Ian Philpot

I’m passionate about social media. I love that I have a job that allows for me to participate in the social realm, and I recently gave an interview about using Facebook in my work.

This week at work, I started a social media campaign that will run straight through to Christmas. Every day I’m making a new update or pushing out new content or trying to get a message across.

And, on Monday morning, I decided to take a look back at what the Obama campaign had done to see if there were any last-minute pointers I could walk away with to help me out. Instead, my world was rocked.

So I did what anyone else would: I tracked down the last 3,200 tweets from @BarackObama, opened all of the links to images, and pinned 137 of them to a board on Pinterest.

Here are the things I’ve learned:

Pictures win every time

The Obama campaign capitalized on the traffic that pictures receive on social media. It’s very well known that pictures get more likes on Facebook and more retweets on Twitter, but a lot of content creators will focus on their text and add a picture every now and again. (Don’t feel bad about it, though. I did it too.)

Thomas Jefferson once said, “The most valuable of all talents is that of never using two words when one will do.” In the same way, never use words when a picture will do. Pictures can capture a moment like words can’t. Here’s a good example:

(Here’s a better example, even though it’s a little unfair to call it a campaign tweet since the campaign was officially over moments before it was sent.)

Infographics are like crack

The ability to take in information in graphical form has taken off over the last two years, and the Obama campaign capitalized on it. And they weren’t just good at it. They changed the infographic game.

Example 1

The above image may seem brief for an infographic, but it was created with a lot in mind.

  1. Notice the text in the graphic. Almost all of it is in caps. In the internet world, that’s known as the equivalent to yelling, but caps can also do a great job of grabbing your attention. In this context, it works.
  2. Notice the logo on the top left. It’s the same one Obama campaigned with in 2008. It’s not on every graphic the campaign put out, but it shows up where it needs to. It’s really something to keep in mind for when you’re working on your personal brand. Do you overuse or underuse your logo? Too much one way or the other can cause problems.
  3. Notice the colors, specifically the blues. With Obama being a democrat, blue is an inherent color, and the campaign used it in everything. But they didn’t use just any blue. They used two or three specific shades in everything. You can see some of the blues in the above image match the blue in the image below.

Example 2

Another brief infographic, but there’s a lot being carried with it.

  1. Notice the picture. It’s very detailed and warm. Does it remind you of anything? Instagram’s retro look for pictures has become extremely popular recently, and the Obama campaign uses similar tones in a lot of their images. (Barack also has an Instagram account.)
  2. Again, notice the text. Mostly caps. The font is used in the picture above. A simple URL has been added to the bottom to balance out the picture, plus it reminds the reader that there’s a source for the content provided and more information to be found.
  3. Again, notice the colors. The blue is the same as the blue above. The red is a color that the Obama campaign used consistently when referencing Romney in graphics. (Here’s an example.)

Between those two infographics, there’s a lot at learn from. Here’s a couple things that really stick out:

  • Keep is short. The messages are brief to match the attention span of their Twitter audience.
  • Keep it similar. The graphics follow a style guide to keep them consistent and familiar.
  • Keep it current. The styles follow trends that are popular and relevant.
  • Keep it connected. A link to more information can be found either in the tweet or on the graphic.

Stay quotable, my friends

Easily half of the tweets sent from @BarackObama were quotes from speeches he was giving. What’s truly remarkable is the number of quotes that could be tweeted from one speech. Sometimes it’s hard to get a whole concept into 140 characters, but it’s an even greater difficulty when you’re dealing with a direct quote because you need to keep the words intact.

I have no doubt in my mind that the president writes his speeches with the tweetable quotes already picked out. But I’ve started to turn this one introspectively. When I’m in a conversation, how can I make a point that fits into 140 characters? It’s definitely a skill to be mastered.

Also, when you really want to make an impression, add a quote to a picture.

Make your message last

Social network updates are notorious for being relavent for a matter of hours. (*ahem* Twitter) But sometimes there are messages that need to stay out there longer. Don’t be afraid to freshen up a message that you sent out yesterday and throw it out again today.

Be social

@MittRomney wasn’t consistent in sending updates, and I believe that hurt his campaign. Part of the reason President Obama was so successful on social media was because he didn’t have a lot of competition from his rival.

Do you know who your rival is on social media? Not sure? I’ll tell you. Everyone.

Do you know what can make you stand out from your competition? Being on social media regularly. If you’re consistently sending out tweets every day, your followers will get used to your voice. Tweet once a week, and no one can get a grip on what you have to offer.

It comes down to: If you want to be social, be social

Unless you’ve got a campaign team, you’re going to have to get in the habit of sending regular updates yourself. And that’s hard, but it gets easier with time..


There’s plenty more to be learned from the Obama campaign, but I’ll end there. Happy socializing!