How Big Data and Social Won the Election
By Mike Stiles on Nov 09, 2012
The story of big data’s influence on the outcome of the US Presidential election is worth a good look, because a) it’s a harbinger of things to come, and b) it’s an example of similar successes available to any enterprise seriously resourcing integrated big data, modeling, and data-driven execution on all assets, including social.
Obama campaign manager Jim Messina fielded a data and analytics brain trust 5 times larger than 2008. At that time, there were numerous databases from various sources, few of them talking to each other. This time, the mission was to be metrics-centered and measure everything measurable, and in context with all the other data.
Big data showed them exactly what they needed to know and told them what to do about it.
It showed them women 40-49 on the west coast would donate big money if they got to eat with George Clooney. Women on the east coast would pony up to hang out with Sarah Jessica Parker. Extensive daily modeling showed them what kinds of email appeals, from who, and to whom, would prove most successful in raising cash, recruiting volunteers, and getting out the vote. Swing state voters were profiled and approached with more customized targeting that at any time in history.
Ads were purchased on specific shows watched by the targets, increasing efficiency 14% over traditional media buys. For all the criticism of the candidate’s focus on appearing on comedy and entertainment shows, and local radio morning shows, that’s where the data sent them to reach the voters most likely to turn out for them.
And then there was social. Again, more than in any other election, Facebook was used for virtual, highly efficient door-to-door canvasing. Facebook fans got pictures of friends in swing states and were asked to encourage them to act. Using that approach, 1 in 5 peer-to-peer appeals led to the desired action.
Assumptions, gut, intuition, campaign experience, all took a backseat to strategy shifts solidly backed up by data. Zeroing in on demographics likely to back the President and tracking their mood daily literally changed the voter landscape. The Romney team watched Obama voters appear seemingly out of thin air. One Obama campaign aide said, “We ran the election 66,000 times every night.”
Which brings us to your organization.
If you’re starting to feel like the battle-cry of “but this is the way we’ve always done it” is starting to put you in an extremely vulnerable position, you’re right. Social has become a key communication tool of the 21st century. Failing to use it, or failing to invest in a deep understanding of who your customers and prospects are so the content you post there will achieve desired actions and results, will leave you waking up one morning wondering, “What happened?”