Promoting IYC: Learning lessons from the Obama campaign

Obama campaign strategist Sam Graham Felsen encourages co-operators to use social media to promote the International Year. 

What does a Barack Obama campaign strategist have to do with the International Year of Co-operatives? He can talk to co-operators about the importance of using social media to promote co-ops and the International Year.

That’s why the ICA invited Sam Graham-Felsen, who masterminded Obama’s social media efforts during the U.S. presidential campaign, to give the keynote speech at this morning’s session.

In an engaging presentation, the 30-year-old Graham-Felsen gave numerous examples of how social media was used to mobilize people to support Obama during the campaign. It was a monumental effort: the campaign posted some 2,000 videos on YouTube; they got so many hits that a total of one billion minutes of web video content from the Obama campaign were consumed. Many of the videos didn’t even include shots of Obama — instead, they included ordinary people talking about why they supported Obama, people holding up signs bearing the two key messages of the campaign: “Hope” and “Change”.

And then there was what was probably Obama’s most famous text message: his announcement to supporters that Joe Biden had been chosen as his vice-presidential running mate. People were so impressed that the candidate communicated directly with them that they became even more fervent supporters, and encouraged others to do the same.

“We had a different kind of candidate — we wanted to have a different kind of campaign,” Graham-Felsen said. “We wanted to show people that they were the superstars of the movement, so we treated them like superstars.”

Toward the end of his presentation, Graham-Felsen mentioned that he was a member of two co-operatives, then generated a burst of applause when he pledged to move his money from a bank to a credit union.

And what’s the first thing individual co-operators can do to show their co-op colours using social media?

“The simplest thing that everyone in this room can do is join the (ICA International Year of Co-operatives) Facebook page,” he said.

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