Obama goes viral

Netanyahu_2Barack Obama's democratic Internet strategy has just gone viral. The New York Times reports that Benjamin (Bibi) Netanyahu, the leader of Israel's conservative Likud party, has borrowed the look, feel and features of Obama's website for his own site. Thus Israeli voters will have the pleasure of watching Bibi videos on YouTube, browsing Bibi's photos on flickr, getting invites from Bibi to join his Facebook network and receiving Tweets from Bibi on all the latest developments in the Middle East (including, perhaps, a cheerful Tweet about bombing Iran, after Bibi is elected to office early next year).

So who is next, I wonder? Which politician will borrow Obama's Internet strategy to give a little interactive jolt to their democratic standing?

Vladimir Putin must be sorely tempted to borrow Obama's strategy of using YouTube to "disintermediate" the few remaining independent (ie: elitist) Russian television channels and allow the Prime Minister to directly communicate his message with the Russian people. I'm guessing that Nicholas Sarkozy would love to use flickr to post the most intimate photographs of himself and his photogenic new bride, Carla Bruni so that the French electorate is really able to get to see the all-too-human side of their President. I imagine that the much misunderstood and maligned Italian Prime Minister, Silvio Berlusconi, would like to bolster his network on friends on Facebook.  And I'm sure that North Korean leader Kim Jong-Il must be absolutely fascinated by the way in which Obama will directly use his e-mail database of 10 million supporters to push through policy and raise more money for future campaigns.

It's not just foreigners who are in awe of what Obama has achieved. Democratic strategist Joe Trippi told AP that Obama has "built the largest network anyone has ever seen in politics, and congressional Republicans are clueless about the communications shift that has happened."

I suspect, however, that not all Republicans are not quite as "clueless" as Trippi thinks. Expect Sarah Palin to do a Bibi Netanyahu and borrow liberally from Obama's populist web strategy. The Alaskan Governor is already quite a star on YouTube, Facebook and Twitter and her authentic brand is ideally suited to the democratizing culture of the Internet. Ironically, Obama's intention to make broadband connectivity ubiquitous, thus wiring the poorest Americans to Palin's seductive message, might turn out to be her not-so-secret viral weapon in the 2012 election.