Webinale keynote: Tips from Obama’s digital organizing director
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It’s that time of year again. Summer has arrived, together with hundreds of international tech-heads, designers and local entrepreneurs that have flocked to the Webinale 2014 in Berlin. Web trends, PHP, startup tips: even if the Webinale seems to have an unusually diverse range of topics, there seems to be one key focus for all people attending, whether startup founder or web developer. „The web is changing. And how can I change with it?“

S&S Media’s Sebastian Meyen, greets all conference-goers with the story of the ever-changing web, charting the development from web browers to the mobile boom and the foreshadowing craze for wearable tech.

Media is changing

Meyen claims in his intro speech that his PHP Magazine editor Tom Wiesseckel is naggingly reminding him that Facebook has changed PHP. For this reason, the Webinale has dedicated an entire series of sessions to the progressions in PHP.

But the web is changing in far more ways than any PHP developer, entrepreneur or web designer will ever know or understand. Enter Betsy Hoover, Director of Digital Organizing for Obama’s 2012 presidential election campaign and keynote speaker.

15 to 20 years ago, the media was much more controlled. „This is what the media will understand about me. I will be the messenger and people will receive my message.“ But that is changing.

Online, everyone is a thought leader, Hoover tells us. Any Twitter users can contribute to shaping the public’s thought, something the public couldn’t do 20 years ago.

Spearheading Obama’s digital election campaign, Hoover (who has since started her own grassroots strategy firm, 270 Strategies) aimed to leverage technology, encourage its audience to engage in the political system and take action in the digital sphere.

Online is offline is anywhere-line

The difference between people’s online and offline identities is becoming increasingly small. People are the same people offline as they are online, says Hoover, and this is an important concept for something like an election campaign, but also for other marketing and public awareness campaigns.

One of Hoover’s first key messages is that we need to meet our audience where they are, not bring them to us.

Reddit users are typically Democrat, which is why Hoover’s campaign looked to the social media channel to spread Obama’s message. Following the incumbent president’s „Ask my anything“ campaign on Reddit, 30,000 users registered to vote via Reddit, causing the website to collapse.

„People crave to be part of something bigger than themselves,“ Hoover tells us, also the most tweeted message from Hoover’s talk. That’s why empowering campaigns like Obama’s election campaign, but also the recent #yesallwomen trend, where the barrier of entry is extremely low, have seen huge successes by allowing individuals to take part with a simple click, tweet or post.

Social = speed

„If you don’t move quickly, you’ve already missed the boat.“ Hoover says that following Obama’s poor performance in the first presidential debate, her campaign failed to react with the speedy response necessary to shape the national thinking about the debate.

Competent, friendly communication, clear messages and the ability to recognise failures: you can tell why Obama would pick someone like this to front his online election campaign. As the listeners file out of the keynote speech and hover around the coffee and cake, all attendees seem to agree, Hoover is going to be a tough act to follow for the rest of the Webinale’s speakers.

You can listen to the keynote here:

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