. In 2008, we could not have run for president, and he could not have won a campaign for president without social media. We had no organization. We had no money. We really started off with very little, other than a candidate and a lot of interest in that candidate, particularly among the young. And at that time, Facebook was very much a tool of young people. I remember John Carson, one of our great senior organizers, came into us and said, you know, 80% of the students in Wisconsin are on this thing called Facebook. And we can use it to communicate with them and for them to communicate with each other, and this can become a real organizing tool. We had a lot of great young technologists who understood, um, how this tool could be used. And it-- you know, it became essential to our success. By the end of the 2008 campaign, Barack Obama had more-- I guess they called them friends at that time-- than any entity on Facebook. And those people were mobilized. And through that, through Facebook, we were able to organize. All over this country, we were able to acquire volunteers. And the one thing that we did-- and I would say this is still important today, maybe more so-- is you need to trust the people with whom you develop relationships through social media as a campaign to do things on their own. We kind of unleashed people and said, sure, organize in your own community. We didn't have a command-and-control kind of operation. I mean, we monitored what they were doing. We tried to assist them when they were involved in identifying support for us and multiplying support for us. One place where social media is very valuable to a campaign is if you-- if you are attacked, if there is a negative attack, your social media network rallying to your defense is a really important element of campaigns today. It is an enormously positive tool for organizing. It has leveled the playing field. It has made fundraising at the grassroots much easier. And so, you know, if you have that kind of campaign that excites people at the grassroots, you can raise a lot of money in small denominations, and we're seeing that in campaigns all across the country. - It is impo...

About the Instructor

David Axelrod and Karl Rove reach across the aisle to offer an inside look at winning campaign strategies. The respective architects of Barack Obama’s and George W. Bush’s historic election victories teach how to develop a campaign platform and reach an audience with consistent messaging. Find the inspiration and tools to get involved at any level, or simply become a more informed, engaged citizen.

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David Axelrod and Karl Rove

Renowned presidential campaign strategists David Axelrod and Karl Rove reveal what goes into effective political strategy and messaging.

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