Tag Archives for political technology

Targeting Voters with Data is a Science, but Not Rocket Science

Data is important. But unless data is used correctly, by itself it doesn’t win elections. Turning data into real, actionable insights and taking consistent, meaningful action wins elections. 

As a political candidate, targeting voters is a necessary tactic that allows you to get the most out of your voter outreach efforts. But the work doesn’t stop there.

Fine-tuning your voter contact lists is only useful if you know how to connect with that targeted audience. You won’t want to miss the chance to connect, but unless you’re intentional, you may end up doing just that. Whether you’re creating a walk list or a mailing list, making live calls or organizing local volunteers to go door-to-door, using data to determine voter history, who those voters are, and what they like, gives you insight on which voters to reach and how best to establish a connection. 

As we all know, each campaign has limited hours in a day and limited manpower. When mobilizing volunteers, understanding the best walk-lists to generate can move the vote by several percentage points. Generally, there are three broad categories into which voters fall: those who will always support your side, those who will never support your side, and those undecided. I like to call them saints, sinners, and savables. Through my experience working with grassroots activists and campaigns across the country, I’ve seen that a campaign must focus on turning savables into saints and then mobilizing the saints.

Using data to determine the right doors to knock on and people to talk to saves you valuable time. Not to mention, it makes for happy volunteers. (Knocking on the door of a staunch supporter of your opponent is never fun.) But voter history is certainly not the only factor to which you should be paying attention. Targeting a specific slice of voters allows you to bring a specific message to them. For instance:

  • Unaffiliated suburban women who are frequent voters.
  • Republican or unaffiliated voters who recently registered to vote
  • Republican, frequent voters who have not been contacted in the last three months

The 2012 Obama Campaign successfully utilized data to fine-tune voter characteristics. As Sasha Issenberg, author of The Victory Labwrites, “Obama’s analysts built statistical models to pull out other factors that distinguished voters from nonvoters. Socioeconomic factors like income and housing type played a role; those who lived in multi-tenant dwellings, for instance, were less likely to vote. But within those households Obama’s analysts found a twist. A voter living with other people who had a demonstrated history of voting was predicted as more likely to turn out herself.”

So, set your vote goal and aim to identify, persuade, and get-out-the-vote. Let analytics guide your voter-contact efforts to victory. It’s a science, but not rocket science.

Smart Partnership Leads to Smarter Campaigning

Earlier this week we announced that Voter Gravity has integrated Esri Tapestry Segmentation into our Esri base maps. I’d like to explain with some more detail as to why partnering with Esri is such an incredible step for Voter Gravity and the campaigns that use our voter contact technology.

I’m a firm believer that all politics is local. Data analysis leads to a hyperlocal campaign. If you’re reading this, I probably don’t need to convince you that that’s good. A hyperlocal campaign, no matter the size, gives a campaign the ability to contact targeted voters the right way with the right message. Which is why I’m excited to add another layer of segmenting to Voter Gravity’s technology. Esri Tapestry Segmentation ultimately “divides US residential areas into 65 distinctive segments based on socioeconomic and demographic characteristics to provide an accurate, detailed description of US neighborhoods.”

What does this mean to you?

Any map that you pull up in Voter Gravity can give you information about your targeted area based on the 65 segments, broken down into 12 Tapestry summary groups. Esri calls these “LifeMode Summary Groups” which are characterized by lifestyle, lifestage, and shared experience, such as being born in the same time period or a trait like affluence. These segments are represented by distinct colors. See the chart below for a breakdown of each summary group. So, for example, if a targeted neighborhood is shaded with the color purple, then it falls under the description of Metropolis:

LifeMode Group: L3 Metropolis

Residents in the six segments of the Metropolis group live and work in America’s cities. They live in older, single family homes or row houses built in the 1940s or earlier. Those living in larger cities tend to own fewer vehicles and rely more on public transportation; however, workers in most of the Metropolis segments commute to service related jobs. The Metropolis group reflects the segments’ diversity in housing, age, and income.

For example, ages among the segments range from Generation Xers to retirees; households include married couples with children and single parents with children. Employment status also varies from well-educated professionals to unemployed. The median household income of the group is $39,031. Their lifestyle is also uniquely urban and media oriented. They like music, especially urban and contemporary formats, which they listen to during their commutes. They watch a variety of TV programs, from news to syndicated sitcoms, and would rather see movies than read books.

Esri Tapestry Segmentation Voter Gravity

When going door-to-door, placing yard signs in the area, handing out campaign material, or sending mailers to the voters in this neighborhood, imagine how valuable it is to know this unique information about the voters you’re trying to connect with.

For a review of each Esri Tapestry segment and more info on how Esri can enhance your voter outreach efforts, take a look at Esri’s Tapestry Segmentation Reference Guide. If you’re ready to take us for a spin, contact Voter Gravity today!

Taking Political Data to a New Level

In an effort to continually enhance the voter data for campaigns, we’ve integrated two exciting new features this month:

1. 50-State Voter Database

Voter Gravity now features complete voter files in all 50 states. Our database now includes:

  • Voter profiles appended with vote history for all major elections going back at least four cycles;
  • Geocoded voter profiles that will display beautifully on our Esri maps;
  • Able to append key consumer data points to increase predictive accuracy;
  • Monthly and quarterly updates for phone numbers and addresses;
  • A unified database that allows us to track voters even when they move across state lines.
Voter Gravity’s database also includes phone numbers and emails in all 50 states. With the click of a button, candidates and organizations can now append phones and emails to their voters, giving campaigns of any size the ability to truly tap into the power of Voter Gravity’s technology.

More Than Just Voter History: Esri Tapestry Segmentation

2. More Than Just Voter History: Esri Tapestry Segmentation

We’re excited to take the Esri maps inside Voter Gravity’s system to a new level. Voter Gravity has integrated Esri Tapestry Segmentation into our Esri base maps.

Campaigns now have an even better idea of what makes up the “fabric of America’s neighborhoods,” allowing them to identify and target voters with the best political data. Esri’s Tapestry Segmentation divides US residential areas into 65 distinctive segments based on socioeconomic and demographic characteristics to provide an accurate, detailed description of US neighborhoods.

Digital Campaigning: Capture Your Audience in Eight Seconds Flat

Ten years ago you had 12 minute attention spans to work with in attracting voters online. Today, you have 8 seconds. Whether we like it or not, social media is the new currency, and unless we adjust accordingly, we’ll be broke. 

If you’ve already made adjustments and have an online presence, then you’re doing much better than many of your colleagues. But having a web presence alone was cutting edge in the ’90s. Welcome to 2013. 

With the competition from the Left and the advancements in digital campaigning and political technology, including data-driven analytics, testing, and optimization, it’s not enough to simply exist online. 

Gain an edge by utilizing the latest technology – offline by turning data into votes on the ground – and online using tools and digital strategies to capture the attention of your voters and empower your offline campaign. 

Here are five practical guidelines to grabbing attention and keeping it:

1. Position your important information strategically
The average page visit lasts a little less than a minute, so make sure that your viewer’s eye is drawn to the most crucial part of your campaign from the moment he or she access the site. For example, if your mission statement is what you think will empower supporters, place it in large text at the top. And as always, test it out. Is your important information placed strategically? Use online tools such as Usability Hub’s Five Second Test, which gives users the ability to test sections of their site against a random audience.

2. Avoid clutter
Everyone is tempted to put all their information on that first page, but don’t do it. Rather than overwhelm your audience with cluttered content, simplify your home page and make it interesting enough so that people will want to click through to your more meaty platform. Today, with the dominance of technology and social media in every sphere, including politics, it is well worth the time and funds to hire a professional web designer. This will ensure that your layout highlights the important information without losing anything crucial and keeps the reader on your website.

3. Ensure that your website is running properly
This may seem simple, studies show that if a website takes longer than 3 seconds to load, 40% of users will abandon the page. The faster your site loads the better your chances that people will actually read your website, let alone click through it. There are online tools that you can download to ensure your website reaches its maximum viewing potential.

4. Connect to your other social media networks
Online campaigning doesn’t stop with the website. Facebook is a must for the modern campaign. We think Twitter is too. Think of social networks as different social functions. The more events you go to, the more people you meet, and the more you get the word out, the more reach you will have for your ideas. A website is the perfect place to advertise your presence on other social networks. Use it to interact with your audience and broadened your reach.

5. Analyze and improve
Here at Voter Gravity we live and breath data and analytics. Never implement a suggestion without testing and analyzing if it actually works for you. Only by looking back and determining who has visited your site, clicked through links, commented on posts, used certain search terms, etc. can you craft your digital strategy into something truly successful. If the numbers don’t add up, then make improvements. Google Analytics recently released a report about how the Obama 2012 campaign took advantage of Google Analytic tools to gain an upper edge: “Having quick and easy access to actionable data was essential for President Obama’s data-driven re-election campaign in 2012…. Early on, they turned to Google Analytics to help the web, email, and ads teams understand what motivated new supporters to become more vocal advocates and regular donors over time. The team tested various secondary calls-to-action after a visitor’s initial signup or donation to encourage further involvement with the campaign.” Check out the full case study here.

7 Digital Best Practices for Your Political Campaign

“Hope is not a strategy.” 

Among the many awesome insights gained while repping for Voter Gravity at the Inbound 2013 marketing conference in Boston last month, introduced in last week’s blog post, I find this pithy statement sums them up (thanks, @BenGrossman).

It’s not enough to hope to be the best. You need to craft an effective digital plan for your campaign that will nurture relationships, empower your supporters, amplify your offline message, and ultimately, win votes.

Examining Inbound’s innovative digital marketing strategies through a political technology lens, I came away with seven practical tips that the savvy political campaign can begin to implement today:

1. Be on the way, not in the way. We’re in an attention economy. Your campaign shouldn’t be like the pop-up ad that blocks users from the content they wish they were experiencing, but rather the purveyor of the information they want. Don’t interrupt, interact. As Seth Godin puts it, “Be worth connecting with.” Don’t coerce, connect. Do so by creating content so meaningful, your audience can’t help but share it

2. Target, target, target. Just like you target voters in your district, know who you want to reach and make steps to do that. How do your voters spend their time online and where? Your voters are online all day, every day. As Pew recently found, the majority of Americans own smartphones. Of those smartphone users, 72 percent say they are within five feet of their smartphones the majority of the time.

3. Get up close & personal. Meaningful relationships resonate online as well as off. Create a hyper-relevant sense of community among your audience by showing how well you know and identify with them. Strategist Ben Grossman stated, “Social media is where your brand lives as a verb.” As a candidate, your site and micro-sites are key places to actively show voters that you deliver on the promises you’re making. Allow your personality and vision to show through each post, (high quality!) picture, infographic, tweet.

4. Get LinkedIn. One out of every three professionals on the planet is LinkedIn, according to @WillHambly, online marketing manager for LinkedIn. As you form relationships with those in your community and establish yourself as a thought leader, don’t leave out LinkedIn. These are business decision makers who invest their time on this professional network to gain insight on their careers and current affairs. In fact, there is six times more engagement with content on LinkedIn than with jobs. Connect with community members and share valuable content, linking back to your other sites and social networks.

5. Always include a clear call to action. Whether it’s a post on Facebook with a link or a speech at the local rotary club, ask your audience to do something with the information you just gave them.

6. Ask questions. Don’t think of your online presence as a platform but rather an opportunity to join the conversation. Give your voters a voice. Engage. Show that you value your audience’s input by initiating with questions and then responding to comments and other content.

7. Use data to measure and improve. Keep a close eye on analytics. Track your efforts through Google Analytics, built-in alalytics (like Facebook Insights) or third-party programs. Data analyst Nate Silver emphasized that paying attention to stats empowers your relationships and actions: “Statistics is the science of finding relationships and actionable insights from data.” He incisively ended his keynote with the quote: “The road to wisdom? Well, it’s plain and simple to express. Err, and err again, but less and less.”

Using Campaign Technology to do GOTV Right

As we enter an era of data driven politics, it’s important to know what really works and what doesn’t in regards to Get-out-the-Vote (GOTV). It is still astounding how much money was spent on robo calls and mail for GOTV in 2012. There were reports that the some campaigns were doing five robo calls a day to the same voter during the last five days of the election.

The good news in regards to where you should spend your time and money for GOTV? Alan Gerber and Donald Green have already done a study for you to let you know what works best. In their 2004 book, which has been updated, they broke down the most effective means for GOTV. (There have been even more recent updates at Yale’s research site on GOTV.) But let’s take a look at some of the techniques, with their cost and effectiveness:

Alan Gerber and Donald Green GOTV StudyNow the study notes that the * means “Cost effectiveness is not calculated for tactics that are not proven to raise turnout” and that “door-to-door canvassing is talking to targeted voter, for phone calls, talking to targeted voter.” So robo calls, emails, and direct mail have no real impact for GOTV, and it should be noted that television and radio raise turnout by less than a point. That is not even targeted GOTV. It just raises turnout generally, not necessarily among a campaign’s targeted voters.

The study came up with the $29 a vote for door-to-door by calculating $16 an hour and 6 contacts per hour. The live calls were based off $16 an hour and 16 contacts and hour. Imagine if you were able to drive down costs for doors and phones to, say, $10 an hour, and then drive up doors to 10 contacts an hour and calls to 25 contacts an hour. That’s what campaign technology like Voter Gravity can do: make volunteers more efficient and effective by targeting the right voters so that more of the right work can be done in a shorter amount of time.

Never Stop Learning: Using Campaign Technology to Test Theories in the Field

Most campaign consultants with the authority to make important decisions have decades of experience in politics. Many are very good at making these decisions, using the knowledge they’ve accumulated over all those years to create high quality strategies for winning elections.

The most valuable of these lessons are learned not from years of successful campaigning, but from years of mistakes. While there are many strategists who have fantastic ideas about properly messaging to and turning out voters, few have the empirical evidence to authoritatively confirm their beliefs.

For example, most consultants have ideas about matching the demographics of their volunteers and the voters to whom they’ll be speaking. Others have strong inklings about different groups of voters and how they’ll respond to different types of mailers (from color choices to language and messaging decisions).

Not enough of these consultants, however, have actually tested these theories in the field. Without a control group of voters with whom the “less efficient” strategies have been tested and shown to be unsuccessful, it is impossible to know for sure whether a certain strategy is best.

After the well-documented success of the 2012 Obama campaign’s use of campaign technology and A/B testing, more and more Republican efforts are beginning to utilize this technique. Despite its unquestionably rational credentials, however, the decision to dedicate a political outfit’s strategy formation to this more scientific methodology is rarely an easy one to make. There are two main reasons for this.

First, it is not often in the individual best interest (especially short-term) of a political consultant to discover that some (or even most) of his or her ideas could be wrong. For example, when a campaign identifies 5,000 supporters for a local election, and the candidate then gets 10,000 votes, the consultant will benefit from the assumption that basically every one of those 5,000 tagged supporters showed up on election day.

Looking back on the campaign with an analysis of election history data to find out which tagged supporters actually showed up on election day has the potential to teach consultants a significant amount about how to improve their turnout operations. And while even more could be learned from the utilization of A/B GOTV strategy testing in such an analysis (a technique which we highly recommend to everyone), even the simpler process of throwing supporter data up against microtargeted turnout statistics is too rarely seen in today’s Republican consulting climate.

Second, a consultant’s ability to learn new things about campaign strategy starts with a willingness to admit that he or she may have been doing things in a sub-optimal way – in many cases, for a very long time. The longer a strategist has been honing the craft, the more experience they gain. This experience often leads to greater power and responsibility, yet it also frequently serves as an obstacle to open-minded discussion when it comes to learning new things about how best to reach and turn out voters.

To ensure your campaign is utilizing the most efficient strategies possible, always be willing to let go of prior beliefs about how campaigns “should” use data. And never stop looking for new ways to experiment and improve upon everything you’ve learned so far. Discovering that your favorite strategy might not actually work as well as you thought won’t feel great at first, and you can be sure that such feedback is the best way to ensure that your campaign reaches its full potential.

Feeling like you know more about campaigning than your opposition is wonderful.

Winning is even better.

Better Connected. More Wins.

New Feature: Near Me helps activists connect in their community

Another week, another new Voter Gravity feature.

Imagine a volunteer named Nancy calls on Wednesday morning. Nancy is at home and wants to help the campaign starting immediately. In fact, she wants to go knock on doors. In a traditional campaign, she would have to drive to a campaign headquarters, sign up, get a walk list, and then go to a strange neighborhood and knock on the doors of people she likely does not know.

With the launch of Mobile Near Me, Nancy can be out knocking on doors in her neighborhood within minutes. Here’s how it works:

Once Nancy has been added to a campaign’s account as a volunteer, she can log in to the Voter Gravity mobile app via her smartphone.

After logging in, Nancy can select “Near Me” and Voter Gravity will dynamically create a list of targeted voters close to her location. She’s out the door and talking with neighbors, where she is likely to have relationships with people who will trust her — and be more likely to support her candidate.

But who is a targeted voter? That’s easy, campaigns just select a set of filtered criteria via the portal, just as they would to create a targeted walk list or phone bank.

Request a demo today to check out this new feature and the other innovative voter contact tools available on the Voter Gravity platform.

INBOUND13, Seth Godin, Nate Silver, and How to Stand Out in an “Attention Economy”

Voter Gravity attends Inbound 2013

Voter Gravity staff spent a week in August in Boston, connecting with innovators from across the country while attending INBOUND 2013, the world’s largest inbound marketing conference. Interacting with keynotes like social marketer Seth Godin and longtime-leading statistician Nate Silver, we came away with an even stronger sense of why mastering advancing technology is a must for modern political campaigns.

We live in an “attention economy” — Americans tune out paid advertising (including TV ads and intrusive robocalls). Buying attention doesn’t work.

So what does work? Seth Godin defined this digital revolution: “We are leaving the industrial economy and entering the connection economy.” Data reveals that 92 percent of American consumers trust recommendations from family & friends when making a decision. It’s the personal connection.

One of our must-see keynotes was Nate Silver who focused on prediction (of course!) and bringing meaning from a universe of noisy data. Big data becomes useful when we think in terms of actionable knowledge and statistics. Don’t be afraid to test, measure, try and err to determine how data will enable you to establish meaningful connections with your target audience.

Stay tuned for more takeaways on how to use technology to effectively reach your voters over the next few weeks!

Political Technology: A Means to an End

There’s some real innovation starting to take place in center right politics in regards to political technology, and we’d like to think Voter Gravity is right at the forefront if it all. However, in the midst of this revolution, it’s probably good to remind people that technology is a means to an end. It is not the end in and of itself.

Having great technology and great data are a must if the center right is to make gains in future elections.  But having great “whizbangery” is not going to actually cause the center right to win. It’s knowing how to use said whizbangery that will help the center right win. Harper Reed, the Chief Technology Officer of the Obama for America campaign, said, “The technology was not the real innovation. The real innovation was the ground game.” It was Obama’s technology that refined voter contact to very targeted demographics with the right messages, and allowed the volunteers to focus on the right voters with the best message that was the recipe for success.

It was about having as personal a contact as possible with voters, and emphasizing the quality of the contacts (I wrote about some of this for The American Spectator back in May). So in conversations about political technology, especially in regards to canvassing and GOTV, we have to emphasize what it’s about ultimately: live voter contact.

It’s that shift that needs to take place on the center right: using political technology to shift how it approaches politics and emphasizes more live contact with targeted voters. It’s not about door literature drops or an over-emphasis on phone banks (though Voter Gravity has a predictive phone system), but actual real life conversations and interactions with targeted voters.

That’s what technology like Voter Gravity is meant to do: take volunteers or candidates going door-to-door on the most efficient route to the right doors to talk with the right voters to ask the right questions. Then, with the data collected, empower candidates or advocacy groups to be able to make strategic and even financial decisions.