Friday, September 5, 2008

McCain vs. Obama: 3 Lessons in Online Marketing

It’s shaping up to be a fascinating home stretch in this U.S. presidential election cycle. More interesting to us as BtoB marketers, however, is how the candidates are using online technology to share their message.

Some obvious contrasts:

Barack Obama’s campaign has long been recognized for taking advantage of web 2.0 interactive capabilities, including customizable home pages for supporters. That’s two-way communication, a conversation with the audience.

John McCain’s approach has been more traditional, using the web as a broadcast medium and airing the latest campaign commercial on the home page. That’s one-way communication, talking to the audience.

But the biggest difference is probably that Obama appears to have a more comprehensive, integrated online strategy. For example, the initial announcement of his VP running mate pick via text message.

These are generalizations, and the McCain team has been catching up in many ways. That’s what’s so great about online: you can keep improving as you go along.

So, without further ado, three lessons for marketers from observing the candidates online:

Exploit interactivity. The web is ideal for reaching more targets than ever—and understanding what they’re thinking. So seek every opportunity to engage your audiences. Calls to action, polls, comments threads are perfect ways to start the conversation.

Pursue an integrated strategy. The most advanced, innovative uses of online technologies aren’t worth much if they aren’t means to an end.

Continuously improve. Your website, like the technologies that support it, can and should constantly evolve. Shouldn’t be a problem, because the marketplace is always changing, so you should already be in a continuous improvement frame of mind. Simply extend this mindset to the web.

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