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Social media fuelled vote win, says Obama's campaign manager

A day before British Columbians decide who will lead the province, a man credited with much of the success behind U.S. President Barack Obama’s rise to the top dropped into Vancouver to share some wisdom.

David Plouffe was the campaign manager behind Obama’s historic road to the White House, a campaign that has become synonymous with the groundbreaking use of technology and social media to fuel its success.

“We built the most powerful grassroots fundraising machine in the history of, really, the world of politics,” Plouffe said during a speech Monday at Convergence 09, a conference on digital media. “Social media and our social networking site allowed that to happen.”

By the time the campaign was over, Plouffe said, the Obama campaign had raised almost $750 million; roughly $500 million of that came online. Half of the donors, Plouffe said, had never before given money to a political campaign.

The Obama social networking site allowed volunteers in so-called ‘red states,’ seen as unlikely to support the candidate from the Democratic Party, to connect and co-ordinate an on-the-ground push while the overall campaign concentrated on key swing ridings.

“If we had not had these grassroots supporters in these states organized on their own, Barack Obama would not have won the presidency,” Plouffe said.

Since Obama’s victory, political campaigners of all stripes have rushed to update their social media campaigns. Political parties in B.C. were no exception, actively campaigning using tools like Facebook and Twitter and incorporating video and cell phone texts into their messaging.

But using the technology doesn’t mean campaigns can carbon copy Obama’s success.

While digital tools enabled the Obama campaign to connect, the key ingredient was Obama himself.

“This was only possible because our candidate inspired people to do something they had never done in their lives,” Plouffe said.

Irwin Loy reports for 24 hours Vancouver.

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