The biggest changes in Australian and the United States politics in the last decade; the handover to a Labor government from a long incumbent Coalition, and the election of Barack Obama, were led by innovative online marketing campaigns.

Who could forget Kevin07: the T-Shirts, the myspace, Facebook and YouTube pages? Rudd had some clever people around him that made a dork who was surely bully bait in school become the cool kid. We were told Rudd knew what young people were going through, and John Howard had no clue. The message and the medium was the same for Obama. A brilliant online campaign ensued that called upon musicians and comedians, but most of all, called upon young adults to get involved with the cause and spread the word.

Rudd’s social media savvy couldn’t save his head, but Obama is back on the campaign trail, and early signs indicate the online campaign will once again be exciting. Here is a great analysis of Obama’s social media presence, which includes over 20 million Facebook fans, 8 million Twitter followers, and a teasing campaign webpage that demands you hand over your email address.

Paul Sprokkreeff, managing director of Web Profits reckons Australian politicians could learn a lot from Obama, and aren’t taking advantage of almost half the population with a Facebook account and feverish Twitter users. 

Sprokkreeff says Kevin Rudd is still the shining light in the political social media sphere, despite losing the top job, and Julia Gillard needs to catch up.

“When Kevin Rudd has something to say, he has close to one million immediate listeners,” Sprokkreeff says. “While they might not always agree with what he has to say, he has that direct communication channel open and there is nobody near him in the Australian political landscape.”

Julia Gillard currently sits on just over 100, 000 Twitter followers, while opposition leader Tony Abbott has under 35, 000.

“Ultimately, the aim of any politician is to garner as many votes as possible and online marketing and social media are highly effective in communicating with voters, particularly the younger generation,” Sprokkreeff says. “Most of our politicians are failing to realise that social media is a great platform for two-way communication – where they can communicate directly with voters and find out public opinion, and where voters can raise their concerns directly with policymakers.”

Obama focuses on the big two

Alex Cleanthous, Head Online Strategist at Web Profits, who will closely monitor the Obama online campaign, said “When it comes to successfully using Twitter and Facebook, President Obama has showed the world how to do it.”

“In 2008, President Obama implemented one of the most powerful online marketing strategies in the history of the Internet. He raised more than $500 million and changed the way elections were won.”

Cleanthous says in 2008, President Obama had a presence on 16 different social media platforms, and promoted all of them on his website. In 2011 that number has been reduced to two, Facebook and Twitter, which reflects the growth and market share that these two websites have achieved in the last three years.”

“Obama’s strategy hasn’t changed much since 2008 – build up a database, grow social media followers, encourage donations, build credibility and trust through ongoing and sincere communication.”

“Australian politicians could learn a lot by following his lead.”

He said that success online is the same in every market, even when running for President;

1.       Develop an effective website that drives action

2.       Drive visitors to your website using marketing and advertising

3.       Build a relationship with your prospects through email marketing & social media

4.       Expand your reach through mobile