Technology Bytes: Data is going social

Landscape 1 fullsize

Technologies that put volunteers and donors to work.


In the last issue of C&E, Technology Bytes examined the good, the bad, and the ugly of campaign websites with a particular eye toward how they recruit volunteers and donors. For this issue, we’ve compiled a look at some technologies that help campaigns put those followers to work.

National Field

Growing out of a field organizing initiative in the Obama 2008 campaign, National Field applies a social model to the gathering and distribution of information within a campaign. National Field’s system replaces the myriad spreadsheets field organizers have long used with an online interface that lets staff and volunteers access data on what their counterparts are doing. How many voters were canvassed last week? How many new donors recruited? How many phone-bankers showed up last night?

The technology lets staff set goals for themselves, their teams and their volunteers, and (most critically) helps staff hold people accountable for reaching them. By opening information up rather than hiding it away in someone’s laptop, National Field actually sparks competition. Teams aren’t just meeting abstract goals, they’re trying to beat the guys across town. And by allowing information sharing through a social media-style interface, it helps campaigns actually use insights and data that flow in from organizers on the ground.

NGP-VAN’s Social Organizing

Social networking is central to NGP-VAN’s Social Organizing tool, which helps campaigns map their supporters’ connections on Facebook and other platforms to VAN’s voter file. When a volunteer signs into Social Organizing—with their permission— the system looks at their Facebook friends and compares them with the voter file to see which are in the relevant area (and likely, which are in important demographic segments). After the tool confirms that the “friend” is actually a match, the campaign can put that relationship to use.

For instance, volunteers can join “virtual phone banks,” calling their targeted friends and encouraging them to support the candidate. A call from a friend is far more powerful than one from a stranger. Or, if the campaign is preparing a direct mail appeal, it can ask volunteers to pick which of several messages is most likely to push the targeted voter’s buttons. It’s useful, and it’s a way to ensure that you’re getting the most bang for every buck of voter outreach spending. Plus, the Social Organizing tool is battleground state tested, since it was heavily used in the 2011 We Are Ohio union ballot initiative campaign.

One feature that NGP/VAN intends to develop more fully in the future: game-like elements that encourage volunteers to hit particular goals. Awarding a FourSquare-style virtual “badge” to everyone who makes a defined number of phone calls, for instance.

Engage’s Multiply: Gaming the System

Gaming is what the Multipy tool developed by Republican firm Engage is all about. But since Multiply employs game mechanics to get important information out of supporters, we’re talking serious games here indeed. The idea is that a better supporter profile can inspire more action.

A volunteer sees the fun part, the tasks the campaign is asking of them and the rewards they’ll receive for completing them (“badges,” public recognition, a t-shirt, etc.). The campaign sees more: they can mine the database of user actions. For instance, if volunteers have “liked” the campaign Facebook page and signed up for the email list but haven’t yet donated, they could receive a specialized appeal designed to help them make that jump up the ladder of engagement.

Staff can also use Multiply data to make microtargeted fundraising or volunteer asks. For instance, the ability to see which campaign content someone has “liked” on Facebook shows the issues that resonate with them. They love the candidate’s stance on taxes? Hit ‘em with a targeted fundraising appeal touting his low-tax agenda. Multiply’s mission is to help campaigns get the most they can out of every volunteer.

In military jargon, these technologies have the potential to be force multipliers.

Colin Delany is founder and editor of the award-winning Epolitics.com. A contributor to Campaigns & Elections, Delany writes C&E's Technology Bytes section. Send him a pitch at cpd@epolitics.com.

Also in Technology Bytes this issue: A Shallow Republican Digital Bench?


Share this article


0 comments

Submit a comment

Required field are marked with “*”.