Obama’s Social Media Strategist Talks to NMR About Being the Voice of the President [INTERVIEW]

On the night of the election, after receiving confirmation of President Obama’s victory, Laura Olin and her social media team uploaded a photo that would become one of the most memorable photos in American history. Titled “Four More Years,” the iconic photograph of a content-looking President Obama hugging his wife Michelle has since become the symbol for the president’s re-election win.

Olin began her position as Outbound Director for the Obama for America campaign in March 2011 and has since become the driving force behind the president’s social media presence. Having only met the president a few brief times beforehand, Olin came into the re-election campaign with the challenge of bringing the personalities and passions of the president, first lady and vice president into the social media world. Just as television changed the way the public viewed politics in the 1960 Kennedy-Nixon election, this year, President Obama and Governor Romney went head to head both at the podium and online.

Olin says:

“Social media had a huge influence in helping us get out the vote, raise money and persuade people to support the president. No matter what platforms emerge in the next four years, I think political campaigns will have to find ways to become a part of the way people are having conversations online in a way people will respond to.”

In a political campaign where as much of the action happened in the debates as between Twitter accounts, Olin enlisted a team of four to help run President Obama’s, First Lady Michelle Obama’s and Vice President Biden’s Facebooks, Twitters, Tumblrs, Spotifys and Instagrams. During this election, 60% of voters between the ages of 18-29 voted for Obama. A lot of those voters got political news and information from Facebook and Twitter.

In the end, Obama’s social media campaign trounced Romney’s, with the breakdowns as follows: On Facebook, Obama’s page aquired 31 million likes versus Romney’s page with 11 million likes; on Twitter, Obama stands at 24 million followers while Romney has a following of 1.7 million; on Tumblr, each of President Obama’s posts acquired an average of 70,000 notes while a single Romney post averaged around 400 notes.

Olin says: “I only met [President Obama] briefly a couple of times [and] the day after the campaign, when he came to Chicago HQ, he went around the office and hugged every single person there — and there were hundreds of us. Election night was one of the happiest of my life; I felt proud of everything our team had done but mostly relieved that the president would get a second term and that we’d continue making progress on issues we can’t afford to go back on now.”

So what can we take away from the success of President Obama’s campaign? Olin advises: “ One, hire people who are not just good at their jobs, but who also share the sensibility you’re trying to convey with your organization. Tone is everything on social media. Two, images will beat just text or video embeds almost every time. [And] three, this is so simple, but people are much more likely to share things if you ask them to share them. We did that a lot, because we knew that people getting campaign messages from their friends was so much more powerful than them getting campaign messages directly from us.”

Now winding down after the election, Olin is continuing to run the President’s social media campaign and says she is currently focusing on rallying grassroots movements against raising middle class taxes and providing support in the fight over the fiscal cliff.

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