Feature

The future of Obama’s social network

Can Obama bring his online friends to the White House?

Barack Obama’s “numbers border on unbelievable,” said Michael Bush in Advertising Age online. In two years of campaigning, his online and text-messaging marketing and outreach effort drew in 3 million willing “agents of change” and almost $750 million in donations. And as crucial as this unprecedented social network was in getting Obama elected, it could be “even more important during his presidency,” if he can figure out how to harness it.

Some strategists “believe that the White House Web site will transform into a social network,” said Farhad Manjoo in Slate, “a kind of Facebook for citizens,” geared toward passing Obama’s agenda. That would give him a very powerful bully pulpit—but only if his “Web coalition” doesn’t splinter or fizzle in the face of actual policy goals.

Legally, the White House can’t directly use the MyBarackObama.com database, said Marc Ambinder in The Atlantic online, but Obama allies could buy it and create an advocacy group. Also, the data “could be merged with the Democratic National Committee—after all, the 2012 re-elect starts today.” What seems unlikely is that all that “networking capital” will go unspent.

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