How Obama Dropped the Ball on His Social Media Strategy


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One of the puzzling things is how Obama used social media to his advantage during the campaign but has failed to use it successfully now. The techniques that the campaign used were fine when you had a large group of people rallying around one idea. However, once the presidency was in motion, the real conversation should have begun. Every cabinet secretary, under-secretary, administration policy wonk should be in a dialog with the public through social media. None this has happened. It’s like they read Chapter 1 of ‘How to Develop a Social Media Strategy’, but never finished the rest of the book.

This is analogous to a company that used social media for a marketing campaign, with Obama being the product, but never took the next step. At this point virtually every “consumer” (i.e. the American public) is a subscriber to this product – at least for the next four years when we all will have to decide if we want to “renew our subscription”. All smart CEOs know that it is better to keep your customers engaged positively throughout the contract cycle than to try to woo them, at the last minute, just before they have to make another buy or no-buy decision.

Now is the time for this “company” to move the use of social media out to the customer service and product divisions, and create a real dialog. Find out what problems / complaints people have and what changes they want to various product lines – healthcare, financial regulations – or even if they want to discontinue some products like the war in Afghanistan. Instead, they are using the Organizing for America group to continue the product-selling process in place of being responsive to their existing customer base. This is the time to stop organizing the masses and truly allow for grassroot input. This would create something closer to a real democratization of the process of governing.

Catherine Sherwood
Catherine Sherwood is a consultant specializing in social media, strategic marketing and common-sense search engine optimization. Her insights and expertise are backed by 20+ years of business experience at the senior executive level.


  1. Dick Lee: One of the great things about this site is that people don’t engage in political discussions. I could cut your post to ribbons, but I won’t, because this is a non-political site.

  2. Dick, this is not about politics. This is about how government uses social media to engage with its constituents. In other words, us.

    I think government can learn from the private sector, and vice versa.

  3. Catherine – this is a great and very public example for how to deal with social media. The many customer experience discussions we have here have a similar – yet not that broad issue: Somebody starts a great initiative, everybody is excited – but YOU CANNOT DROP THE BALL.
    There was an interesting post about Walmart. The founder Sam Walton was very engaged in making sure the customer experience was excellent. Unfortunately when he died that was not passed along.

    Your post nicely demonstrates that a “quick network” is a good start but will fire back if you don’t maintain it. If companies put a fan page up is not a social media strategy – But focusing on the customer experience in a never ending always on manner – may be the best social media strategy you can have.



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