Obama's new 'truth' sites a basic strategy, but potentially effective campaign tool

Once again the campaign team for Barack Obama has launched another pretty basic online strategy, this one geared to compete directly with claims being made by his potential Republican adversaries. There is nothing all that innovative about the strategy. What makes it effective is just how simple it is.

Each of the sites has the same bland interface and design. The “Truth” team dissects each claim that an opponent is making about the President and identifies the gap in each claim by presenting the campaign’s sense of the truth.  Each site — “KeepingGOPHonest,” “AttackWatch” and “Keeping his word” — are uniform their format and message.  All are designed to get visitors to sign up to their email lists and direct the visitor to a donation page. In contrast, the Republican candidates haven’t yet done anything so objectively simple as refuting the claims of the President on a variety of issues. So far, as least in online initiatives, it’s Advantage Obama.

Let’s take a look at this past week’s activity online:

Facebook Friends

Mitt Romney  – 1,469,664 – up 14,508
Ron Paul – 854,969 – up 13,087
Newt Gingrich –  280,029 – up 5,316
Rick Santorum – 127,653 – up 23,041
President Barack Obama  – 25,154,734 – up 87,372

The big news over the past week has been the significant new life that Rick Santorum received in the wake of his three-state sweep, and it gave Santorum his biggest week online thus far. His team seems to have finally figured out that it should be doing more online to recruit and motivate his supporters and followers. 

Mitt Romney’s page continues to showcase his 30 second spots, Ron Paul is talking about a “Valentine’s Day Money Bomb,” Newt is posting comments asking his following to follow him as the only true conservative. Santorum has the equivalent of a recruiting billboard above the fold asking visitors to “JOIN TEAM SANTORUM” and provides visitors any number of ways that they can help support the candidate. I wonder what kept the campaign team from rolling out this strategy four months ago?

President Obama’s rate of growth is down slightly – he has gained only 87,000 friends this past week whereas in previous weeks he has been gaining 100,000 friend per week. Issues around religious liberty, the federal budget, etc. may be slowing the rate of growth. Despite this relative “slowness” the President has a commanding lead and his team has begun to broaden their online strategy.

Twitter Followers

Newt Gingrich – 1,438,246 – up 2,209
Ron Paul  – 368,157 – up 8,499
Mitt Romney – 334,613 – up 8,343
Rick Santorum – 122,532 – up 15,542
President Barack Obama – 12,476,006 – up 100,358

Here again, another big week for Rick Santorum. The candidate added almost twice the number of Twitter followers than any of his rivals. It is the first week that he has ever enjoyed that level of success. 

While Newt Gingrich still leads all Republicans in terms of followers, his rate of growth has continued to slow dramatically in the last couple of weeks. Both Mitt Romney and Ron Paul continue to see consistent week-over-week gains on Twitter. The Ron Paul team is benefiting from a series of satellite Twitter groups that are pushing his numbers higher. The president continues to grab a significant portion of the Twitter followers each week. There is little doubt that his campaign team is pushing all the right buttons online to build an even stronger base during this election cycle than in the previous one.

What’s very clear in the workings of the Obama election machine is that his team understands the real time nature of the online landscape. The launch of these three sites allows the Obama team the ability to answer any and all claims and objections coming from Republicans in real time. The marketing around the “Truth Teams” also sets up a framework from the outset that the President and his team have a lock on the “truth” around these issues. Of course, this is yet another example of solid marketing and an understanding of the power of the Internet to create effective positioning in real time. In order for the Republican field to compete effectively, candidates must shift their focus to embrace the real time nature of the Internet while making stump speeches and waiting for the next televised debate and make the case for the truth as they see it. 

For now, online perception is reality and the President is taking full advantage by marketing his version of the “truth”.