Big Data? There’s an App for That
Almost all of us in the issue advocacy or political campaign world pay homage to the ground game. That’s where you make the all-important personal connection.
It’s also time-consuming and labor intensive, and requires lots of boots on the ground. Knocking on doors, leaving door hangers, getting out the vote and dialing numbers is grind-it-out blocking and tackling.
Enter big data.
In somewhat of an ironic twist, it’s also where sophisticated data analytics is linking up in the form of some very smart mobile phone apps. These apps are changing the way campaigns are run, by providing campaign volunteers and foot soldiers the ability to identify their target with precision, know what motivates them, capture their data, and then upload it in real time.
We’ve come a long way since President Obama’s 2008 much heralded big data ground campaign. In the eight years, since, the level of micro targeting, the individualization of messaging, and the proliferation of platforms and channels have increased exponentially.
Today, merging big data techniques with ground campaigns to help candidates win elections is commonplace.
What’s trending today is putting the power of big data directly into the hands of volunteers in the form of campaign apps.
A good example is Bernie Sanders’ campaign app cleverly called “Field the Bern.” It’s designed as a campaign tool for existing and potential volunteers, teaching them how to canvas, giving them quick references for policy information, finds doors for them to knock on, tracks their progress, and gets them to compete with friends.
Importantly, “Field the Bern,” requires supporters to sign in using their Facebook account, or an email address, and it also repeatedly asks to let the campaign track their movements until they answer “yes.”
Search Ted Cruz’s name on iTunes or the App Store and you’ll find the “Cruz Crew” mobile app. It’s a serious tool and another good example. It too targets volunteer and potential volunteers. “Cruz Crew” uses various techniques to coax you into service. It gathers detailed information from its users, tracks their movement, and even captures the names and contact information for friends who might want nothing to do with his campaign.
It uses games to get people to share information, their home and email addresses, friends’ contact information, their level of familiarity with politics, even whether they’re born-again Christians and how they feel about the Tea Party and libertarianism.
Participants gather points for every contribution: 15 points for watching an ad, more for sharing it in social media, 125 points for filling a survey, 1,000 for canvassing voters. They climb the ranks from “intern” to “organizer” to “patriot,” and finally, when they’ve amassed 250,000 points, to “revolutionary.”
That information, and more, is then fed in real time into huge databases that glean voter attributes, and build detailed psychological profiles that allow campaigns to target individual voters with up-to-the-moment individualized campaigns.
Taking that information from the backroom and putting it directly in the hands of volunteers is a key differentiator. By most accounts, the apps are a key factor in the success of both Cruz and Sander’s strong showing in Iowa and New Hampshire earlier this month –and evidence that their ground games have the strong potential to power them to their respective nominations.
On the other hand, and somewhat conspicuous by their absence, is the lack of a similar campaign app by Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton. Search iTunes or Apple for a similar campaign app and you come up short. Something their campaigns don’t want to happen when the final vote is tallied in November.