Obama on YouTube: How the Web Was Won

In the three weeks since the Obama "Yes We Can" music video was posted, 11 million people have seen it. Or maybe a few thousand hard-core supporters watched it non-stop since then, on continuous loop, 5000 times each. Either way, 11 million views represents one insanely successful viral marketing video.

Digging further into the Obama PR machine we see this isn't the first runaway hit helping his campaign. Obama's supporters and campaign organizers have led a brilliant Web 2.0 strategy for months now. A simple search on YouTube shows 1.3 million views for his response to Bush's final State of the Union address, 6.4 million views of "I Got a Crush...On Obama" featuring supposed superfan Obama Girl, and another 1.9 million views for ... wait for it ... "Obama Girl Returns".

Factor in the thousands of comments and hundreds of other videos, mostly positive, and we have the makings of the most successful viral web campaign in history. And thanks to smart leadership from the Obama camp, most of it is viral, user-generated content. That's the beauty of it, of course -- fan videos are far more credible and viral than official campaign propaganda.

Compare this to Hillary Clinton's presence on YouTube. It's nothing short of devastating. Fact is, the Clinton camp can't boast a single pro-Hillary video in the first page of search results for either "Hillary" or "Hillary Clinton". Listing current YouTube results for "Hillary Clinton" by relevance, we get, in the top 5:

1. An 11-month-old Clinton slam posted by a renegade Obama supporter. 4.6 million views. 24,000 comments.
2. Hillary Clinton Sings National Anthem. 1.8 million views and yes, it's worse than you think.
3. A brutal slam video called SwiftKids-Hillary Clinton, complete with little kids saying "Hillary Clinton is a thief".

What's up? The answer may lie in an early post entitled Is Hillary Clinton Abusing YouTube?, where two curious guys asked why the Clinton campaign didn't allow text responses to her own posted videos. "When only one person is talking, we wouldn't call that much of a conversation", they said, and are still saying, 290,000 views later.

Another reason can be found in social networking. Obama has 1.4 million "friends" across Facebook, MySpace, Latino social sites Batanga and MiGente, gay and lesbian site Glee, 50+ site Eons, and AsianAve. Clinton, in comparison, has just 310,000 "friends" in total and limited herself to Facebook, MySpace, and Eons.

Could Clinton's comparative marketing failures be a result of her own camp's heavy hand and lack of trust in Web 2.0 ways? Could Obama's success be due to his early encouragement for user-generated content, starting with his open acceptance of the Obama Girl video? Whatever the cause, he has 1.1 million more people calling him a friend, and his official YouTube Channel has 12.2 million views compared to her 1.4 million. In internet marketing terms, that's a compelling victory.