Well we had a little bit of a mystery going on ourselves tonight in the world of the Portland, Oregon, social media scene that needed some solving:
This Thursday, Rahaf Harfoush, Associate Director of the Global Cooperation Initiative at the World Economic Forum and part of the Obama campaign‘s social media team, will deliver the keynote for InnoTech, one of the Silicon Forest’s premier business and technology innovation conferences.
The keynote will be a great opportunity to hear Rahaf’s insights into how the Obama campaign embraced social media to affect political change—and will likely cause you to reassess your use of social media. No doubt, her talk will also include an early glimpse of some of the themes she’ll approach in Yes We Did: An Inside Look at How Social Media Built the Obama Brand, her upcoming book.
I had the opportunity to send Rahaf a few questions ahead of her arrival, and she was kind enough to take some time to answer. Here’s what we covered:
How did you get started in social media?
I have always loved technology. I guess I inherited it from my dad who is an avid science fiction junkie and technology always seems to represent unlimited potential and opportunity. I’m fascinated by how we use the web to interact and collaborate with each other. I love people and I love information and social media is the perfect combination of the two.
I don’t really remember when I got into social media, but I do remember it was before we called it social media. 😉
What brought you to the Obama campaign?
I was on the research and writing team for Don Tapscott’s book Grown Up Digital, and I was responsible for gathering research on technology, young people and the political process. My research took me to the very talented Chris Hughes, Obama’s Director of Internal Organizing who was designing a social network for the campaign.
I interviewed him and we hit it off. I was really inspired by what they were doing in Chicago and asked Chris if there was anyway that I could help. One thing led to another and I went down to Chicago for the last few months of the campaign as a full time volunteer. It was an awesome, empowering, thrilling experience.
Prior to your efforts, the strongest US online political campaign was championed by supporters of Howard Dean. What, if anything, did you learn from Dean’s efforts that informed the Obama campaign?
I think the Obama campaign heavily refined a lot of the strategies initially pioneered by Dean.
Dean was the first to use social networks (like Meetup) to organize supporters and start building the beginning of an online campaign infrastructure. He was also one of the first to experiment with online donations, particularly small amount donations.
The one main thing the campaign built on was the need for all of that online organizing to translate into offline action. This was where Dean’s campaign faltered, online enthusiasm did not turn into tangible votes or on-the-ground support.
Ultimately, everything the Obama campaign did online reinforced the need for offline organizing. Blog posts, contests, house parties, canvassing events the emphasis was always on getting supporters to get out of their house and into their communities on behalf of Barack.
(Prefacing this with the fact that a bunch of Portland people were essential to the development of the Obama iPhone app… 😉 ) In your opinion, what was the most unique use of social media in the Obama campaign?
Even if I didn’t know that, I would have to say the iPhone application. It was an extremely innovative foray into the yet untapped area of mobility. It effectively turned every iPhone into a fully functional field office. It allowed the campaign to stay connected to supporters in a very intimate way and ensured that they received the most up to date information.
That is very powerful to me. I don’t think we’ve even scratched the surface on what we can do with mobile.
If I had to pick a favorite social network for Portland, it would be Twitter, hands down. In both your work for the World Economic Forum and your personal life, within which social media site(s) do you find yourself most comfortable/engaged?
Twitter is my favorite too! [Editor: She’s @rahafharfoush.] I love my twitter community and I always find myself going to them for their opinions and advice.
For example, some people at the Forum were interested in identifying some thought leaders in particular industries. I asked my Twitter community and within minutes and over fifteen names of experts that had come recommended by people I trust and respect. You just can’t beat the speed or quality of information.
I am weary of this sudden mainstream appeal of Twitter, particularly those people that focus only on the number of followers. For me, it’s all about meaningful conversations. I’d take that over a big crowd any day!
Finally, a softball. I know you love to travel and explore. Have you been to Portland before? What would you like to experience while you’re in town?
I have never been to Portland before! I heard you have a beautiful waterfront. If the weather cooperates I would love to sit in a nice café with my new kindle and catch up on some reading and relax.
Thanks, again, to Rahaf for taking the time to provide those responses. I’ll be looking forward to seeing her speak on Thursday. If you’d like to join me, please register to attend InnoTech, this Wednesday and Thursday.
(Photo credit: Jesse Morgan. Used with permission.)
And the finalists are:
[UPDATE] Whoa whoa whoa. Not so fast. Hold your horses, there’s been a little recount due to some dangling chads. The list of nominees below has been retooled a tad.
Next big thing
On Thursday, April 23, one winner from each group will be selected—based on their “originality, effectiveness and creativity”—as the inaugural recipients of the award.
Cost of attendance is $15 and space is limited. No word on whether the event will be streamed.
For more on the event, visit the SoMe Awards.
Little ol’ Portland is no stranger to the occasional visit by a well-known Web or tech type. I mean, we’ve had Robert Scoble and Jeremiah Owyang in town for conferences, Sarah Lacy swung by for her book tour, Gary Vaynerchuk and Mark Shuttleworth have presented, and Chris Messina and David Recordon are through here on a regular basis, to name a few.
Plus, we’ve got those well-known-in-tech-circles folks who actually live here. People like Ward Cunningham, Linus Torvalds, Rael Dornfest, Andy Baio, Dawn Foster, Josh Bancroft, Raven Zachary, and Marshall Kirkpatrick.
Enough name dropping. You get the point.
Each impressive in his or her own right. But for sheer volume of internet fame in one room, this Thursday may rival all of those previous visits.
Well, this Thursday, as part of the Intel Insiders program, Intel will be hosting a who’s who of social media types here in town. And on Thursday night, they’ve scheduled a meetup in conjunction with the Social Media Club of Portland.
These folks are literally the who’s who in social media and technology and they’ll be in P-town checking out Intel’s tech and touring their fabs and research centers. As a special bonus, they’ll be heading downtown in the evening to join several folks from Social Media Club PDX at The Green Dragon Pub for chit-chat and beer.
Sweet, huh? Join your fellow Portland Social Media Peeps on Thursday, April 16 from 7:30 to 8:30 for a Tweetup at the Green Dragon. And if the notoriety of these Insiders isn’t enough to spark your interest, Intel will provide the first round of beers (depending on how many people show up).
So who’s going to be there? Well, let’s take a look.
Sarah Austin was one of the first live streaming, life-casters popularized on Justin.TV and now hosts a weekly live show in conjunction with Pop17 at Mogulus.
Cathy currently serves a multi-faceted role at Seesmic, overseeing marketing, assisting with business development, and driving content. She was also instrumental in helping Seesmic founder Loic Le Meur develop LeWeb, now one of the largest and most well know tech gatherings in Europe.
In 2004, Tom became the first journalist from a leading newspaper to resign his position to pursue a career blogging full-time. That decision launched Silicon Valley Watcher. He is often cited as one of the most influential people in Silicon Valley.
Frank is best known for his blog, Somewhat Frank, which covers social media and emerging technology. In an effort to facilitate startup community, he co-founded TECH Cocktail, an organization that “that offers events and community-powered projects open to bloggers, technology enthusiasts, entrepreneurs & professionals interested in technology in under served technology communities.”
Irina is the co-founder and host of Geek Entertainment TV which has been on air since November of 2005. She also put together the Vloggies, an award ceremony for video bloggers.
Whoof. That’s quite a line-up.
So, if you get the chance, please swing by the Green Dragon, this Thursday (April 16) at 7:30 or so. Not only would it be a great opportunity for you to meet this interesting group of people, it would be yet another chance for us to expose some very influential folks to the amazing Portland tech community.
Plus, to repeat: free beer.
And if you’re interested in video on the Web *cough* Strange Love Live *cough*, I’d doubly recommend that you try to make it. Since there’s a heavy contingent of video savvy folks—Sarah, Cathy, Frank, and Irina—in this little gathering. I’m just saying.
Hope to see you Thursday.
(Sarah Austin image courtesy Pop17; Cathy Brooks image courtesy Dave Sifry; Tom Foremski image courtesy Denise Howell; Frank Gruber image courtesy hyku; Irina Slutsky image courtesy TheBulBrothers.com)
Spend any time on a social network where you’re identified by a username or handle—be that Twitter, Digg, StumbleUpon, Flickr, Shizzow, Gmail, or a multitude of other sites—and you’ll rapidly become associated with that name.
Need an example of this in action? Just show up to a Portland tech event. I can all but guarantee “What’s your Twitter name?” comes up at some point in the conversation.
But like anything online, once you’ve found a name you like, it becomes a matter of consistently using—and reserving it—on sites that you may use. Just so everyone knows that it’s you.
We all get very defensive about our username. And we’ve been dealing with this issue since the days of BBS—actually maybe even CBs, good buddy.
To date, the best defense has been the “new social network land grab.” It’s a lemming-like rush to the cliff of every new social network site that crops up. We all sprint over, register our preferred username, and squat on it—just in case we decide to use that social network at some point in the future.
Oh my. Who knew social networking would end up being so much work? I just want my friends to know me, wherever I happen to be. Why does that have to be such a pain in the ass?
Well, thanks to Portland-based FriendsCall.Me, it just got a lot easier. Built by DariusMonsef and PureForm—the duo behind COLOURlovers—FriendsCall.Me cures a whole bunch of the headaches surrounding social network identity management—and it gives you a beautiful new profile/lifestream to boot.
We’re living in the age of the social web. Just about every website you join has a profile for you to fill out. A huge number of really great sites will come online in the next few years and every one will have another profile… this disconnected mess of profiles is going to become more and more of a pain to manage. We’re paving the first steps on the way to helping you organize all those profiles. In the comings days and weeks we’ll be bringing online features that not only allow you to check a username, but register a profile and sync it with all your other profiles… and along the way show you some interesting sites you might not have known about.
So the problems I mentioned above? Owning your chosen username, letting people know you’re you even though your usernames may be different, and getting alerts when new social networks come online? Done, done, and done with FriendsCall.Me.
Want to see where your username is being used? Just run a username check and you’ll see all the spots where it’s living.
If you’re looking to consolidate your profiles under one roof, sign up for an account. Then, you can add a bunch of your social media and social networking accounts to your profile page. Your new FriendsCall.Me profile aggregates all of your identities in one spot.
Finally, if you’re looking to keep control of that identity, you’ve got a bevy of options on how you get alerts. Want every site that comes online? Fine. Just want photo sites? Fine. Mix and match the alerts to meet your needs.
What’s that? Your favorite site isn’t there? That’s easily remedied.
Seen this before?
I’m sure you have. FriendsCall.Me is sure, too:
You may notice that FriendsCall.Me works a lot like some other sites you may have seen… that’s because some of the features we provide aren’t exactly new. The username checking susernameervice was well executed by Jon Sykes before he turned his site off… and several clones have popped up since. In that way, our features are a little “Me Too” but we’re not much for simply copying an old idea and rebranding it. We saw an opportunity to take a few concepts and stir them all together to create a new and much more useful service.
But I like the way these guys think, they’ve got a ton of experience in dealing with social networks, and—let’s face it—I’m going to give any Silicon Forest startup the benefit of the doubt.
I’d love to hear what you think. Give FriendsCall.Me a try and let me know.
The Social Media Club of Portland, SEMpdx, the Software Association of Oregon (SAO), and InnoTech have joined forces to launch “SoMe Awards: Your Social Media Awards,” an award designed to recognize “outstanding social media projects and the people who created them.”
No, despite the date, I’m not joking. I did that already.
Oh okay. So here’s one more little joke and then we can get on with reality.
Want to register yourself, a client, or a friend? Simply head over to the SoMe Award nomination form before midnight on April 11. Categories include Superstar, House Party, Next Big Thing, Scrappy, Sugar Daddy, Bloviater, and Wildcard.
What are they looking for?
We encourage nominees to make it EASY for the judges to review your work and provide as much detail as necessary. We advise a landing page or micro-site that explains why your project is award-worthy and walks the judges through the elements you want them to be aware of (no word-count limitations here). This is the place to make your pitch! Highlight your creativity, ground-breaking ideas, coding artistry, marketing effectiveness, statistics – whatever is most award-worthy about your project. Don’t assume judges will click through elements you have not highlighted as important! Be clear about what they should look at.
Note: the judges are from another state and likely will not know the nominees to make the process as impartial as possible.
So get all your social ducks in a row and fill out the form. Or get your clients to nominate you. I think you could use a new trophy on your desk. Or to haul around with you from coffee shop to coffee shop.