Micah Sifry has a fantastic story up on the battle currently being waged over Barack Obama’s MySpace profile. In a nutshell, a few years ago an Obama fanatic reserved Obama’s name on MySpace and began building a network on Obama’s behalf. The campaign worked with the supporter for a while, got fed up and went to MySpace and forced the supporter to give up the profile. Micah has all the bloody details.

At the end of the article Micah asks this question:

Is it true that once a voter-generated site gets major traction, the campaign affected has to control it? Can a front-running presidential campaign–even one as devoted to empowering supporters to take their own initiatives and connect to each other through social network tools as the Obama campaign–afford a major site run by a campaign volunteer outside their control? Is such control even possible?

In a post on Prezvid, Jeff Jarvis seems to imply that campaigns should let supporters own the candidate spaces on these social networks:

The moral of the story is that politics is still all about control. There is no playbook for handing over control to the people, only for acting like it. Every attempt to use social networking on the internet for campaigns is just that — an attempt to use.

To me this is a really simple issue. The Obama campaign has to have ultimate control over www.myspace.com/barackobama. Period.

Having ventured into the MySpace wilderness looking for candidate profiles, it is almost impossible to tell the real profiles from the fakes ones. Users can be easily mislead into friending the wrong person. By owning the most common profile name and maintaining an official presence, the campaign provides clarity to users, most of whom are looking for the endorsed version of the profile. I’m all for supporters creating their own groups and conducting their own activities, I just see value in having an official presence in addition to the voter-generated ones.

I also don’t think it is unreasonable for a campaign to want to exercise control over what pictures and blog entries are posted and what friend requests they accept. Every other user of MySpace has that control, why shouldn’t Barack Obama?

If that makes me top down, I guess I’m top down.

Regarding the rest of story, I agree that the Obama campaign mishandled this in every way imaginable. As Jerome Armstrong says, hire the kid that built up the profile. Buy the profile. Negotiate. Do something. Pushing the supporter aside and starting over just seems like an unfathomably dumb thing to do to me.

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.