Friday, April 10, 2015

2016 Mobile Social Media Campaigns

As Hillary Clinton prepares to officially announce her Presidential campaign on Sunday, and want-to-be-president Republicans rush to announce their presidential campaigns, roughly two out of every three American adults, or 64 percent, own a smartphone, according to a recent report from Pew Research Center.

In the summer of 2014, smartphones and tablets accounted for 60 percent of Americans’ digital (social) media time, according to comScore. Sixty-eight percent of current smartphone owners use their phone to follow along with breaking news events, according to the Pew report. Just over 40% of voters ages 30-49 used their cell phone to follow 2014 election news, up from 15% in 2010.

Though mobile usage is highest among younger Americans, news consumption is quickly catching on even among older smartphone owners, as "four-in-ten smartphone owners ages 65 and older use their phone at least occasionally to keep up with breaking news.

Last summer, 58 percent of American adults owned a smartphone, up from just 35 percent of adults in the spring of 2011. Given how fast the migration to mobile is trending, it’s a safe bet America's digital (social) media time is even larger today, and will be yet larger by November Election Day 2016.

We already know campaigns can’t afford to ignore social media and mobile ahead of the 2016 campaign cycle. Candidates must take note that a digital electorate may be especially likely to use smartphones and tablets. If your fundraising emails and the donation pages on your website don’t take this into account, your campaign’s budget could be losing out. If your campaign website is not mobile friendly, Google will not include it in their search indexes.

Research by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) shows that over 59 percent of American (wireless only or mostly) households across all age groups had abandoned land line phones for mobile cellphone voice calls in the period January–June 2014. Younger Americans are also watching less traditional television, because they are streaming video to their mobile devices from Netflix, Amazon Instant Video, and Hulu, even YouTube and other sites.

According to the National Multifamily Housing Council, 37 million Americans last year lived in apartment buildings with five or more units. The number increases taking into account multifamily condominium and town home complex — and increases yet higher including gated controlled access residential communities.

It is very common for the majority of today’s younger and poorer and more diverse voters under age 45 to have no land line phone, never answer mobile phone calls from unknown caller-ID numbers, live in apartment and condominium buildings, and rarely see television ads given increasing numbers no longer subscribe to a cable TV service.

These are exactly the type of voters that Democratic candidates must reach to get out their vote, but increasingly they can’t be canvassed by phone or door to door, and they don't see a yard sign, because they live in apartment or condominium building.

The ability to effectively communicate with voters online was the biggest advancement in campaigning across the 2008 to 2014 election cycles.

This makes perfect sense, according to a 2013 PEW Research Internet Project report that found 39 percent of adults engage in civic and political activities on social media, and 16 percent have changed their minds about an issue based on others’ comments on a social media channel. Those percentage numbers were larger for the November 2014 election, are larger today, and will be yet larger by November Election Day 2016.

Increasingly, "digital voters" are becoming the norm, and most Democratic candidates and organizations are undeniably behind the curve in their ability to directly reach them.  Political campaigning has had some advances harnessing the power of social media since 2008, but there’s much work to be done.  Firms like Targeted Victory on the right, NationBuilder and DSPolitical on the left, and nonpartisan Campaign Grid and others have made huge strides by matching voter files social media users for online ad targeting, allowing online campaign ads the same kind of direct targeting normally reserved for snail mail.

So given these digital trends and developments, what’s needed for 2016?

The big challenge for future campaigns will be moving from online advertising to full-fledged online and mobile voter ID efforts. If political campaign can’t talk to over 50 percent of voters with traditional organizing efforts — phone banks and door to door canvassing — then they need to be able to talk to them through social media and mobile devices. The door-knock of the future will be a direct message on social media, and the phone call of the future will be enabled by Short Message Service (SMS) opt-in.

New livestreaming applications like Periscope and Meerkat, which allow smartphone owners to stream live video footage directly to their Twitter followers, will now allow voters to witness such events in real time. "Every minute — literally every minute — of every day of the campaign will be available live to anyone who wants it, no matter where they are," former Obama adviser Dan Pfeiffer wrote last month.

Pfeiffer touched on the benefits of these services — greater engagement opportunities for millennials, the importance of Twitter followers — but there is also potential for the rise in mobile usage to exacerbate the already fractious and fractured state of American politics. 

The rise in mobile smart phones will increase the number of citizen reporters, whose influence on recent political campaigns has been quite significant. Video footage of an errant remark — from George Allen's "Macaca" moment in 2006 to Mitt Romney's "47 percent" moment in 2012 — can have more influence on a political campaign than any traditional news report.   This week, a white South Carolina police officer was arrested and charged with murder Tuesday after a video taken by a citizen reporter showed him fatally shooting a fleeing, unarmed black man in the back.

"Mobile is going to be the big thing in 2016," Chris Lehane, the Democratic strategist and Clinton White House alum, told the On Media blog. "It is what any sophisticated campaign will be trying to figure out and then maximize in 2016 — and all the campaigns from both parties will be in a race to see who can figure out the tools to best lever the power of mobile."?

On the consumption side, the rise in mobile will "change politics the same way it is changing American life broadly," said Ben Smith, the editor-in-chief of BuzzFeed. "People will organize and persuade on mobile devices and apps, the same way they live on them more broadly."

The rise of mobile usage will create new ways for campaigns to advertise and target voters, down to highly specified demographic groups. "The ability to really translate the power and opportunity of big data to allow for nano-targeting communications with precision-targeted messaging is dependent on the ability to lever the power of mobile," Lehane explained. "There will be an explosion of mobile advertising in 2016; an explosion in using mobile to share campaign content; an explosion in using mobile to organize."

Lehane mapped out one scenario, in the fall of 2016, where "a voter identified by a campaign based on its data analytics will be nano-targeted via addressable mobile with ads, with social messages from their friends who have been engaged by the campaigns to reach out to their social network."  On election day, Lehane predicted, campaigns will have information about the voter "based on GPS data, to both determine whether they have visited a voting poll and/or [provide] step by step directions of how to find the poll in their precinct."

At the most basic level, the rise in mobile usage will speed up the entire political process. Voters will have faster and more frequent access to campaign news and information, and campaigns will have better access to voters and their data.

Lehane says, "Mobile is really this generation's version of their car. ... It is the platform where they spend much of their time; it is their TV, radio, movie screen, phone and computer all in one; it is what allows them to, in effect, travel beyond their current location by connecting them to various outlets from social to content to communications."

There are five keys to succeeding in this modernization of grassroots organizing and voter identification programs:
  • Full social media integration means going beyond sharing Facebook posts and just pushing messaging on a campaign Facebook page. Just as campaigns have a traditional Field Director to manage block walking and phone banking operations, campaigns must hire a Digital Director to manage social media operations to engage voters on their websites or social media platforms — which must largely mobile-based.
  • Campaigns need to share more than address and phone data with their grassroots leaders. Campaigns need bios, photos and other information gained from social media interactions.
  • Training is needed to understand this shift in how campaigns talk with voters. A neighborhood field team will need to do more than cut a walk list - we’re moving from driving horse buggies to driving smart cars.
  • Campaigns must shift focus toward capturing mobile numbers:
    1. Having an event? SMS text to RSVP.
    2. Petition? SMS textt to sign.
    3. Survey? SMS text to reply.
  • The party infrastructure and campaign need to be in sync and must engage in the same efforts year round. Finding this data won’t occur overnight.
When campaigns succeed in mastering this new realm of communicating with voters, democracy will win, too. More people will be more directly engaged in governing, and the nation will be stronger as a result.

One of Obama for America campaign's SMS programs:

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