Much like a vanity license plate, vanity metrics are abbreviated statements with no backstory—they tend to be “wow”-inducing without adding real substance. While usually brandished to show improvement via time-lapse graphs that incline steeply, they are seldom entirely accurate or informative.
If the 2008 election represented the birth of broad digital organizing, it looked like digital might grow up in 2014, but what we actually saw was an awkward teenager reaching some new heights while clumsily knocking things over. Here’s what worked in digital in 2014—and what didn’t.
Understanding what makes people tick is key to any marketing strategy. Our latest illustrated guide reveals how to tap into emotions and build trust with your audience — just by choosing the right colors, words and images for your online communications.
Barack Obama’s reelection campaign pioneered a pathway for political campaigns to reach voters through Facebook when it released an app that helped supporters target their friends with Obama-related material. But as the 2016 presidential campaign approaches, Facebook is rolling out a change that will prevent future campaigns from doing this, closing the door on one of the most sophisticated social targeting efforts ever undertaken. “It’s a fairly significant shift,” said Teddy Goff, who was Obama’s digital director in 2012, and oversaw the effort that helped the Obama campaign gain a Facebook following of 45 million users that year. Goff’s team used Facebook and other tools to register more than a million voters online and to raise $690 million online in 2011 and 2012.
At some point in the next two years, the pollsters and ad makers who steer American presidential campaigns will be stumped: The nightly tracking polls are showing a dramatic swing in the opinions of the electorate, but neither of two typical factors — huge news or a major advertising buy — can explain it. They will, eventually, realize that the viral, mass conversation about politics on Facebook and other platforms has finally emerged as a third force in the core business of politics, mass persuasion. Facebook is on the cusp — and I suspect 2016 will be the year this becomes clear — of replacing television advertising as the place where American elections are fought and won. The vast new network of some 185 million Americans opens the possibility, for instance, of a congressional candidate gaining traction without the expense of television, and of an inexpensive new viral populism. The way people share will shape the outcome of the presidential election. Even during the 2014 midterms, which most Americans ignored, Facebook says it saw 43 million unique individuals engage in the political conversation.
Spending on TV ads in this election is predicted to top $1 billion for the first time in a mid-term, according to the Wesleyan Media Project. Apple, the world's biggest brand, spent about $350 million advertising phones last year. So why does everyone love their iPhone but hate their member of Congress? Do you think Apple would put up with a 14 percent positive rating like Congress has? To put it bluntly, there's too much money in campaigns now not to take rigorous advantage of the best thinking in commercial branding. Unfortunately, many of the Democratic campaigns that raised so much small-dollar money online this cycle could use more branding expertise.
As we analyze this election and start to hone in on the things that went really well, one of the brightest spots is the continued rise of the small-dollar donor. We didn’t just have a big cycle here at ActBlue we had a HUGE one. I’m talking nearly double 2012. The increase in donations (98.3% growth compared to the 2012 cycle!!) is way higher than the growth in the number of number of campaigns and organizations using ActBlue (11.8% increase). Everyone’s raising a lot more grassroots money than ever before. It’s awesome. Keep in mind, the overall amount of money spent on Congressional elections is actually fairly stable compared to 2012. That means the overall share of money coming from grassroots donors on the left is increasing.
Here is our list of the worst and best political ads of the year. You can also see my comments on the best and worst political ads of 2014 on C-Span’s Washington Journal. I can’t say this is a non-partisan list, after all we are a Democratic political consulting firm. That said, we were not thrilled with all of the Democratic political ads we saw this year either. Good creative matters more in political ads than it ever has before. This holds true regardless of political party affiliation. With all of the noise that is associated with political campaigns, there are very few good ideas, let alone good political ads, that actually stand out. Whether you are producing digital, mail, radio or television political ads — whether you are a Democrat or Republican — I think we can all agree that we need to strive for better and clearer messaging.
Virtually all of us are dependent on smartphones: if you take a moment to look up from your screen, you’ll probably see dozens of other people completely engrossed in their own. In light of midterm elections today, a recent Pew Research poll highlighted in an article by The Hill revealed that voters are increasingly reliant on smartphones and social media to follow political parties, candidates and election news. The poll, which surveyed 2,003 people from October 15-20, reported that Democrats, Republicans and Independents alike are using their phones and social media platforms to stay informed. According to the article, the number of voters who responded as using their smartphones and those who are using social media has doubled and tripled respectively, compared to data from elections in 2010.
Facebook ran its "voter megaphone" initiative in the United States Tuesday, letting users indicate whether they are voting and see similar messages from their friends, as our Micah Sifry has been covering in detail. But what about the possibility of actually being able to verify that your Facebook friends have voted? That is the functionality made possible through a tool in use over the past week in Oregon, Washington and Colorado. Built by developer Josh Cohen, it lets users check whether their Facebook friends in those states participated in early voting based on ballot data and send them a Facebook message.
As he campaigned with frenzied energy along the Virginia coast on the Sunday before Election Day, with a growing sense that an historic upset was in reach, Ed Gillespie made a curious stop — at a Virginia Beach branch of Buffalo Wild Wings, the sports-bar chain. The Republican Senate candidate wasn’t there to cheer on the Washington Redskins. He was there, amid the framed jerseys of NFL greats and giant-screen TVs, for the sake of Buffalo Wild Wings itself. His digital adviser had crunched the numbers: Buffalo Wild Wings was the second most common Facebook “like” for conservative-leaning independents within his social network — the same kinds of people whom Gillespie desperately needed to get to the polls.
As Colin noted last week, much hay has been made over the Democrats’ End-of-the-Quarter “Email Deluge” concluding on September 30th (though I say “conclude” lightly). We saw accusations of maleficence from Trilogy’s Steve Olson and impassioned appeals to our inner organizer from Rising Tide’s Stephanie Grasmick. Whether dissing or defending, it seems everyone has an opinion, but many of them have been light on data and details. And while it’s easy to say “I don’t like all the email,” it’s equally easy to reply with “But it works!” And does it ever. Organizations like the DCCC, DSCC, and the DNC are setting new fundraising records every quarter. All data points to the fact that more email equals more money and that the tactics they’re employing work quite well. But a closer examination of the details of mass emailing and email deliverability point to two inevitable facts: 1. these “Big Email” programs are potentially damaging the larger Progressive fundraising ecosystem, and 2. the success seen to date can’t possibly last forever.
What makes people click a link on Facebook? The Huffington Post, Upworthy, and other publications that have mastered the art of using a social media curiosity gap to encourage clicks to their content. For example, the headline “How much does most powerful fashion editor earn per year?” creates a curiosity gap to click and find out the answer. (Spoiler: Anna Wintour of Vogue earns $2 million annually.) You may want to apply this strategy for Facebook headlines, but there is at least one case where a curiosity gap will do more harm than good. When asking people to sign a petition, titles with a direct call to action outperform those using a curiosity gap. When CREDO Action created a petition to stop the sale of the Tribune Company to the Koch Brothers, they tested two Facebook titles to see which version would garner the most signers: “The Kochs Are Trying To Buy The Media” and “Sign the petition: The Kochs Are Trying To Buy The Media” The direct title with “Sign the Petition” got 43% more people to click the link and sign the petition than the title without it.
Do you know how to craft the perfect Facebook post? Being on the Facebook News Feed has become as hard as being on Google’s first page. The fierce competition and recent changes in the algorithm are turning this almost impossible, and what makes the difference often times comes down to small details, testing and optimizing every single aspect of your content. TrackMaven analyzed more than 1.5 million pieces of content on 6,000 Pages, here is what they said… “We found that when the various elements of a Facebook post are strategically crafted, the viral reach of posts is extended in the News Feed.” Now, let’s take a look at these different items TrackMaven is calling the nuts and bolts of the perfect Facebook post:
I knew there was a reason I love Twitter. According to a new study by Quantcast, Twitter users are more likely to be politically active and Democrat. And given what I do for my day job, it makes sense that I have gravitated there. Quantcast also found that Facebook users are no more likely to a Democrat or Republican. They are no more likely than the norm to be politically active or not. But since almost every American is Facebook, we would not expect Facebook users to deviate from the population proportions. The study also found that people who use other major social media sites are less likely to be politically active than the norm (reddit, Instagram, YouTube, Google+ & Pinterest). For some of these networks, I would suggest that they skew younger and younger people are less likely to vote (especially those under voting age). And that accounts for the lower political activity levels.
We know that social media is discussed at every tech conference, in every workshop, and within nonprofit organizations, but no matter how much we talk about it, the trends are always shifting, changing, and growing. It's important to keep up with the updates, and make sure you're utilizing social media the best you can for your organization. It's also critical to remember that what works for one organization may not be the right practices for you. We took a look at the social media marketing trends for 2014 from Social Media Examiner, and found a really great infographic to go along with it. Here are a few key points from the infographic that you should note: Infographics and Internet memes are still performing well. If you're using these visuals, it's important to make sure that they're engaging, relevant to your area of expertise, and factchecked. Please do not cat memes just because you know they are popular. If they have no connection to your issue or your content, you will end up making your organization look silly.
The most significant revolution of the 21st century so far is not political. It is the information technology revolution. Its transformative effects are everywhere. In many places, rapid technological change stands in stark contrast to the lack of political change. Take the United States. Its political system has hardly changed at all in the past 25 years. Even the moments of apparent transformation – such as the election of Obama in 2008 – have only reinforced how entrenched the established order is: once the excitement died away, Obama was left facing the same constrained political choices. American politics is stuck in a rut. But the lives of American citizens have been revolutionised over the same period. The birth of the web and the development of cheap and efficient devices through which to access it have completely altered the way people connect with each other. Networks of people with shared interests, tastes, concerns, fetishes, prejudices and fears have sprung up in limitless varieties. The information technology revolution has changed the way human beings befriend each other, how they meet, date, communicate, medicate, investigate, negotiate and decide who they want to be and what they want to do. Many aspects of our online world would be unrecognisable to someone who was transplanted here from any point in the 20th century. But the infighting and gridlock in Washington would be all too familiar.
People think launching a campaign startup in Washington, D.C. is easy. It’s where the money is, after all. And most national spending decisions are made in buildings along K Street or around the U.S. Capitol. So it’s easy to just lease some office space, hang a shingle, and get a piece of the $6 billion being spent on winning elections. Wrong—sort of. I speak from experience. I launched a political startup in D.C., and some of the challenges we encountered thanks to our geography are obvious only in hindsight. So what follows is some food for thought for anyone thinking about launching their own startup and struggling with where to do it. Where’s the Action? This is the first critical question you must ask. We’re designing and developing a startup called VoteRaise, a platform to apply crowdfunding to campaign finance. While a great deal of fundraising, and all of federal compliance, needs to be done in Washington, most campaigning doesn’t actually happen in D.C. It happens in the rest of the country. Anyone working on a campaign is going to be in the lawmaker’s district or state most of the time, not in D.C., especially if they’re a challenger. Consequently, it takes a lot of effort to connect with people currently staffing campaigns, and face-to-face meetings are usually not possible. And there aren’t many events focused on politics, campaigning, and technology.
Today we are beginning to test a new way for you to discover and buy products on Twitter. For a small percentage of U.S. users (that will grow over time), some Tweets from our test partners will feature a “Buy” button, letting you buy directly from the Tweet. This is an early step in our building functionality into Twitter to make shopping from mobile devices convenient and easy, hopefully even fun. Users will get access to offers and merchandise they can’t get anywhere else and can act on them right in the Twitter apps for Android and iOS; sellers will gain a new way to turn the direct relationship they build with their followers into sales. We’re not building this alone: we’ve partnered with Fancy (@fancy), Gumroad (@gumroad), Musictoday (@Musictoday) and Stripe (@stripe) as platforms for this initial test, with more partners to follow soon. In our test, an entire purchase can be completed in just a few taps. After tapping the “Buy” button, you will get additional product details and be prompted to enter your shipping and payment information. Once that’s entered and confirmed, your order information is sent to the merchant for delivery.
Nonprofits have been trying to reach millennials effectively for some time now. Some organizations like Ask Big Questions, a program of Hillel International and Do Something have figured it out, while others are still tailoring their strategies. We took a look at a couple of surveys, from Millennial Impact Research and from the infographic, Everything You Need to Know About the Millennial Consumer. For those of nonprofits still tailoring their strategies, we've got some tips on how to reach millennials. Text, don't call! 52% of millennials would rather have conversations via text than on the phone. Make an effort to capture the mobile phone numbers of your constituents, and get their permission to reach out by text message. Make your brand accessible. Does your organization advertise in the most optimum spaces? 38% of millennials said that brands are more accessible and trustworthy when they use social media ads vs. traditional ads. Find out where your audience is. Are they on Instagram? Facebook? Twitter? Do they prefer Tumblr or LinkedIn? Engage with them on the channels and platforms where they're at. On average, they're checking their smartphones 43 times per day.
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