He who leads the polls, leads the race… If it were held today on social.
Today’s content-saturated media environment requires great flexibility, speed, and vigilance in order to remain relevant, let alone influential, in the news or online conversation. What was once fledgling technology in 2008—Facebook, Twitter (Social) and smart-phones (mobile)— have propelled political campaigns forward by light years. As technology changes, so do users and their expectations. As a result, techniques and technology that worked brilliantly four years and even four months ago might yield unsuccessful results today.
Clearly, the political landscape in American Presidential elections is focused on getting out the vote; and, what is of critical importance is reaching undecided voters, or persuadables. Data, technology and social innovation are crucial to targeting these voters and building broad-based support.
A prime example of this is the second sweeping victory of U.S. President Barack Obama – a win that was significantly fueled by his campaign’s sophisticated use of technology and data science to convert millions of everyday people into vocal supporters, donors and volunteers. Obama has changed how political campaigns engineer victory.
For example, here are a few important strategic digital takeaways from the Obama campaign.
Essentials of Digital Campaign Success
A dynamic, engaging digital campaign has many moving parts. Tools, tactics, and real-time intelligence fuel the trajectory of the efforts, and OFA continuously refined and recalibrated the digital campaign strategy to build support.
Obama’s Campaign Hub of 2008 Morphed into a Social-Mobile-Driven Platform
Both campaign’s tailored “mobile-ready” robust websites, with social media integration and sharing capabilities, allowed for seamless information sharing and produced trackable user metrics (data) to glean insights from. The central campaign “hubs” allowed both campaigns to connect with potential supporters and influence the online discussion.
The campaign websites helped manage the content flow, kept unrelated news from infiltrating the site and created a sense of community among like-minded voters.
Empowered at the kitchen table and online increased overall micro-targeting effectiveness.
Empowering and mobilizing others to serve as online messengers for the campaign was a crucial component to the word of mouth aspect for both Romney and Obama teams. The Campaigns relied on people interacting online and most importantly discussing their viewpoints with their family and neighbors. Using mobile and social media technology helped ensure up-to-the-minute, easily digested campaign messages were sent and received (on time) and were of particular importance for the campaign when persuading undecided audiences. What’s more, social and mobile tools were equally important for countering opposition statements and helped both candidates stave-off real-time media misinformation (as much as possible).
Romney and Obama’s digital teams were able to block and tackle by way of sound social media and mobile communications strategies. In fact, Obama’s social teams use of Twitter from engaging and building influence on the micro-blogging platform in the months leading up to voting day, and during the late hours of the day to motivate voters to stay in line, was a first. A first for any political campaign to use its online prowess to resonate highly targeted messages on a socially fueled mobile connected platform, to a segment of the population was essential in ensuring messages were sent and delivered in real-time to voters in battleground states while Obama’s supporters waited in line to vote. It was noted that the Romney’s campaigns apathy was a clear sign of less engagement with the younger voting segment on social:
“In this case, Obama’s influence on Twitter trumped Romney’s, whether measured through followers or lists. The president had 178,641 public lists following his official Twitter handle, while Romney had 12,773. The combined number of users following those lists gave Obama an even greater lead on the GOP nominee, with 1,680,596 to 8,302 public list followers.” The Hill, 10/31/12
Targeting Undecided Voters
Identifying undecided voters, or persuadables, is key to campaign success. What’s imperative is the efficient and tested use of data science and tools to find them online and effectively deliver authentic and authoritative messages. Like developing a meaningful offline relationship, authority is preceded by authentic one-to-one contact. The decision-making process requires dialogue that spurs attention, an interest in the subject matter, and a desire to learn more; thus, potentially translating to a tangible action. Social and mobile technology have streamlined and advanced the human decision-making process so dramatically, what took countless resources and millions of dollars in media impressions to ingrain the candidate’s name in the mind of the voter in the 20th Century can all be done in a matter of minutes online through compelling messages by messengers on relevant platforms.
To drive efficiency, campaigns must understand the platforms persuadable voters are using; who (other than the candidate) resonates with them; and, craft and shape meaningful hooks of engagement at that destination point.
For instance, Obama’s team seized a data-driven opportunity during the late stages of the 2012 U.S. Presidential campaign by zeroing in on turnout targets on the social news website Reddit. Essentially the campaign’s data pointed to the social news site as an online destination, or “hangout,” for a large segment of Obama’s persuadables. Obama’s appearance not only reached the target audience; it also captured national mainstream press and social media attention by trending on Twitter during the opposition party’s national meeting, the Republican National Convention. Data analysis pointed to Reddit. Data analysis gave the Obama campaign an opportunity to strike at the heart of the Romney campaign during the most crucial point in Romney’s path to securing the Republican Party’s trust and support.
We are highly aware that each campaign is its own unique animal, but as the campaign examples show, digital has never been more dynamic or important to directing the discourse and outcomes of modern elections.
Recruiting just a small percentage of your most loyal customers in a insiders-only brand advocacy program will have a tremendous impact on the bottom-line. Even a small number with a social graph who are articulate and have real brand affinity can be your company’s most effective advocate. Conversely, in a content-saturated media environment, engaging them may require a little bit of effort and creativity.
To recruit the most loyal brand advocates, we’ve pulled together a few tips and tricks:
by Jon Tilton
The Search vs. Discovery War Continues
By Jon Tilton
There’s a new Facebook tool in the social search space that not only escalates the company’s competitive rivalry with Google – but importantly, challenges brands to re-examine and re-target their content strategy. The recently launched Facebook “Graph” will, in Wired magazine’s words, allow users to “tap its vast, monolithic database.” According to Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg, “It’s a completely new way to get information…and, it consists of any content that has already been shared.”
What this means is that the billions if not trillions of social assets created by the Facebook nation will be consolidated and easily viewable via Graph. This treasure trove of data (purported to be privacy aware) includes everything shared on the network – from pictures and posts to discussions to personal tastes and preferences expressed in “likes” when a user approves of updates or pages.
While the full power and impact of Graph remains to be seen, search is now Facebook’s backbone and could be a force to be reckoned with – unless seized strategically and opportunistically. Advocacy Media is examining Graph through the lens of brand or issue groups that have spent countless hours and hundreds of thousands, if not millions, of dollars implementing a social content strategy to increase their social assets to boost the cause or brand.
In the pre-Graph world, brands have also relied on paid advertising, link publishing and keyword search tactics to push bad content down, promote a website, sell products and offer opposing or counter perspectives to regulatory or political issues on Google. Now, presumably, a fully launched Graph search tool will allow the good, the bad and the ugly thoughts of our “friends” about whatever topic of search to bubble up to the top of an entirely new and dominant discovery platform.
Imagine all the brands and issue groups that will need real brand advocates to post pictures, stories and “check-ins” about their product offerings and overall experience to counter unfavorable search results; such as unwanted press featuring an organization or political office’s leadership, a bad experience with an insurance company’s claims department, the careless nurse or doctor, or the inattentive waiter at a local restaurant. The dilemma is that top-down groups will not be able to control the context of what bubbles to the top of Graph. Or will they?
Once fully implemented, brands and organizations will need a Facebook Graph “advocacy” strategy. Past Google-centric paid efforts (SEM) to promote your page, or placing positive reviews on customer review sites like Yelp should now include a strategic plan solely focused on Facebook Graph.
On behalf of the entity, brand and issue advocates, with credible and authentic experiences, stories, and opinions, will have to post on their own Facebook profiles more than ever before to populate Graph’s search results, as there is no one-fell-swoop paid key-word fix-all. If you’re not focused on the tonality and quality of what will rise up on Facebook Graph, most likely your competitors and detractors are.
To avoid getting slayed by brand detractors and forced to play catch up in the eleventh hour, call Advocacy Media to understand and prepare for the inevitable. Where there’s chaos, there’s opportunity.
As polls were closing on the East Coast on SuperTuesday, Advocacy Media noticed that #stayinline was trending on Twitter, and remained a trend on the micro-blogging platform throughout the duration of the evening - in fact, until Governor Romney conceded. This was no surprise to us since we had previously reported that Twitter users added President Obama to more lists than Governor Romney, a sign that more people were engaged with Obama on the social media platform.
From what we’ve determined, using sophisticated big data monitoring software, #stayinline morphed into a hashtag from multiple posts coming from President Obama’s Twitter handle — approximately six tweets (of 70 on the day) with #stayinline were pushed to the President’s 22 million Twitter followers while polls in respective battleground states were closing. From there the Twitterverse took over and roughly 71,000 twitter accounts retweeted the post; essentially cascading the directive to approximately 110 million Twitter accounts.
There were approximately 12,445 stand-alone posts with the hashtag #stayinline embedded in the Tweet (17% of 71,000); and, roughly 58,562 retweets (82% of 71,000); 5% of the retweets had some sort of back-n-forth engagement or discussion among two or more people.
Keep in mind that Obama’s social team engaged with its supporters by posting over 70 tweets on Super Tuesday, compared to seven tweets by Team Romney; that’s billions of FREE, relevant call to action impressions.
The geographic breakdown: OH 3.4%, PA 3%, FL 8%, CA 11%
Women led in posting/retweeting #stayinline
A few of the top influencers with hashtag #stayinline were:
Obviously Obama’s ground game turned out the vote where it needed to in OH, PA, VA and FL, but is it possible that the campaign’s savvy last minute use of Twitter as an engagement apparatus encouraged the troops to hold the line thus ensuring Obama’s victory?
How much is a presidential bear hug worth?
Covered by AMEX Open Forum for Small Businesses
When Scott Van Duzer welcomed President Obama to his pizza shop Sunday with a massive bear hug, a social media surge surrounded his restaurant, Big Apple Pizza. Apparently Scott, who is a registered Republican and “plans on voting for Obama in November,” has found himself, and his pizza shop, mired in a digital political maelstrom in the form of ranking reviews by the community on Yelp – a consumer ratings platform not typically known as a hub for political discourse.
Incited by his enthusiasm for Obama, the Republican community sublimated its disdain for Scott on the consumer ratings platform by posting unfavorable comments and downgrading Big Apple Pizza. Prior to Obama, the pizza shop had a 4 star rating and a handful of comments. When the post-Obama pendulum swung the other way, reaching a fever pitch with Democrats joining the social fray, Big Apple Pizza racked up roughly 3,000 positive 5 star votes. By Wednesday morning, Yelp had scrubbed Big Apple Pizza of the asymmetrical votes to “defend the integrity of the platform….Yelp has proven policies in place to deal with such events,” a Yelp spokesperson said.
This spontaneous event raises a few questions. Do visits by sitting Presidents help or hurt restaurants? And, is there a direct correlation to Yelp review rankings, increased foot traffic and sales when a President visits?
This isn’t Yelp’s first political rodeo. Remember the Chick-Fil-A debacle? Apparently, the pro-LGBT community went to the board to lambast the brand, and now Yelp has learned from events like this to ensure the platform is hate-monger-less, and true to it’s unique value proposition.
A recent study by UC Berkeley economists found that “a half-star rating increase translates into a 19 percent greater likelihood that an eatery’s seats will be full during peak dining times.” Furthermore, researchers found that “crowd-sourced reviews have a bigger impact when there is a lack of alternative information available by which to judge a restaurant’s quality” and Yelp was obsolete if the restaurant has a “Michelin” star rating. That said, according to the National Restaurant Association, most restaurant goers rely on online reviews, and if the restaurant is not a top 100 hot spot, then Yelp is the site nearly 30% of all consumers visit to read the latest consumer-driven intelligence or post reviews regarding local eateries. The UC Berkeley study is the latest study to link online consumer reviews on forums and social media sites to the popularity of a restaurant.
SO, back to the Big Apple Bear Hug going viral on Yelp and a translation in terms of dollars for Mr. Van Duzer.
In true Advocacy Media form, we started digging and interviewing restaurants that have been blessed by a Presidential visit or two. According to our findings Mr. Van Duzer hit a potential $500,000 jackpot, by way of an immediate 50% increase in foot-traffic, and a guaranteed 25% -30% increase in net gross profits for at least the next three years.
And for the math, we found an incredibly detailed analysis about pizza. Based on this analysis, independent pizza shops, like Big Apple Pizza, make up 48% of U.S. pizza sales, which comes out to $16,881,809,760. That’s billion with a “B” Our minds are BLOWN! (Total U.S. pizza sales are $35,170,437,000.) Of the 65,283 pizza shops in the U.S., 57% of them are independent, meaning that there are 37,211 independent pizza shops in the U.S. Our math comes out to $453,674.16 per independent pizza shop. SO, hypothetically Mr. Pizza Man’s shop was pulling in $450k a year times a 30% bump in sales for the next three years, not including the high favorability ranking on Yelp that is here to stay for infinity, barring a Joe the Plumber meltdown. Mr. Pizza Man’s hug is worth close to $500,000.00.
Yeah, right, you say. No way Yelp or a Presidential moment could translate to increased visits and long-term affect on revenues. Well, let us ponder.
One year from now, you’re in Florida, looking for a pizza. You go to your trusted digital side pocket steed. Low and behold, because of the combo ratings and volume, Big Apple Pizza holds the top position on search. Not many people will click through to see why it’s 5 star on Yelp, they’ll take it as prophetic as the word of God. Remember, according to our Berkeley economist, that effect will last for years.
The increase in traffic due to Yelp ratings is real, and it’s one of the few measurable ties between social and business that effect small businesses.
So, the next time a sitting president visits your shop, go ahead and give ‘em the hug, if you are allowed.
More on our math:
by jon tilton
The latest buzz concerning influencers, athletes, Hollywood elites, politicians etc., paying to boost their Twitter follower count – Ashton Kutcher being one, has built his online empire via Twitter. According to StatusPeople, roughly 26% of his 11.9 MM followers are “fake” and another 45% are inactive. Interesting. So, he is really reaching only 29% or 3.5 MM of 12 MM followers. HMMMM. And that’s when they’re actually on Twitter (remember: the shelf-life of a tweet is one hour; just sayin). How effective is Empire Ashton, really? Do you think this revelation will shape future contract negotiations since he’s played the strong social graph card so well? And for the Kardashian clan? Oy, we digress…
Using the same tool to determine any Twitter handle’s “faker score” led us to check out the congressional elites scores, and well, all is still not good with Congress and communications via social media channels, or any electronic medium for that matter.
Curious, we began plugging away, first checking out all the Senate candidates, to which we realized that the real question is how many of the current elected officials (House AND Senate) are broadcasting to a “ghost” audience. And, could we pick up on any noticeable ratios or data points that would presumably point to an official that is paying for their followers. Fully immersed in the quest, we built a file of ALL elected representatives with each official’s respective “faker” score. Essentially, we pulled together detailed information, data amounts, concerning the number of fake, and inactive, Twitter accounts following Congress, and Senate candidates.
The few that are a little suspect include:
Official Congressional Twitter Handles: Note: the numbers reflect StatusPeople’s updated methodology. We’ve included all of our before and after results; approximately a -4% change overall.
The average Representative Twitter account has 3k – 6k followers, with roughly 6% “fake” followers and 30 % “inactive”. According to Advocacy Media’s findings, all congressional twitter accounts are plagued by fake followers; in fact, 36% of all Twitter accounts following congressional offices are phony accounts.
Furthermore, we’ve determined the big question is, considering how pervasive faker-bots, spam-bots, are on Twitter, how effective is Twitter as a tool to resonate messages to constituents? Congress reluctantly began to use Twitter due to its ubiquity and because it represented a new medium to connect with constituents. Remember, Representative Culberson’s affinity for the tweeter, then the apparent 180 because according to Rep Culberson, “he had had it with all the noise.” Now that the curtain has been pulled back, it’s likely communications to and through Twitter to Congress are really not that effective after all. And, if you’re broadcasting to a supposed group of advocates, you should check your score.
Congressional staffers base the relevancy and importance of someone’s communications via Twitter by their influence — the number of followers they have, for the most part. The findings show that anyone can grow a fake following, point their message to a congressional handle and be noticed.
As for the congressional handles, there obviously are a few that have seeded their account, but we believe that is beside the point. Twitter is run amuck with spam and phony accounts. It’s mostly noise.
Based on our experience managing digital issue and brand marketing campaigns, the findings really do make us rethink the legitimacy of utilizing Twitter as a communications tool, and how to build an organic, socially active community of issue and brand advocates to resonate messages on behalf of our clients.
As for the debate over engagement vs. follower count as proof of social media success, the value of a platform like Twitter is not so much about reach as it is engagement. There are more efficient methods for reach than Twitter, like display ads or online media ads. Yes, retweets do drive traffic, but a majority of the click-throughs are in the first five minutes of being “tweeted” out. If you have a ton of phony followers, how is that effective? It’s just wasted campaign resources and totally misses the point of why a campaign, or individual, should be using Twitter in the first place.
You should want to earn a follower base of real people that actually care about engaging and sharing - last we checked, phony bots don’t do that. Yet.
Since Gingrich was exposed last year for having a high phony follower base, it definitely makes more sense for Congressional offices and campaigns to scrub their followers. In this new age of transparency in social media, the risks outweigh reward.
Furthermore, we believe the high follower-win correlation for political candidates has finally been debunked!
Twitter has a really big problem and it’s not going to be easy ridding itself of phony accounts.
As for accuracy, StatusPeople and their methodology, they apply statistical analysis, take a random sampling of 1,000 followers for up to 100,000 of any given handles’ total universe of followers. Based on our experience, random sampling is pretty accurate. StatusPeople was used by Huffington Post for the Obama piece and TheNextWeb article here. They’ve recently updated their methodology here.
by jon tilton,
Your company’s Facebook page has recently experienced unfavorable posts by detractors and the comments are starting to take a life of their own in the Twitterverse. You have been instructed by your c-suite to formally respond on the company’s Twitter and Facebook page where thousands, if not millions, of your followers will see. The stakes are high and ramifications of one erroneous response could last a lifetime.
What do you do?
Regardless of the validity of the unfavorable comments, an overwhelming majority of your fans and followers are most likely not up to speed with the situation. At all costs, avoid feeding the story and giving it more credibility than it deserves by officially “reacting” to it, especially on social. It is imperative that the company does not engage officially in dialogue or respond to allegations with individual detractors that are not credible. Prominent blogs, mainstream newsmakers, media groups (e.g., USA TODAY, NEW YORK TIMES, WALL STREET JOURNAL or WASHINGTON POST) are certainly a different matter. By engaging with random sock puppet handles and non-credible detractors the company will:
Remember the strength and value of your official voice and avoid “punching downward” in ways that will only build a story where one does not actually exist.
That said, inaccurate information and distortions should be corrected whenever and wherever found. This should be done through a third-party individual, or group, who is a knowledgeable friend of the company, empowered with the right messages and materials to counter bloggers or Twitter comments with facts and substantiated data or relevant links to redirect the readers, and ideally shape the conversation in a favorable direction.
We’ve fleshed out an escalation engagement plan. Essentially, we’ve broken this down into suggested considerations and guidelines to help determine your proportional response activity and level of engagement. Each instance will likely require its own judgment call, but here are some initial thoughts on specific criteria to determine whether or not your company should respond officially:
Where is the statement taking place and is it spreading (and to where)?
Who or what entity is publicly making the statement?
What is the credibility – nature and size of their audience or social graph?
of their website or blog
Individual rogue Twitter handle
Unknown identity (sock-puppet account)
Well-known personality or news group
Large national following
If engagement – how to respond:
Depending on the allegation, you should approach this on a case-by-case basis. Think about where the comments are taking place and decide if it makes sense to respond in kind on that platform.
If engagement, who responds?
Throughout most social media platforms where we find writers with little to no credibility, we suggest having a friendly third-party who is informed on messaging and is equipped with factual information and links to correct the record on that site or blog alone. This person should contain responses to where they are occurring only. If it’s a chat room or comments section of a blog or post, think about a simple one-sentence post directing interested bystanders to a blog page, via bit.ly, connected to your corporate, or organizations, web site.
Minimal third-party engagement
Large credible Twitter account – find a credible organization or advocate that has a substantial social media presence and have him or her tweet to the detractors followers or utilize a specific hash-tag that could say “if you want the truth go to [bit.ly] blog for more information.”
Matching appropriate voice with the nature of the allegation/storyline with the appropriate level company staff person (smaller outlets – regular spokesperson, major outlets may justify c-suite involvement). We would advise against looking to legal action without careful consideration. Again, the asymmetrical nature of your organization against an individual is more often than not going to look like a David vs. Goliath situation, where you hand them a much bigger megaphone, create a much bigger story, and likely will come across as an overly-defensive bully.
To help mitigate, time should be given to stockpiling current positive material, data, messengers, and building a network of credible third-party digital influencers, and pushing those out in a sustained, aggressive way to elevate your positive message in search and push down negative commentary. Stay on offense and tell your story.
Furthermore, we recommend utilizing a holding statement that has been approved by internal business partners. We suggest modifying for specific social and micro-blogging platforms—Twitter only allows 140 characters. That said, when ready to respond to credible sources, consider officially posting on your company website and redirect, via bit.ly link, to your statement from your social presences. Or have a friendly third-party post on Twitter and re-direct to the company website on the company’s behalf.
Have a holding statement of no more than two paragraphs; link to information to substantiate your point-of-view, and stick to it. Do not appear reactive, but focus on the overall mission and core-values of the company. It is imperative to not allow the peripheral noise distract the company from staying on course. Stick to your position and be the voice of reason for your c-suite.
Covered by USA Today
The will of the masses reached an epic tipping point through the power of a viral video circulating on Facebook and Twitter. In less than a 48 hour period the youtube video produced by Invisible Children was viewed approximately 12.5 million times, passing over 100 million views in less than a month; “liked” on Facebook 16,800 times, and 944 blogs have written about the campaign to stop Joseph Kony. The video, KONY2012 is an effort to “make Joseph Kony famous, and not in a good way”.
Like the Arab Spring, the speed, reception and online mobilization has culminated into shaping and lifting the message on the collective digital backs of millions of people all throughout social media.
Advocacy Media’s research finds 98% of the volume of the millions of unique online conversations, within the last 48 hours, regarding the KONY2012 video, and its message, have been favorable.
It’s no surprise that women are leading men with a 51/49 split of women to men discussing the issue in blogs, Twitter and social communities, like Facebook.
The first mainstream digital powerhouse influencer to push a KONY2012 message was P-Diddy on @IAMDIDDY, to over 5 million Twitter followers.
Furthermore, in the context of a war-weary electorate in an election year, to see the online masses attach to an issue online in such a way is epic…it’s online participatory politics at its best…society is not sitting by idly, a digital army was amassed to take Kony out.
The online political will of the people could not be ignored. In fact, plenty of celebrities got involved in sharing the video about KONY 2012, resulting in it becoming a worldwide top trending topic on Twitter for over a week.
Justin Bieber retweeted a post to his 9 million followers “#Kony2012 is number 1 trending topic on Twitter worldwide!! See why by clicking here… It might change ur life”
P-Diddy tweeted to his 6 million followers, “Dear Joseph Kony, I’m Gonna help Make you FAMOUS!!!! We will stop YOU #StopKONY ! All 6,OOO,OOO of my followers RT NOW!!! Pls!”
Kim Kardashian retweeted to her 13 Million followers a post by her sister Kendall and wrote, “#Kony2012 Wow just watched! What a powerful video! Stop Kony!!!”
Oprah tweeted to her 9 million followers, “Thanks tweeps for sending me info about ending #LRAviolence . I am aware. Have supported with $’s and voice and will not stop.#KONY2012.”
Social Media has truly flattened the political landscape. What once took several weeks and hundreds of thousands of dollars to generate offline awareness about an issue, now can all be done at the click of a mouse, at the cost of practically nothing.