It’s estimated that U.S. politicians will allocate more than nine percent of their media budgets towards digital and social media this year – an estimated $1 billion. Not surprisingly, the efforts of electoral candidates and their social media agencies seem to focus on winning the affection of millennials, who are now as large of a political force as Baby Boomers. Although the outcome of this year’s U.S. presidential election is still unknown, one thing is clear: Social media will play a significant role.
With social media now such a critical component of candidates’ campaign strategies, it seems hard to believe that the 2008 Obama campaign was the first to embrace Facebook and Twitter. Today, political campaigns have come to rely on social media as an essential tool for reaching large audiences and understanding how voters feel about issues. TechRepublic reported recently that the Clinton campaign has a team of staffers creating content for every major social media platform, while Trump has a small campaign infrastructure but a massive social media footprint.
Regardless of the number of followers, however, social media buzz is nothing without analytics to support and provide clear, data-driven insights to analyze what’s being said and guide the communication strategy.
Today’s political candidates are using social media data and analytics in five key ways to:
- Connect with influencers: According to TechRepublic, major campaigns use in-house data tools to find conversations from influencers on social media during prime events such as presidential debates. To further bolster the campaign’s message, staff will encourage team members to chatter about and retweet trending posts to spread the message far and wide.
- Listen to sentiment: Among the thousands of tweets, Facebook posts, Instagram shares and blog comments, how do candidates make sense of all the data? Using sentiment analysis tools, campaign teams can listen to and group together key concerns or positive remarks and gauge voter sentiment toward each candidate. A recent analysis by 4C examined how people described each candidate based on various words that were positive or negative in nature. The algorithm found that 72 percent of posts about Trump were positive, compared with 60 percent of those about Clinton.
- Monitor media coverage: In addition to monitoring social media chatter, campaigns use analytics from media coverage in order to better understand sentiment and develop strategies to respond. Data from TechRepublic shows that in the three days leading up to June's final Super Tuesday, news outlets wrote 3,445 stories about the election or candidates. According to the election tracker, about 58 percent of the stories had a negative tone and 33 percent were positive. This shows that coverage of the election itself was mostly negative.
- Fine-tune messaging: TechRepublic reported that both the Democratic and Republican parties sell basic voter registration data to campaigns, and several firms sell software and information that help campaigns interpret voter data into everything from tweet copy to Instagram videos. Having this level of in-depth detail enables campaigns to craft messaging specific to voters based on various demographic data.
- Track and retarget users: Contently recently explored the topic of website tracking and cookies as it relates to the presidential campaign, noting that just about every website tracks its visitors’ browsing habits. When a website adds a “cookie” to a web browser, the website will follow some of the visitor’s activity around the web or remember if he or she visits the site again. Candidates use these tracking technologies to learn more about potential voters and incorporate that data into their communication strategies.
As social media takes center stage in the 2016 election, candidates have come to rely on analytics to refine the types of content digital teams produce, analyze social network data, and perform sentiment analysis. A powerful tool when combined with voter information, social media data even allows digital teams to refine messaging on the fly for far-reaching impact.
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