Regardless of your political inclinations, you probably agree with most experts that Barack Obama's "ground game" – his campaign's excellence in rallying, organizing, inspiring, empowering, and activating thousands of volunteers in every American nook and cranny – was probably the best in election history.
And much of that excellence is rooted in new technology.
Volunteers could easily contribute and act and connect and communicate with each other as never before.
But why did these volunteers bother? Why was this effort so successful? Was it simply because the effort was so good? Or was it for something more?
Recently I had a very provocative conversation with Seth Godin you'll be reading more about on this blog soon. I asked Seth, among other things, why social networking is all the rage yet so many stations who have experimented with it have had generally modest results. His answer was telling.
"That's because radio stations make it about the station, not about the listener."
In other words, we provide social tools on our sites so we can achieve OUR goals and market OUR station. Listeners, however, fairly ask the key question we too often forget: "What's in it for me? Why should I spend my time HERE rather than on Facebook or MySpace?"
Citizens mobilized for Obama online in record volume because they wanted to get involved in a cause they believed in. They didn't do it for Obama. They did it for themselves. And the Obama campaign simply provided the tools which enabled a passionate base to act, interact, and get involved.
Why should I sign up with your radio station's website or community?
Is it because you're bribing me? What does that say about me if that's all it takes for me to join? What does that say about your cause if that's the best reason you can come up with?
Or am I joining to engage in a cause I care about deeply?
"Organizing" is what you do when people with passion need a way to act and connect.
"Advertising" is too often what you do when you care more about what YOU want than what your audience wants.