My friend Kyle Stoneman once said, “We used to live in a world where the producers of content determined the channels of distribution. We now live in a world where the consumers of content determine the channels of distribution.” This new reality has been taken to heart by the White House. With its need to get more young people to sign up for health insurance, President Obama took Zach Galifianakis up on his offer to talk about the Affordable Care Act on his Funny or Die talk show Between Two Ferns:
Despite the right-wing Obama hate machine’s outcries (Fox News and Rush Limbaugh) that the appearance demeaned the office of the president, the interview has been seen well over 2.8 million times (and the Colbert Report’s report on the reaction was viewed over 100,000 times). Thumbs Ups outnumber Thumbs Down sixteen to one. And according to Tara McGuinness at the White House, the interview became the top referrer to HealthCare.gov. In other words, it was a smashing success.
And there you have it. The White House wanted to reach Galifianakis’s young, hip, social media active audience to get them to go to HealthCare.gov and it worked. It worked VERY well.
So while Fox News, Rush, O’Reilly and those who have made it their job to demean the office of the president whine about President Obama demeaning the presidency, he hit a home run. Instead of demeaning the office, Obama showed that his White House understands and respects the people in ways that his detractors seem not to understand. There are millions of people in this country—not just young people, but a significant number of them are young—who prefer to get their information via the internet—via Twitter, Facebook, chat apps, YouTube and websites—not via television, newspapers or email. The White House proves that it understands and RESPECTS their channel preferences.
The challenge for campaigns and advocacy groups is to make sure that regardless of what channels they prefer to use to talk with their audiences, they have to use all the channels that their audiences prefer. That does not mean organizations have to use every social media channel. But it does mean that they have to know where their audiences are and use those channels to reach them. Trying to force your audience to come to your website, read your email or watch you on TV when they prefer to check their Facebook newsfeed or their Twitter timeline is ineffective at best and disrespectful at worst. Not giving your audience information through the channels they prefer is like giving your audience the heave-ho.
As for Obama’s interview with Galifianakis, what was called a “mockery” by that Brian Kilmeade guy on Fox and Friends has proven to be a brilliant move by President Obama. After all, his target audience was between two ferns.
Social Advocacy & Politics is a weekly, exclusive column for Social Media Today by Alan Rosenblatt that explores the intersection of politics and social media. Look for the next installment next Tuesday morning.