Digital Campaign 2016: Four Keys to Attracting Online Voters

Digital Campaign 2016: Four Keys to Attracting Online Voters
By Joakim Holmquist

Digital media expertise and persona mapping/audience targeting was quintessential in Obama winning the presidential race in 2008, as he redefined what a modern campaign should look like. Eight years later we’ve got a parade of presidential candidates, while the digital technologies and methodologies for reaching voters “on their online terms” have become even more sophisticated.

To wit, says Wired Magazine in an April 2015 article, “…social data drove the 2008 presidential elections and big data drove the 2012 election. In 2016 it will be the marriage of the two that will determine the next President of the United States.”


You better believe then that the next president of the United States MUST dominate the digital campaign trail. It’s also interesting to note that turnout among millennials is decreasing. An April 2014 poll by Harvard University’s Institute Of Politics showed that merely 23 percent of 18-to-29 year-old Americans said they will “definitely be voting” in this year’s midterm election, a drop of 11 percentage points from the 31 percent who answered that way five months earlier.

Here are four key areas that campaign marketers need to consider:

Engage Voters On Their Favorite Mobile Device

About two-thirds of Americans own a smartphone today, compared with just 35% in the spring of 2011, according to the Pew Research Center. Of that group, about 10% say smartphones are the only way they can access high-speed Internet at home.

The growth of smartphones and their increased usage are key differences to the elections four and eight years ago. The law of advertising economics says that “money follows where there are eyeballs” and leveraging mobile in smart ways will be the key in the 2016 election.

Thus mobile devices (and the Internet of Things) are adding another level of complexity to voter journey mapping, requiring campaigns to determine: When and where do our constituents like to consume what information, and in what channel? Reaching out and engaging audiences in the mobile channels where they spend time and chat will be crucial, whether this is Facebook, Snapchat or The New York Times.

Also, mobile is not only about a smaller screen, but importantly also about mobility. So being able to find creative ways to serve up relevant content based on location will be of increased importance.

A/B Testing On Steroids And Multi-Touch Attribution

The Obama digital team was groundbreaking in its data driven marketing by testing images, buttons and copy on landing pages to find the optimal mix that would make visitors opt in their e-mail addresses and eventually donate money.

This time around, anything digital will be tested and optimized. Whether it is online ads, email campaigns or social sharing, it will be subject to tests to find out the best headlines, copy, and images. Using advanced algorithmic attributing modeling, data from all different channels will be combined and crunched to show hidden correlations and provide insights into the marketing efforts.

The savviest digital teams will more accurately understand campaign efforts, and reallocate spend to optimize campaigns for the overarching goals of getting more volunteers and more donors, which will eventually translate to more voters.

Understanding What The Electorate Cares About

Listening is an important quality to any relevant communication and doing so effectively in the digital era can provide real advantages. Mining conversations taking place in social media across the web and then using what is being shared organically for paid advertising will become increasingly common.

While candidates need to personalize their communication for different channels, it is paramount that the insights that are feeding execution are gathered, not only from that specific channel, but from data across all touch points available.

When it comes to personalization, candidates can systematically grow this from the ground up. By using the information already available (e.g. donor or other information profile, history, and IP address), marketers can begin building basic customization techniques. Following this, once a basic customer persona is in place, they can delve deeper into the complexities of demographic and psychographic personalization, based on real insights into what issues will ultimately sway the voter.

In addition to those who came with the intention of supporting the candidate, candidate marketing teams will need to develop specific and actionable KPIs for the rest of their visitors. You’ll want to make sure you are realistic and honest about which KPI it will improve. If the answer is none, you shouldn’t undertake the activity.

Also remember to use strategic calls-to-action that are aligned with the intent of your traffic. For example, for visitors who have clearly shown themselves to be in the evaluation phase, skip multiple pushes for donations, and focus instead on the candidate’s core platform.

Just like ecommerce, it’s all about conversion rates, and setting goals for then growing the conversion rate. Retail marketers use these quantifiable metrics in proving their understanding of their site’s visitors, and in the modern age, there exist an abundance of indicators designed to track visitor behavior and ultimately buyer behavior.

While the reality for most companies is still multiple sources of siloed data, a successful digital team for the next president will need to pull off two items:

1) Cross-breeding (big) data from social media, CRM and mobile geolocation data to get a holistic understanding of the electorate and what they truly care about.

2) Developing personalized messages for each channel based on the most effective way of communicating in a specific channel.

Pass It On: Communicating What Is Inherently Social

Another aspect of this, and it’s quite subtle, is in making campaign messages inherently social and easy to pass along. It is no coincidence that Hillary announced her campaign on Twitter and YouTube. The advantage of reaching constituents online is that each voter is just one click away from taking an action, whether making a donation, signing up to support or sharing with friends.

Joakim Holmquist is the director of digital marketing at EPiServer. Supported by a network of 880 partners in 30 countries, EPiServer empowers more than 8,800 digital leaders to embrace disruptive, transformational strategies that can deliver standout experiences for their customers—everywhere they engage.