NEW YORK: Barack Obama's re-election team is building a vast digital operation that, for the first time, combines a database on millions of Americans with the power of Facebook to target individual voters to a degree never seen before.
Analysts see this as the first White House race in which Facebook will be a dominant force, the first ''data election''. The social media giant has grown exponentially since the last election, making it a campaigning tool able to transform friendship into a political weapon. Facebook is also a source of invaluable data on voters.
The re-election team, Obama for America, will invite supporters to log on to the campaign website via Facebook, thus downloading their personal data to the campaign's data store.
''Facebook is now ubiquitous,'' said Dan Siroker, a former Google digital analyst who joined Mr Obama's campaign in 2008 and now runs his own consultancy. ''Whichever candidate uses Facebook the most effectively could win the war.''
For the past nine months, some of America's top brains from an array of geeky disciplines have occupied an entire floor of the Prudential building in Chicago devising a digital campaign from the bottom up. The team draws much of its style and inspiration from the corporate sector, to create a vote-garnering machine that is smooth and ruthlessly efficient.
The gamble is that such digital engagement will prove to have a greater impact in November than the mountain of cash from Republican-supporting moguls such as the Koch brothers that is likely to be spent on negative attack ads against Mr Obama through so-called ''Super Pacs''.
As Sam Graham-Felsen, Mr Obama's chief blogger in the 2008 campaign, put it: ''This will be the geeks versus the billionaires election.''
Guardian News & Media