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Big Data + Social Media Wins Elections (and Clients!)

November 14th, 2012

by Aaron Aders

If the 2008 presidential election revealed the power of social media in politics, the 2012 presidential election demonstrated its ability to provide essential demographic data. The secret to President Barack Obama’s first win was integration of grassroots organization via social media. Team Obama took that strategy to the next level in the 2012 election, and credited much of their success to their big data “nuclear codes.” This strategy involved fundamentals from what many inbound marketers already know. Here are a few plays that Team Obama shares with inbound marketing.

Break Down Information Silos to Enable Comprehensive Big Data Analysis

Like many businesses, the Democratic Party realized they had silos of data all over the place, but none of them were connected. They invested 18 months into creating one single massive information database with data collected from fundraisers, field workers, consumer databases, social media and mobile contacts. These previously separated data were now connected, revealing informational trends that provided insights into raising more money more efficiently.

Marketers often find themselves in the same dilemma, finding that customer care, sales, marketing, social media and website user data are all separated into different silos. Marketing teams that are able to combine this data find that useful trends emerge that can provide insight into running more successful marketing campaigns.

Data Can Reveal Personas to Target

One of the first steps in an inbound marketing campaign is to identify target personas through data analysis. Team Obama scoured user data behind one of the most successful fundraising events in the 2008 election, which drove donations from middle-aged women through a contest to have dinner with George Clooney.

Digging deep into the data, they found that donations were mostly from middle-aged female supporters who lived near George Clooney in Southern California. So, when it came time to generate donations in the New York area, Team Obama used this playbook to plan a successful fundraiser. They featured the same contest format – except this time, they featured a dinner with Sex in the City star Sarah Jessica Parker. The fundraiser was a hit, thanks to running the same successful playbook from four years ago! Inbound marketers know that discovering the most lucrative customer segments can lead to more efficient lead growth.

Target the Low-Hanging Fruit

Team Obama realized that the easiest people to attract for involvement in the 2012 campaign were people who had previously un-subscribed to the 2008 campaign email lists. They found that with a little personal attention, these people could be swayed back to the campaign more easily than a “cold lead.” As marketers, we all know that it’s much easier to keep a customer than to attract a new one. Use your client data to discover the “low-hanging fruit” and target these groups first.

Lower the Barrier to Purchase

Seasoned ecommerce marketers will all tell you that shortening the buying steps in a shopping cart will improve conversion rates. Team Obama took this one step further by creating a “Quick Donate” program. Quick Donate stored the donor’s payment information, and enabled subsequent donations to occur through low-touch cues like text messages. The campaign found that donors using Quick Donate gave four times as much compared to other donors.

While there are obvious differences between running a successful political campaign and running a successful inbound marketing campaign, there are similarities—especially when it comes to finding, collecting and using data. These examples should be enough to motivate your team to break down your organizations information silos, and to use big data to bring a higher level of efficiency to your marketing team

Aaron Aders

Co-Founder, Market Research Director at Slingshot SEO, Aaron is a co-founder and Market Research Director at Slingshot SEO. Building on more than a decade of Internet marketing experience, Aaron has contributed in many roles including Graphic Designer, Project Manager, Systems Analyst and Chief Operations Officer.

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