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Sam Graham-Felsen

Former Chief Blogger for Barack Obama


Sam Graham-Felsen is a veteran social media strategist, technology analyst, and former chief blogger for Barack Obama. He has worked as a social media consultant for top global brands, has appeared frequently on Bloomberg TV, and has written for The Washington Post, New York Magazine, and other major publications.

As the chief blogger and "narrator-in-chief" on the 2008 presidential campaign, his most important mission was to recognize the impact of ordinary people and help them organize through the power of social media. Pronounced by BBC as the "key to [Obama's] victories," much of the campaign's record-breaking achievements were thanks to the media team, including Graham-Felsen: they raised $500 million online, shattering previous records; had an e-mailing list of 13 million, the largest in political history; generated 200,000 offline events created by supporters on; and created one thousand videos on YouTube, which were viewed for over one billion minutes in total. Driving home the message that the campaign was about "you" - the everyday person, the citizen, the voter - Obama's online campaign changed the political game and cemented the incredible power of grassroots organization.

Sam Graham-Felsen is a regular speaker and consultant on how the Internet is changing politics, nonprofits, and businesses. He has spoken for a wide range of audiences, including Harvard, Yale, Columbia, and Oxford Universities; the University of Southern California; Google's Washington, DC, headquarters; the US Senate Democratic Caucus Luncheon; and before corporate audiences including Sony, Adobe, Pepsi, Ferrari, Ritz Carlton, Hyatt, and Yahoo!.

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The Inside Story of Barack Obama's Groundbreaking Social Media Strategy

How did a relatively unknown African American Senator from Illinois pull off the greatest political upset in American history in 2008? And how did he get reelected in 2012 in the face of seemingly insurmountable obstacles - including an economic recession and an unprecedented flood of outside money dedicated to taking him down? Sam Graham-Felsen, a veteran social media strategist who has worked with dozens of top global brands, technology analyst (contributor to Bloomberg TV, The Washington Post, New York Magazine, and other major publications), and former chief Obama blogger, will explain how Obama's revolutionary digital strategy was the key factor in both historic victories. While the Obama campaign's tactics and technologies evolved from 2008 to 2012, the core principles remained the same: a reliance on authentic storytelling, meaningful two-way communication, and grassroots empowerment. Graham-Felsen will provide key insights on how your organization or business can learn from Obama's masterful storytelling, fundraising, peer-to-peer mobilization, and use of social platforms including Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, Instagram, and Tumblr.

How to Tell Your Story

Companies and organizations are beginning to understand that, in the world of social media, storytelling is king. Without a good story, it's difficult to stand out, and nearly impossible to build and sustain a following in our increasingly oversaturated digital landscape. What are the keys to effective storytelling - and how can your brand, cause, or campaign tell your story better? In this keynote address, Sam Graham-Felsen, who served as Barack Obama's chief blogger (and was dubbed the campaign's "narrator-in-chief") will explain the nuts and bolts of how to craft inspiring narratives that spur followers to action. Offering firsthand anecdotes from Barack Obama's legendary campaign, as well as examples of successes and failures from the corporate, nonprofit, and government worlds, Graham-Felsen will demonstrate how little-known figures can go viral, how flagging brands can reinvigorate their images, and how causes can become movements: It's all about the story.

Think Like a Startup: Work in the Digital Age

By 2020, Generation Y - also known as the Millennials - will comprise the majority of the workforce. The largest generation since the Baby Boomers, these "Digital Natives" have been shaped by massive technological shifts and hold dramatically different ideas about collaboration, transparency, and life/work balance from previous age cohorts. Meanwhile, Millennials are the most diverse, tolerant, and socially conscious generation ever - and they expect employers to be socially responsible. So how can the employers and managers of businesses, nonprofits, and government organizations most effectively deal with this generational shift in the workforce? In this keynote speech, Sam Graham-Felsen suggests that the solution is to think like a startup by radically reconsidering the physical office space; encouraging productive sharing, rather than blocking access to social media; building a fun and engaging office culture; and moving beyond mere monetary incentives to create a larger sense of mission for employees.

How to Build an Online Following: Cultivating Superfans with Authentic Content

We are in a new paradigm. People are tired of hollow marketing cliches, and they tune out traditional broadcast marketing like static. They don't hear it because it doesn't speak to them, include them, or take them seriously. The old, top-down broadcast model - that sold people ideas, products, and candidates by inundating them with a take-it-or-leave-it message - is crumbling. The new model - the model that propelled Obama to the presidency - is a two-way dynamic, a conversation, a relationship.

People are hungry for authenticity - and when they do hear an authentic message, the response can be overwhelming. In this new climate, the companies that flourish will be the ones who empower consumers - who offer them opportunities to engage and tap into their desire for community. Keynote speaker Sam Graham-Felsen will explain how your organization can create authentic content that cuts through the white noise, build a loyal online following, and cultivate superfans who will evangelize on your behalf.

Understanding the Digital Generation

The Millennials - the largest generation since the Baby Boomers - are the first generation to come of age in the Internet Era. Unlike their parents, they didn't have to adapt to digital culture - they were born into it - and this has had an enormous effect on how they view the world. When a kid in pajamas can edit a Wikipedia entry as easily as an Oxford professor can, it radically alters notions of hierarchy. When anyone can instantaneously publish and broadcast, regardless of title or prestige, it creates a microcelebrity culture, a democratization of self-importance. Their parents never had "followers." When tastemakers and middlemen are being cut out left and right - when America's biggest pop stars are being handpicked by young fans who vote by SMS - ordinary individuals feel more empowered than ever. Their parents grew up with radio and TV - they spent their childhoods listening and watching. These kids grew up talking back.

Sam Graham-Felsen will explain how these major generational shifts are creating a global impact, from the way Millennials are shaking up the workplace and the business world to the way they're rising up in revolutionary protests around the world. If businesses, nonprofits, and political campaigns want to reach this generation, they'll have to understand what makes them tick.

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