6 Takeaways from “2016 & the Mobile Revolution”
Last night, Politico and Qualcomm hosted “2016 & the Mobile Revolution” here in Washington, DC. Stocked with panelists from strategy and software shops on both sides of the aisle as well as social media outlets, the event took a look at how digital tools, and specifically mobile oriented platforms are shaping next year’s presidential election.
The event was a great look into the different ways candidates are using technology to both maintain and acquire voters. From instantaneous responses to an opponent’s comments to live video shot in the moments leading up to a debate, the tools of the trade can quickly help but just as quickly harm a candidate’s perception with those they want to reach the most.
Here are 6 quick hits we came away with from the event:
1. Technology as a disruptor and leveler of playing fields
For us, Chuck Defeo had one of the more intriguing comments of the evening. When asked whether he saw the Republicans behind or ahead of their Democratic counterparts, he acknowledged, rightfully, that in the past, the Democrats had been ahead in the technology realm. That said, the future continued to be an open battlefield. Because of technology’s shifting nature, nothing is constant and the GOP could leapfrog the Dems in some areas by investing in new tools being embraced by the general public. Not saying they will, but the opportunity is there.
2. Social Media is Pervasive, Find What Works & Go With It
There’s little denying that social media is everywhere with its messages, posts, shares and likes. Bridget Coyne of Twitter made a good point and highlighted her platform by talking of the pervasive nature of tweets. They’re no longer just ephemeral bytes on Twitter, tweets are now seen everywhere – from scoreboards at sporting events to live TV, print media and more. This provides a great opportunity for candidates to get their message across to the electorate but the key will be finding the right message to push at the right time to the right group on the right medium.
3. Data, Data, Data
While data has always been a key to good campaigns, the last 10 years have seen the rise of tools that make it that much easier to access and analyze. Specifically, both Matt Canter and Chuck Defeo talked to the real-time nature of voter canvassing tools and the ability to have the most up to date information about a voter, even so far as giving a custom script to the canvasser as they’re ringing the doorbell. Much like the spin-room after a debate is instant, so too is feedback from these encounters, allowing campaigns even greater insight into how best to segment and deploy their messaging. The key here is in how quickly and effectively the campaign processes and analyzes this real-time data. (Side note: this is where SparkInfluence outclasses other platforms in the advocacy space)
4. Keep it Simple
Liz Mair shared a great look into the user experience on many of the Republican candidate’s websites. In short, most sites come up lacking. Some provide too much information – 5 page issue background PDFs – while others provide far too little. Even worse are the sites that demand too much of the end user. Whether that be a completed form to even get into the site or 8 different donation level options for new users where 4 would suffice. She called out one campaign that had both a $2 and a $3 donation option. As Liz pointed out, “At that point, stick with one and see what works.”
Yes, testing and optimization are important, as is data gathering, but above all else campaigns need to think about the user experience. If the user is turned off or confused by your tactics, you’re toast. Especially in lower profile races. Keep it simple, ease a user in and then start to tailor future asks based on the data you’ve collected.
5. Don’t Push It, or Do, Depending on the Platform
At one point in the night there was a good exchange between Liz Mair and Matt Canter about tolerance thresholds of voters. Specifically, Matt shared a great tidbit that voters actually have a very high tolerance for donation emails. Sure, they may delete many if not most requests immediately, but they hardly ever take the harsh next step and unsubscribe.
But what about the level of tolerance for text messaging? Right now, studies show text messaging has an amazingly high open rate. Moving forward though, just how high will that rate stay. As more campaigns, both political and advocacy, start to text their stakeholders, that number is sure to fall.
One additional tidbit to note here: many campaigns aren’t taking advantage of that high tolerance for email from a candidate that the voter supports. That means that for some candidates, their donations lag behind because they may be afraid to aggravate / annoy their voter bloc.
6. Above all else, be authentic
A touchpoint of all panelists last night was the idea that while social media and especially live video platforms like Periscope, Meerkat or FBLive provide a quick window into a campaign, authenticity needs to remain top of mind. Unless you note it and make it clear otherwise, viewers will tune out and turn off when they perceive they’re being given a pre-planned shpiel rather than an authentic, almost off-the-cuff type interaction.
7. The idea that we can talk about this at all
Nate Tibbits of Qualcomm had a great intro to the event last night and it rang true. Without efforts like those of his company and others, we wouldn’t even be having this discussion. I’m amazed at the technology and how “easy” it is for us to stay connected, up to date and able to laugh at candidates’ missteps instantaneously.