Over the next few months there will be a lot of prognostication and fervor about the 2016 presidential elections, some of which will be focused on determining the digital flavor of the cycle. Big Data, native, addressable TV, sponsored, email, programmatic, Google, Facebook, Snapchat – these are all words you can expect to hear featured as supposed critical tools that will help win the election.
But they won’t.
Well – that’s not necessarily true either. It cannot be denied that candidates today have the best tools to reach voters almost anywhere. And the past four election cycles have taught Republicans most of all that digital is at least somewhat important to reaching voters.
But next year isn’t going to be about a killer tool.
It’s going to be about math.
You see, the Republican nominee will likely face an electoral uphill climb with most states solidly either red or blue and Hillary Clinton, the likely Democratic nominee, expecting to receive 247 (or more) electoral college votes while the Republican nominee will only have about 206. This means that the Republican nominee will likely need to win 64 votes (essentially Ohio, Virginia, Florida and either Iowa, Colorado, or Nevada). All Hillary Clinton needs to do is win Florida.
The name of the game in 2016 will be about GOTV and turnout. This cycle more than ever it will be important to register new voters (particularly, if possible, the ones that will vote for your candidate), reach out to the base, and turn out low-propensity voters through a mix of voter contact methods particularly in these target states.
And that’s where digital can help make the difference.
In 2012, Republicans saw the Obama campaign diversify their media efforts to match up against their voter targets – placing media where their voters were and reaping cost efficiencies across many channels. It sounds pretty simple but in reality it’s a massive effort to constantly optimize a multi-million campaign across multiple media markets with one real day of sale.
So digital is where they tested. And tested. And tested again.
But this cycle, we can expect digital to be more than a testing ground. It is going to be the second battleground for your vote. Television still has significant value (particularly for the GOP’s older and more rural demographics) but digital will offer significant cost efficacies and the ability to hone in on voter segments, test messaging, and follow up with near-personalized appeals for donations and votes based on assigning and categorizing users against their values and beliefs.
The Republican nominee is going to have to use nearly every single potential tool to reach voters. Snapchat? While nascent, it is becoming a heavily used platform by Millennials to watch and share content. And as such, the Republican nominee must develop a strategy to at least test the efficacy of the Snapchat platform. Maybe it will work, maybe it won’t. But not trying the platform means you’ll never know. Twitter continues to be an incredibly important channel for narrative setting through media relations and offers some options for email recruitment.
This goes for nearly every single tool as they all require testing and optimization. There are proven channels such as email, search, display, video, and Facebook for voter contact. A winning campaign will use these channels to plan, execute, and optimize their campaign to fundraise and increase voter turnout. One new tool won’t win you the election, but using new platforms in concert with proven tools and aligning your campaign communications and media plan will help reach and turnout voters.
We’re just weeks away from the caucuses and primaries and we’ve already begun to see the different strategies and tactics being used by different campaigns to try to move the needle. We’ve seen Snapchat filters, search ads, Facebook video, live streams and soon we’ll begin to see the field winnow. Then digital will become even more important as the campaigns must balance burn rates and a very competitive and hectic calendar. But ultimately this will all come down to GOTV and winning 270 electoral votes.
And while most of us don’t have access to a full-time analytics staff, A/B testing is within reach for any organization of any size. In fact, the Obama campaign used Optimizely, a web-based A/B testing platform, that you can leverage for your organization for as little as $19 per month depending on your site traffic.
What is A/B Testing?
In reference to websites, an A/B test compares two variables of an element — color, text, or placement — to determine whether or not a change in that element improves a desired outcome.
Here’s a quick guide to get started with A/B testing on your site.
Once you’ve set up your Optimizely account, you’ll need to provide your web developer or vendor with a snippet of code that will allow you to make edits to your site from Optimizely. That’s the last you’ll need to deal with code for optimizely.
Determine what you want to optimize
The key to worthwhile optimization is having a measurable outcome (like a donation) and a clearly defined goal (more donations). For organizations that are new to A/B testing, increasing email capture and donations are two of the most attainable goals for A/B testing.
Outline your experiment
Now that you know what you want to improve, identify elements on your site that you can tweak to improve the response. For example, if you’re optimizing for email signups, you could test the submit button text. Does changing “submit” on the button to “join” increase your conversion rate? Do more people donate if the button is red or blue? In order to get actionable insights from your test, you should find apples to apples comparisons.
Good A/B Test
Red Button vs Blue Button.
This test will reveal any difference button color has on conversions.
Good A/B Test
“Join” vs “Submit”.
This test will reveal how changing the text on the submit button will affect signups.
Bad A/B Test
Red “Join” button vs Blue “submit button.
After this test, you won’t be able to isolate the source of any change in performance.
Implement and run your experiment
Using Optimizely’s editor, you can easily tweak design and textual elements on your site and get the experiment up and running. The more traffic your site gets, the more data you’ll receive, and the better your A/B test will perform. You want a statistically significant outcome to ensure that the change in outcome you’re seeing is actually the result of the change in design you made.
While Optimizely will let you run multiple variations, for organizations that might not see much web traffic, it’s best to conduct one test at a time to zero in on the best design for your page.
Avoid the Frankenstein Effect
You should always make sure you test every combination before settling on a final design change. Photo A may outperform Photo B and a red background may out perform a blue background, but you cannot assume that Photo A on a red background will outperform Photo A on a blue background or even Photo B on a red background. In short, test EVERYTHING.
Testing shouldn’t stop at your web design. Look for other opportunities to conduct focused, measurable A/B tests. This could include testing email subject lines or online ad creative.
In the immediate aftermath of the 2012 presidential campaign – like any campaign – two things happened: the winners went to bragging and the losers started pointing fingers. One thing became clear. Obama for America’s digital, technology, and analytics teams were indispensable in securing the president’s reelection.
The Cave is what OFA called the windowless room that housed their analytics team. Like digital in 2008, analytics came of age in the 2012 campaign. OFA’s analytics team had 50 staffers. By comparison, the Romney-Ryan campaign had a data team of 4 people.
Veterans of OFA have been surprisingly forthcoming in providing details on how they leveraged the latest in technology and digital strategy to make their campaign as effective and efficient as possible.
In 2016, Republicans can’t afford to fight the battles of 2012. We have to look forward to the future and start preparing now.
Over the past week, social media monitoring software has really come into its own as a serious tool for the media and political analysis. For the first time, lots of people were monitoring instantaneous changes in public reaction from the speeches, looking at metrics like tweets-per-minute through real-time charting tools like this one from Flowics.
The sheer amount of information that comes from these tools is a godsend, but without context they can fall short. A read on social media sentiment associated with Mitt Romney throughout the convention may not tell us very much. And touting the fact that @BarackObama’s “This seat’s taken” tweet was the second most retweeted in Twitter history doesn’t tell us very much about how those not on Twitter reacted to Clint Eastwood’s speech.
So, we decided to do a little bit more digging to see if we could find something more meaningful and actionable.
We wanted to quantify online reaction to each of the major RNC speakers in a way that might reflect the offline audience response. So, we avoided looking at general commentary on Romney or the convention — but rather at which speech content. Chances are if you’ve tweeted a line from a speech, you strongly approve of it or think it was significant. We wanted to see which speech lines “tested” the best based on social mentions, leaving the deepest impressions with audiences online and off.
We’ve collected the results in a treemap visualization that’s broken down along three dimensions: The most-mentioned speech lines grouped by speaker, total mentions of the speaker, and mentions of the speaker with the word “awesome.” All numbers reflect activity on the day of the speech.
The results are interesting, and defy conventional wisdom in places. Despite the political elite’s queasy reaction to Clint Eastwood’s offbeat appearance, he delivered the buzziest line of the Convention, “We own this country,” followed by “Politicians are employees of ours.” Among those expressing an opinion, reaction to this passage was about three-fourths favorable. Eastwood’s other top lines hailed from the parts of his speech that were well received in the hall, and saw virtually no negative reaction online. And Eastwood led all speakers in eliciting a reaction of “Awesome” from social media users.
Here are the ten most memorable lines we found from the 2012 GOP convention, ranked by social media mentions provided by Topsy:
“I would just like to say something, ladies and gentlemen. Something that I think is very important. It is that, you, we — we own this country.” – Clint Eastwood, 6947 mentions
“President Obama promised to begin to slow the rise of the oceans and heal the planet. MY promise…is to help you and your family.” – Mitt Romney, 5890 mentions
“The greatest threat to Medicare is Obamacare, and we’re going to stop it.” – Paul Ryan, 5,363 mentions
“Real leaders don’t follow polls. Real leaders change polls.” – Chris Christie, 5259 mentions
“College graduates should not have to live out their 20s in their childhood bedrooms, staring up at fading Obama posters and wondering when they can move out and get going with life.” – Paul Ryan, 4,395 mentions
“Politicians are employees of ours.” – Clint Eastwood, 3,657 mentions
“When the world needs someone to do the really big stuff, you need an American.” – Mitt Romney, 3,386 mentions
“They believe in teacher’s unions. We believe in teachers.” – Chris Christie, 3,045 mentions
“Let’s get this done.” – Paul Ryan, 2,744 mentions
“I haven’t cried that hard since I found out that there is 23 million unemployed people in this country.” – Clint Eastwood, 2,673 mentions
Watch this space this week for a similar analysis of the Democratic Convention in Charlotte!
Understanding influence is a huge topic in social media. A number of players, like Klout and PeerIndex, have built hugely successful platforms around rewarding highly influential social media users.
These platforms are great at measuring celebrity. If you’re Lady Gaga, you have a Klout score of 92. If you’re Barack Obama, your score is 91. Beyond that, microcelebrities with large Twitter followings and a healthy degree of interaction on the platform will earn high Klout scores, but what we’re talking about is a relatively small sliver of the social media universe.
This left us wondering: what would a good influence score look like for the rest of us who aren’t Twitter celebrities? And specifically, what does it look like on Facebook, the world’s biggest social stage?
Today, we’re launching Trendsetter, a platform which lets you discover who’s influential and what they care about.
Connect with the app and you’ll get your Trendsetter score — and see where you stack up compared to your friends. Trendsetter measures interactions with pages on Facebook and generates an individualized Trendsetter score for you and your friends. A high Trendsetter score means you’re very likely to tell your friends about things on Facebook, have niche tastes, and tend to be early to the party when it comes to liking brands and content. A lower Trendsetter score means you’re quieter in interacting on Facebook and tend to have more mainstream tastes — but when you do share, it’s because it really matters.
For years, through measures like the Net Promoter Score, marketers have been trying to understand the voters and consumers most likely to share things. We have an inkling that just a cursory glance at someone’s social media profile can tell you more about people’s propensity to share, and Trendsetter aims to show you what moves them.
A Trendsetter report gives you a wealth of data about your network — who the biggest early adopters are among your friends, what Facebook pages these early adopters like, what types of things they’re interested in, and how they’re distributed throughout the country. Here’s what my Trendsetter report looks like:
I knew we were onto something when our algorithm ranked Jesse Thomas of the DC-based digital agency JESS3 as the #1 Trendsetter in my network. Jesse is the consummate early adopter, and this makes him the biggest Trendsetter amongst my friends.
Trendsetter is a joint project of Engage and the Winston Group, a strategic communications and polling firm. With the Winston Group, we’ll be developing quick, one-question surveys for Trendsetter users, and breaking down the answers in interesting ways based on user interests and social influence — a level of detail it would be very hard to get at in a traditional opinion survey.
Quick question: when was the last time you saw an ad on Facebook that seemed so hilariously off-base from your interests that you remarked on it to your friends?
Probably recently. Facebook has conditioned us to expect ads that relate to our interests to the point where people are surprised when the ads aren’t relevant.
I, for one, am appreciative of our data-driven online advertising culture. Advertising is just a way for companies to communicate with consumers about products the company thinks they might find useful. Thanks to great innovation in the online advertising space, most ads you see online are individualized — by zip code, estimated income range, likely gender, or, most controversially, by what other websites you’ve visited or if you’ve recently visited a particular advertiser’s website.
The controversy about ad targeting in general has continued to be front and center this week, with an article in The Atlantic bemoaning the prevalence of targeted political ads on partisan websites as keeping “people within the boundaries of the things they once read and thoughts they once had.” But ad targeting isn’t perfect, and it’s quite possible to see non-conservative ads on conservative websites.
In fact, almost everyone’s jobs are reliant on the market (i.e., other people) finding value in the work their employer does, whether it’s Proctor and Gamble or a non-profit. If sales go up, the company will need to hire more employees or use more services/supplies to meet that demand. And if those organizations can reach out to people who could be interested in their “products” more efficiently — whether they make Febreze or raise money for children’s cancer research — we all benefit.
But to be sure that relevant ads are beneficial, let’s walk through two examples.
1) I see an ad for Lakers tickets. I don’t follow basketball or live in LA, so I don’t pay attention to this ad. I don’t click on it. I don’t get any value out of this ad.
2) I see an ad from Amazon.com advertising a book that has a high reader correlation with a book I’ve recently bought from Amazon. I click on the link, read the reviews, buy the book, and love it. I have benefited from seeing this ad. On top of that, it’s made an efficiency improvement in my life: rather than spending an hour or two at the bookstore and perhaps stumbling upon this book, I’ve bought it in a matter of maybe ten minutes and had it shipped to my house. (Putting aside the fact that I personally love meandering through bookstores, this ad has still made an improvement in utility over the other ad.)
Targeted advertising is also a major reason why we are able to enjoy a wealth of news, information and entertainment online free of charge. Never before have we all had such an enormous amount of content at our fingertips. But “free” content is never free, and if it comes at the cost of me (gasp!) seeing an ad for something I might like, that’s a trade-off I’m willing to make.
Late last year, we have the privilege of working with The Leadership Institute to visualize the organization’s incredible accomplishments in 2011. The Leadership Institute has a reputation that is second to none in Washington, D.C. and in conservative circles across the country; but few people know the full extent of LI’s influence and impact on training conservative leaders.
We were tasked with telling LI’s complete story of accomplishments in a single infographic – a challenging task from a communications and design stand-point. We are very proud of the finished product and wanted to share it with you below. Please share this visually compelling run-down of LI’s accomplishments with your friends on Facebook and on Twitter.
Earlier this year, the Engage team had a fantastic time at the South by Southwest (SXSW) Interactive Conference in Austin, Texas. In preparation for SXSW 2012, we have submitted a proposal for a panel titled “Big Data: Powering the Race for the White House.” We need your help to get this panel on the schedule for SXSW 2012! The SXSW Panel Picker is now open to the world, meaning that you can vote for our panel to make it on the docket for SXSW 2012. Our panel will include Josh Hendler of Jumo, Kristen Soltis of The Winston Group, Dan Siroker of Optimizely, Alex Lundry of TargetPoint Consulting, and yours truly. Here’s the description of the panel as proposed to the SXSW team:
Despite the advent of new media, campaigns for President still measure the electorate in pretty much the same way they did 40 years ago, through traditional polls to landline phones. That could all change this year. The hottest job in today’s Presidential campaigns is the Data Mining Scientist — whose job it is to sort through terabytes of data and billions of behaviors tracked in voter files, consumer databases, and site logs. They’ll use the numbers to uncover hidden patterns that predict how you’ll vote, if you’ll pony up with a donation, and if you’ll influence your friends to support a candidate. This panel will delve deep into the world of real-time data on Presidential campaigns, showing how it’ll be used to make decisions on everything from the layout of a signup form to where to spend millions of advertising dollars in the closing days of a campaign. Forget about which candidate has the most likes on Facebook or followers on Twitter — and learn why 2012 will be the year of Big Data in American politics.
I want to optimize my site to run just like Obama’s but I don’t have millions of visitors. How do apply these lessons to a smaller operation?
Are conclusions based on new marketing data — much of it subject to possible selection bias — scientifically valid?
The wealth of political and consumer data that’s out there can be overwhelming. How do practitioners in the field avoid “analysis paralysis”?
As a voter, should I be concerned about the privacy implications of Big Data?
What are the resources I need to make this work for my organization?
Sound like something you would want to hear at SXSW or streamed online? Be sure to vote for our panel today and we will look forward to seeing you in Austin in March!