On January 20th, President Barack Obama gave his annual State of the Union Address—a speech primarily focused on his “greatest hits” to try to strengthen his standing as he moves into his final year of his first term as President of the United States. He talked about how the economy had improved significantly, emphasizing the decline of unemployment throughout 2014 as supporting factors for his success. However, this post is not about his speech. We are going to talk about what happened after it: when Youtubers met with Obama.
So let’s get started! Ten years ago, no one would have ever thought that Youtubers would have so much influence over such a gigantic community of connected people. No one even really knew about Twitter, what an egoblogger was or the power of social media influencers at the time. So many things have changed over the last few years: they way we communicate with each other and how we obtain information. Today we don’t just pay attention to official sources and media channels that produce content and entertain us. Now we want to know what other people are saying—people like us—because at the end of the day, we can actually relate to them. Influence doesn’t come from once source, nor is it obtained on a single channel or profile. In today’s world, influence is obtained and enacted by a wide variety of people through a broad range of media.
We have been talking over the last few months about our Influencer Engagement Pyramid, where we clearly define the three distinct levels of influence:
Normally, celebrities are often the most direct and effective resource when you want to build your brand image (most of the time charging a rather a hefty fee for their effort ). However, there are also online opinion leaders—Youtubers, Twitter users, bloggers or even digital journalists who have a large online community behind them. These are the kinds of people who you want to support your brand because they could be more effective and communicate your story more naturally to your audiences. And guess what? Not only have certain companies understood how important digital influencers role is, but also the United States government is tapping into the influence these new players have over the internet. The President of United States—Barack Obama—wanted to try it out for himself and this is what happened:
THE GOAL vs THE CHALLENGE
Since 2010, the White House Communication Department has been looking for more modern ways to engage people. What happened after the State of the Nation Address—with the help of three famous youtubers—has changed the way that government officers communicate with citizens (their target audience). Because in the end, the target audience is made up of decision makers, they will choose between you and your competitors…
Three of the most famous American Youtubers were chosen to interview Barack Obama: Hank Green (@hankgreen), GloZell Green (@GloZell) and Bethany Mota (@BethanyMota); each one influenced a particular target group. These three youtubers were instructed to ask Barack . Obama questions that their followers were asking them during the debate by using the hashtag #YoutubeAsksObama. These youtubers raised a number important issues that the Obama administration was facing—some that were related to rising costs of education, cyber security concerns, amongst others.
As News Lab Director at Google, Steve Grove provided a unique take on the event by creating some Google Trends content.
So what was the main reason that the Obama administration decided to go through with this strategy? Why did they choose Youtubers instead of going on some talk show?
After doing some background research on these Youtube influencers and their audiences, the Obama administration discovered that they would reach more people in their target audiences by engaging these specific influencers. They were capable of bringing their audiences to a whole new level of closeness, creating serious engagement during the event. The Obama team used that to their advantage, and at a particularly delicate time when Obama needed more support to win the following election.
Obama’s goal was crystal clear: show a more in-touch and human side of the President. And the challenge was to achieve that by implementing a digital influencer strategy.
The first youtuber, Hank Green—an entrepreneur, musician and part of the Vlog Brothers—talked to Obama about various issues such as wealth redistribution, people’s lack of trust in the system and (of course) the implications new technologies are having on users’ daily lives and its legal framework. They were talking about some rather sensitive issues because these topics are what matter to his community. That’s exactly what this Youtuber wanted to achieve through this meeting with Obama, acting as the voice of his followers.
One of the topics was about North Korea, and another one was in regards to the famous (or should we say “infamous”) Obamacare Act. They went on to discuss cybersecurity, which has (once again) become an issue after the Sony hacking. The following graph reveals just how important cyber security is, even more relevant than national security in terms of Google searches.
And next came the GloZell interview. She is one of the most famous Youtubers from around the world with more than 5 million followers. Her community is truly unique. They are loyal to her because she is real and says it how it is. This woman is a leader and is not afraid of people judging what she has to say.
Finally, Bethany focused on issues that directly affect younger generations: education. After playing some hardball, the questions became more light-hearted. She and Obama discussed his favorite movie, where he sees himself in the future and what his ultimate super power would be.
These Youtubers got the most out of every second of that 46 minute interview, acting as the spokespeople for the millions of people that stand behind them.
Obama was able to connect on a deeper level with his target audiences using Youtube. He was able to show a more personal side and was effective at conveying his message. The influencers who he collaborated with are highly revered opinion leaders in their communities: Hank Green has over 2 million followers, GloZell more than 5 million and Bethany with more than 8 million subscribers. That makes up to around 15 million people who Obama wanted to communicate with and boost affinity for the upcoming election. And he was successful—he had over 11,000 media impacts just during the interview itself. Imagine how much that number has grown over time.
Now let’s take a look at the Youtubers personal impacts within their communities. GloZell was the most influential in regards to tweets created about her content while Bethany had the lowest twitter interactions.
The White House Communication department received a standing digital ovation. These Youtubers gave Obama the perfect opportunity to express his views through modern communication platforms.
And, of course, in this day and age, we couldn’t help but take a selfie now, could we! This photo was responsible for making the interview go viral and is probably going to be one of the most shared selfies of all time. And many familiar faces from the influencer digerati showed their support for Hank, GloZell and Bethany in support of this new form of direct communication with America’s political leaders.
After the Youtube influencer interview with Barack Obama one thing has become crystal clear: Influencers are capable of not only starting conversation, but also exponentially amplifying it.
And that’s something that Launchmetrics has been saying since the beginning—brands have to change the way they communicate with their audiences; they need to get more personal and move away from corporate messaging by engaging the people in their communities. If the President of the United States has done it, why don’t you?