Obama’s power in social networking

October 17, 2008, 9:02 PM UTC

If Barack Obama wins the Presidency–which is ever more likely since he’s leading in virtually all the polls–some credit must go to his campaign’s embrace of new-fangled communication methods. Specifically, social networking. During a panel called “One Month to Go: The Road to the White House” at Fortune‘s recent Most Powerful Women Summit, Penny Pritzker, Obama’s finance chair, talked about how his campaign had a scant 20,000 names early on, when Hillary Clinton’s campaign had already collected some 250,000 names. “We took a page from Silicon Valley,” Pritzker said. “We thought, What can we do to harness social networking? Today we have over 5 million names.”

My colleague Nina Easton, who is Fortune‘s Washington editor, noted during the discussion that in those early campaign days, anyone who went to an Obama rally was besieged by people asking them to “fill out this card” so the campaign could collect e-mail addresses. Pritzker explained, “All we asked people to do was sign up. If you sign up, we can communicate with you. That helped us gather more than 2.1 million volunteers — and we use the social network for fundraising as well.”

Indeed, Time national political correspondent Karen Tumulty noted that on BarackObama.com, you can set up your own personal Barack Obama page and do fundraising from it. “Because it’s about YOU,” blares the headline on the Obama campaign’s My.BarackObama.com page.

Citigroup chief marketing officer Lisa Caputo, who had been Hillary Clinton’s press secretary during the Clinton Administration, led the discussion at the Summit. Also on the panel: former eBay CEO Meg Whitman, who is co-chair of the McCain campaign. If McCain loses on November 4, Whitman looks likely to run for Governor of California in 2010–and as I said on Postcards on Wednesday, judging by the votes of Fortune‘s Most Powerful Women at least, she and Obama both have decent odds.

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