Chart 2 - the sites also visited by those visiting johnmccain.com (in red) and barackobama.com (in blue)
Obama's main website barackobama.com was an interesting strategy, but it mainly attracted his fans. The most interesting strategy was fightthesmears.com which was developed to counter smears and 'to discover the truth about Barack Obama'. Obama is quoted on the site "What you won't hear from this campaign or this party is the kind of politics that uses religion as a wedge, and patriotism as a bludgeon -- that sees our opponents not as competitors to challenge, but enemies to demonize." Chart 3 below shows that the strategy worked as it attracted audiences that wouldn't visit barackobama.com
You can also see in chart 4 what those who visited fight the smears searched on versus those who visited johnmccain.com
Chart 4. What those who visited fight the smears searched (in blue) on versus those who visited johnmccain.com (in red)
The issue of Obama's place of birth and birth certificate became a smear that was widely pushed by the right, and fight the smears became a counter for this on the web for the Undecided who genuinely wanted to know the truth. It also seems to have become a place for right wing extremist to check out for ammunition.
The Obama experience and fight the smears confirms my original view when I last wrote about group polarisation. I said brands fear a type of riot on their sites led by a few hardliners who will infect the Undecided and the positive visitors with their negative opinions resulting in everyone becoming more extreme, and suggested the response should be:
"...brands don't have to surrender control to anarchy if they open up to community discussion. Martin Luther King guided a group, and turned it into a movement. A movement that was angry, but at the same time pacifist, a movement looking for change, but driven by age-long ideals. A positive form of group polarisation is possible if it's driven by leadership that shapes the debate, sets the agenda, and moderates the discussion by providing a balanced counterpoint to the opposition's arguments. This also means being open and honest. Show both sides of the argument, compartmentalise the debate into different discussion streams - which you define.
Start the community on topics peripheral to the brand's core theme, then gradually move towards the core. Use advocates of the brand to be your evangelists, and get them to share their experiences with people in their social graphs. And perhaps most importantly, don't see it as a zero-sum game with a winner and a loser, but instead a mechanism for funneling the collective intelligence of your stakeholders into your brand. There's wisdom in those crowds. "