Barack Obama will announce his candidacy for President later today and in advance of that he launched a full version of his campaign website very early this morning

Here are my initial thoughts:

(1) This site is all about social networking.  I mean all about it. 

"This Campaign is About You."

The Obama campaign wants you to create a profile and then start connecting with other supporters, writing blog entries, attending events and raising money (see right).

I wrote a few days back about how no campaign had yet achieved the right balance in their use of peer-to-peer campaign features.  At first blush, the Obama campaign has.  The tool gives volunteers the ability to express themselves uncensored while also providing pretty clear direction as to what they would like you to do (raise money and spread the word).  It achieves the right balance between McCain's "raise money for me or go away" approach and the chaos of Edward's blog network

A nice job.

(2) The video section is disappointing so far. All the videos are talking head types of things.  I'm really looking forward to a campaign opening things up and letting us peek behind the curtain a bit with their video use of video. Or try to use video to build community a la Ze Frank.   The section is called Barack TV.  That is exactly what it is so far.  Just TV on the Internet.

(3) The design looks nice.  I like his campaign logo.  All the Democrats are essentially going with the same layout on their website.  Navigation bar along the top with drop down menus.  Big picture/lead story on the left.  Key action items and/or some video on the right.  The only thing really different here is that Obama is using a three column layout instead of a two column one like Clinton, Biden and Edwards.

(4) Not much happening on the blog yet.   However I'd expect Obama opponents to have a full dossier on Obama blogger Joe Rospars by noon EST given the recent Edward's blogger drama.

I'll play with the site more in the coming days, but my initial reaction is that this is a well down site.  The emphasis on social networking is a natural for Obama given that he is already a rock star on Facebook. More than any other candidate, I can see a real social network being built around the Obama campaign.  This kind of approach won't work for every candidate.  But I think it will for Obama.

Update: Here are some other reviews of the Obama site:

Barack Obama launches social network (ZDNet)
Obama Launches Website, Then Launches Candidacy (Campaign08 Blog)
That's Not How You Do It Obama – A VC 
Barack Obama – Bigger Web 2.0 Evangelist than Michael Arrington – Deep Jive Interests
Nice Try Barack – Mathew Ingram

More on Techmeme. 

Update 2:  Donna Bogatin from ZDNet chimes in with an interesting perspective.  She thinks Obama has taken the social networking thing too far and that his site might turn over non-geek voters.  Here is the key quote:

If the campaign is really all about “you,” you would be extended a friendly invitation to be part of it in a more usable and natural way. Moreover, “you” are not as welcome, if you don’t “have an account” and proceed to make “friends,” join “groups,” “blog”…

If every vote counts, than every prospective voter should count as well, social networker or not!

I actually disagree with this point.  While the social networking part is clearly the focus, the site provides users with l other ways to get involved (donations, email updates, volunteer opportunities, etc.).  But hers is a very valid point.  When you are running an online campaign it is easy sometimes to fall in love with the latest toys and forget that the goal of the site is to reach and engage as many people as possible.

About the Author
Todd Zeigler
Todd Zeigler serves as the Brick Factory’s chief strategist and oversees the operations of the firm. In his sixteen year career in digital, he has planned and implemented campaigns for clients including the Pickens Plan, International Youth Foundation, Panthera, Edison Electric Institute, and the American Chemistry Council. Todd develops ambitious online advocacy programs, manages crises, implements online marketing strategies, and develops custom applications and software. He is bad at golf though.