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Barack Obama, Social Networking King

Online, Barack Obama is king of social networking.

Which is not to say that he's the most popular candidate on social networking sites. (Start deleting those angry comments now, Ron Paul fans.) He's just the busiest soc-net bee of the lot. The first to capitalize on the strength of his Facebook groups. The first to have a profile on Eons, the MySpace for baby boomers. One of the first candidates -- the other being Rudy Guiliani -- to have a profile on LinkedIn, a site for professional networkers, and the first to have a LinkedIn group.

And as of Friday, he's the first candidate to have profiles on BlackPlanet.com and MiGente.com, popular soc-nets in the black and Latino communities, and also on newer soc-nets such as AsianAve.com (for Asian Americans) and GLEE.com ("GLEE" stands for "Gay, Lesbian and Everyone Else").

For a biracial candidate who grew up in Hawaii and Indonesia and has lived in New York and Chicago -- and who's touted himself as someone who can unite Americans -- this kind of outreach makes sense. "At Obama events across the country what is noticeable is the diversity of the crowd and the unique level of energy from groups of people who may not have attended a political event for any other candidate in the past," Obama spokeswoman Jen Psaki told The Trail.

But to some online observers, this might seem like overkill, a variation on the let's-throw-spaghetti-on-the-online-wall-and-see-what-sticks strategy -- a criticism bestowed upon John Edwards
earlier this year. To many, it's simply smart online-politicking. Yes, we live in a MySpace-Facebook populated online world, but outside of those gigantic hubs, they argue, are dynamic soc-nets effectively targeting demographics.

"This is 2007, not 2004. Back in 2004, the strategy was, get them to your Web site. That was the goal," said David Weinberger, a fellow at the Berkman Center for Internet and Society at Harvard Law School and Internet adviser for Howard Dean. "These days, the Web is a much busier, fragmented, diverse world, and while these social networking sites are still really in their infancy, it's hard to resist their value in reaching people."

Added Colin Delaney of epolitics.com: "These sites don't require much maintaining, especially considering Obama's new media team. Fact is, online you have to go where the audience is, and the online audience are on all these sites."

-- Jose Antonio Vargas

By Washington Post editors  |  October 6, 2007; 8:00 AM ET
 
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