On January 30, 2012, Barack Obama broke new ground and became the first president to ‘hangout’ on Google+. In one broad, calculated swoop, Obama
increased his social media presence, reinvigorated his brand and swayed a
devout Republican to vote for him in the next election. Obama’s social
media experiment was an effective marketing tool and good customer
Drawing from Obama’s playbook, here are five lessons for startups and
- Know your audience: To sell a product or service, you need to know who the buyer is. Obama
tailored his responses to suit not only what his constituents wanted to
hear, but also what he thought Americans wanted to hear. Know what people
want and you will not only maintain your current consumer base, but also
possibly expand it. So be strategic.
- Don’t shy away from the tough questions: Obama didn’t just answer the easy questions; he answered the tough ones
too. You can’t hide from the inevitable scary questions—consumers will
want to know where you stand. Honesty is generally the best policy and
will ensure that you have a clear guiding message that others can latch
- Welcome feedback: For the lucky few that got to participate in the exchange with Obama, this unscripted session was customer service at its best. They probed the
president, and others were able to listen in on his responses. This portion of the event transformed what could have been another scripted
social media gag into something genuine and interactive that delivered
key points. Lesson: Don’t be afraid to talk to your consumers.
- One person can make the difference: Any opportunity to positively sway public opinion is worth taking. During the social event, Obama reached out to Jennifer Wedel, the wife of an
unemployed semiconductor engineer, and promised to look over her husband’s resume. This personal gesture captured a would-be
Republican voter and news headlines around the world. Any marketing or
public relations department will tell you that Jennifer’s reaction was
priceless. A good review can help your business grow, so reach out and
personally engage with consumers. The extra gesture can pay off big time.
- Embrace social media to expand your reach: This experiment demonstrated the level of engagement made possible by social media. Prior to the event, almost 230,000 YouTube users submitted
over 130,000 questions and cast 1,630,369 votes on the White House’s
YouTube channel. Obama’s hangout was not just an American event, but also a global one, and the number of people who witnessed or heard about it is immeasurable.
Even if you don’t have Obama’s pull, this event shows how
far you can reach using tools that are virtually free. Expanding your
social media presence will allow you to reach consumers far and wide who might then spread the word about your product or service. So be social