So what is it about the Millennials that made them such effective advocates for Barack Obama?
For the first article in this series about Barack Obama‘s online marketing campaign, I took a look at the product itself, candidate Obama. But a leader is no such thing without followers, so today I’ll examine them.Â And while people of all different generations voted for Obama, it was the Millennials who had the most effect on his online marketing efforts so it is they who deserve our attention today.
Sixty six percent of 18-29 year-olds voted for Obama. Here’s why:
It should have been no surprise that Millennials came out in force this season to vote for Obama. The Millennials have been raised to be very civic-minded. Volunteer projects and kids’ voting programs have been woven into their schooling. They’d formed their civic habits long before they were eligible to vote.
But while Howard Dean proved you could excite this generation politically, they failed to support him when it counted, with their vote. So there was some question of whether Millennials’ political enthusiasm could be translated into quantifiable support. There shouldn’t have been.
What Dean failed to do was give them a project, namely getting themselves and others to vote. This generation’s lives have been rigidly structured from the beginning, their daily lives planned out for them, often within groups in which they worked on projects. They just needed to be given something to do. Barack Obama understood that and set them to work on projects on behalf of his campaign, from voter-ID, to phonebanks, door-knocking, to online marketing.
It should come as no surprise that Chris Hughes, a Millennial co-founder of Facebook, left that company to run Barack Obama’s online campaign. Millennials are the first generation to have never known a world without the Internet. Technology, and technological change, has been woven into their everyday lives. They are fluent with technology and with communicating online; it’s entirely natural to them.
If there ever was a group of people who would understand how to fully utilize the Internet, it would be them. But Millennials are not just fluent in how to use these technologies, but how to speak through them as well.
And that is why the Obama campaign had such an informal tone, casual tone. Because the Internet is a conversational medium, the Millennial marketers of Obama’s campaign used that casual tone as well. And because that informal style fit naturally with Millennials’ general online experience, because it was the way they communicated, the campaign messages pulled them in.
A recent New York Times article quoted several Millennials’ opinion of the campaign’s messaging:
Ellen Steiner, 23, a graduate student at the University of Colorado, Denver, said the direct style â€œmakes me feel like I really was part of something great.â€
Reid Johnson, 31, a volunteer at the Obama office in Wilson, N.C., agreed. â€œYou get the feeling that youâ€™re becoming friends with him in that casual way,â€ he said. â€œI think everyone takes ownership of it because you feel like you know who he is.â€
And because Millennials are such natural communicators online, the Obama campaign wisely enabled them to advocate online in their own words, rather than trying to give them talking points.
But it was the candidate’s own message, the overall theme of the campaign, that most hit home with Millennials: Yes We Can.
From precocious child movies to Amber Alerts and child safety laws, Millennials have been told over and again throughout their lives that they are special and…they believe it. Naturally, then, they have an unshakable confidence in their own abilities. When told Yes We Can, their response is Of Course We Can. When asked to help create change, they set about on their projects on behalf of the campaign. Obama reinforced that message throughout the campaign by reiterating that it wasn’t about him, it was about them.
Whereas Gen X was an ignored generation, meant to be seen and not heard, Millennials are not just listened to but, because they are special, their opinions are taken seriously by their elders. Because of that fact and because they are natural online content creators, Millennials are highly influential.
Next, I’ll examine multichannel strategy through which those Millennials were so successful.