Archive for November, 2012

Behind Obama’s Email Fundraising Success: Strategic Profanity and a Lot of Testing

[Note: speaking Obama's email list, there's current chatter about whether -- and how -- he should use it upcoming legislative battles. More on that here soon.]

Writing in Bloomberg Businessweek yesterday, Joshua Green has a great overview of the 2012 Obama campaign’s approach to email fundraising. One aspect won’t come as a surprise: just as their 2008 counterparts did, the 2012 email team focused on testing:

The appeals were the product of rigorous experimentation by a large team of analysts. “We did extensive A-B testing not just on the subject lines and the amount of money we would ask people for,” says Amelia Showalter, director of digital analytics, “but on the messages themselves and even the formatting.” The campaign would test multiple drafts and subject lines—often as many as 18 variations—before picking a winner to blast out to tens of millions of subscribers. “When we saw something that really moved the dial, we would adopt it,” says Toby Fallsgraff, the campaign’s e-mail director, who oversaw a staff of 20 writers.

It quickly became clear that a casual tone was usually most effective. “The subject lines that worked best were things you might see in your in-box from other people,” Fallsgraff says. “‘Hey’ was probably the best one we had over the duration.” Another blockbuster in June simply read, “I will be outspent.” According to testing data shared with Bloomberg Businessweek, that outperformed 17 other variants and raised more than $2.6 million.

A related point: campaign staff’s bets on which subject lines would perform best were often wrong: “‘We were so bad at predicting what would win that it only reinforced the need to constantly keep testing,’ says Showalter. ‘Every time something really ugly won, it would shock me: giant-size fonts for links, plain-text links vs. pretty ‘Donate’ buttons.’” Interestingly, a little cussin’ was good, of the “hell yeah I support the President” variety, perhaps both because it felt “real” and because it reflected supporters’ own desire to be fired up. Check out the full article — it’s worth your time. After the break, I’ve reprinted a graphic showing the HUGE range in possible returns from a single message…different subject lines could yield a four- or five-fold difference in the amount raised. Thanks to David Almacy and Jim McBride for sending the article around.

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Add comment November 30th, 2012 Trackback Bookmark on del.icio.us

Infographic: How Americans Used Social Media and Mobile Devices for Politics in 2012

Our friends at the Pew Internet and American Life have put together a handy new infographic that covers much of their recent data on how we’re using digital technology in politics. What percentage of Twitter users are liberal? The answer might surprise you — as might the percentage of people who say that they’ve donated to a political campaign through a mobile phone.

I’ve reprinted the graphic below the break; thanks to Shaun Dakin for pointing it out.

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Add comment November 29th, 2012 Trackback Bookmark on del.icio.us

Obama 2012 Web Tech’s Foundation: Testing, Redundancy and ‘Pragmatic Paranoia’

Web tech site Nettuts+ has a must-read (for online politics and technology nerds) interview with Daniel Ryan, OFA’s Director of Frontend Development. The article covers a lot of ground in great detail, looking both at the technology the campaign used for its web presence and at the process they used to decide how to employ it. I was particularly struck by the team’s “pragmatic paranoia” — in part because the 2008 campaign’s Election Day system failed in action, redundancy became a key 2012 tech goal:

Because of the institutional experience with this voter monitoring system’s failure, we never put ourselves in a place where a single system failure could do real damage. We had the luxury of time, which we used in part to build redundancies. Our payment processor, for instance, was actually one in-house system and one vendor system that Akamai flipped between automatically if one side went down. That system worked so well we replicated it for polling places. We had two APIs, one internal and one powered by Google, with a thin PHP app to make the output the same. Not only could Akamai automatically fail between them without the end user noticing, but we had a system in place where we could choose which states used which system proactively. This let us prevent a traffic spike outage. The systems we relied upon specifically for Election Day all had two backup systems: one powered by Google Doc spreadsheets and one consisting of printed hard-copies of critical data. I think our approach basically boiled down to pragmatic paranoia.

Pragmatic paranoia sounds like a damn good approach to online communications in general! I’m hoping to mine this article for more insights, time permitting — it’s full of good stuff. A geek-heaven sample:

One of the smartest things we did was run dozens of decoupled systems tied together with JavaScript and Akamai services. Broadly, our stack ran on Amazon Web Services, including thousands of EC2 instances, several large database clusters and S3 hosting. Our main site, www.barackobama.com, was an Expression Engine install backed by EC2 and RDS and fronted by Akamai caching.

Thanks to Tyler Gray for sending the article around.

cpd

Add comment November 28th, 2012 Trackback Bookmark on del.icio.us

RootsCamp is Coming Up Fast

Hey kids, sorry for the recent publishing hiatus — we needed a little break down here in the e.politics bunker, in part to process the post-election analysis, in part to catch up on life.

One story cruelly overlooked in the meantime? RootsCamp is coming up next weekend, here in DC on November 30th and December 1st. I’ve raved about RootsCamp plenty of times in the past, and this year Epolitics.com is returning as a sponsor; I learn more there than just about any other single event in the political world. At RootsCamp you talk with practitioners just off the campaign trail, people who’ve been using the tools and putting the tactics to work day in and day out. Plus, it’s an unconference, meaning that participants create the agenda on the fly, and in the process talk with each other rather than at each other. Register now and you won’t regret it (Lefties only — sorry, Republican friends).

Add comment November 25th, 2012 Trackback Bookmark on del.icio.us

Press Club Panel on Social Media and the 2012 Elections: Related Reading

Today’s Press Club discussion on social media’s role in 2012 is shaping up to be a terrific discussion, and you can follow the live coverage via the hashtag #SocialElection. Below are links to articles covering topics that are likely to come up, starting with a slew on Epolitics.com and moving on to excellent coverage from other sources. Enjoy.

cpd

Add comment November 16th, 2012 Trackback Bookmark on del.icio.us

Quick Hits, Post-Election Analysis Edition — November 13, 2012

Fan fave Quick Hits returns, this time rounding up some of the best post-election analysis of the digital campaign. Note the great coverage from Slate.com in particular, but there’s plenty of excellent reading below.

cpd

Add comment November 13th, 2012 Trackback Bookmark on del.icio.us

November 16th: Press Club Panel on Social Media and the 2012 Presidential Race

Hurricane Sandy might have postponed our Press Club panel on social media in the presidential race, but never fear, it’s rescheduled for next Friday, November 16th. With the date change a few tickets have popped open, so check it out. Should be a terrific conversation.

The Online Election – Social Media and the 2012 Presidential Race

The 2012 U.S. Presidential Election is like none we have ever seen before. Americans now follow real-time debate commentary via Twitter, advocate for their candidates on Facebook and join Internet memes with Tumblr. Balancing tried-and-true strategies with bold experimentation, the campaigns of both President Barack Obama and Governor Mitt Romney have invested heavily in social media as part of their fundraising, grassroots and media strategies. They have had to.

This panel will focus on how the 2012 presidential candidates have used social media as part of their campaign strategies, what future U.S. elections will look like as social media become even more predominate, and why communications executives should pay attention to these trends when considering their own clients’ goals and strategies.

Also on the panel:

  • David Almacy (Senior Vice President, Digital Media at Edelman)
  • Alex Howard (Government 2.0 Washington Correspondent for O’Reilly Media)
  • Emily Schultheis (National Political Reporter for POLITICO)
  • Anthony Shop (Managing Director of the Digital Agency Social Driver and Chairman of The National Press Club’s Events Committee)

Hope you can make it.

cpd

Add comment November 9th, 2012 Trackback Bookmark on del.icio.us

What a Data-Driven, Internet-Enabled GOTV Operation Looks Like — And Doesn’t

What does a modern political field operation look like? I argued the other day that four million donors, most of whom have given small amounts apiece, built the foundation for a powerful ground game that the campaign hopes will push Obama over the top. Here’s a glimpse at what they paid for:

Many voters, bombarded by calls, have stopped picking up their phones. The volunteers often went minutes at a stretch with no one answering. Voters who did pick up often hung up immediately.

Obama campaign officials say why they have put greater emphasis on door-to-door canvassing, although they also have made millions of calls, distributing phone numbers of voters by email to volunteers who agreed to make calls from their homes.

The Democrats scoff at Republican claims of on-the-ground parity, insisting that the nature of their volunteers will give them an edge. Many have worked in their communities for a year or more with some, like Ramos, on the job continuously since 2008, said Jeremy Bird, the campaign’s national field director. An organization that uses local volunteers to canvass neighbors — first registering them, then getting them to the polls — has an advantage that newcomers will not be able to match, he and other campaign officials insist.

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Add comment November 6th, 2012 Trackback Bookmark on del.icio.us

Via NOI & Google, an Easy, Embedded Polling Place & Election Info Finder App

These are the simple ways technology can help get out the vote: check out the polling place/ballot info finder below, developed by the NOI’s other election-related resources — very cool to see someone putting out this kind of data in a way that others can use.


cpd

Add comment November 6th, 2012 Trackback Bookmark on del.icio.us

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