A few weeks ago, my friend Ramit and I went through BarackObama.com to analyze what made the site so successful. Here were our conclusions.
1) The site is incredibly audience focused.
For example, the text of the site is largely second-person; rather prattling on about Barack Obama, BO.com puts things in terms of you, your life, and what you can do.
Another example can be found on the pages for various ethnic groups. On each page, the Obama "O" logo has been reworked to put it into ethnic context. Here's what appears on the Asian-American page:
Compare this to the same header on the Arab American section of the site:
And on each of these pages, the calls to action are specific to these communities.
2) It's not afraid to ask for the order.
The most prominent action on the site is to donate to the campaign. Think about how many Web sites fail to make it obvious how to close the sale. No such problems here.
Once you click on the donation link, you go to a donation page with no outbound links. Think about that...you must either donate or explicitly choose to leave the site by typing a new URL into the address bar. That's ratcheting up the pressure in an aggressive but probably effective way.
3) It removes all friction from taking the desired actions.
Just look at the brilliant signup process; you never have to go to a separate signup form. You can sign up from any page in just seconds.
4) It uses the principle of self-selection.
Rather than providing a one-size-fits-all experience, the huge volume of content on the site is designed to lead visitors into self-selecting into the right category. Do you identify with a particular geographic location? Select your state. Do you identify with a particular ethnic or interest group? Those choices are there too. Do you care passionately about health care or the war in Iraq? Self-select into the appropriate group.
5) It provides multiple levels of engagement, from shallow to deep.
Let's say you sign up for Obama Mobile to get text message alerts. The first text message you receive tells you to reply with your zip code to get local info. Each step is designed to pull you deeper and deeper into the movement.
Another example--when you visit the page on Obama's energy policy, you're presented with the opportunity to share your story. Once you submit your post, you are immediately asked if you want to share your post with your friends via email. Brilliant.
6) It isn't afraid to point visitors to the external community.
Every single page contains a section called "Obama Everywhere":
Obama's web team is smart enough to realize that they need to provide content to volunteers in their preferred medium; if they are avid Facebook users, rather than trying to alter their behavior to make BarackObama.com a regular part of their day, they can simply join the appropriate Facebook group and get their Obama fix as part of their regular communications stream.
BarackObama.com isn't perfect; Ramit and I found a few mistakes and missed opportunities. For example, all of their videos should have contained a call to action, rather than simply ending. For another thing, once you've submitted a story and have shared it with a friend, the site should take you to the page that displays your story. But these are clearly minor oversights.
As a whole, BarackObama.com employs strategies that all marketers can learn from.