What Virginia Taught us about Friend-to-Friend Outreach and Finding Super Influencers

Friend-to-friend outreach in politics

Epolitics.com contributor Sangeeth Peruri is the CEO and founder of VoterCircle, a platform that helps campaigns leverage friend-to-friend connections for voter outreach. This post first appeared on VoterCircle’s blog.

Now that I have had a few days to unwind after Virginia’s election, I thought I would spend a couple of minutes highlighting what we at VoterCircle learned about friend-to-friend outreach. Before I begin, I want to thank the DNC, Win Virginia and the DPVA. It was an honor working with all 3 organizations. Their efforts led to historic successes in Virginia this last Tuesday.

  • Start Early!!! By far the biggest takeaway is that every day matters. Similar to any other type of outreach, a friend-to-friend outreach program takes time to grow. The ideal time to start with VoterCircle is 6-12 months before election day. If you persuade a voter on election day you can get one vote, however, persuading a voter early can lead to thousands of votes if they spread the word and their friends spread the word too.
  • Involving Campaign Leadership is Critical. A successful friend-to-friend outreach program has to start at the top. Organizers on ground can help nudge digital canvassers to reach out to their networks, but the identification and recruitment of key leaders has to start at the top. A call from the candidate or campaign chair will be the most effective way to convince local leaders to reach out to their networks on behalf of the campaign.
  • Super Influencer Mapping Grows Exponentially. In just a couple days, our Elect Virginia tool was able to identify thousands of super influencers across the state, with the social graph growing exponentially every day!
  • Friend-to-Friend Outreach is a Forgotten Art. Fifty years ago most campaigning was done friend-to-friend. However, in recent history cold outreach had become the norm. For a campaign to be successful, they need detailed guidance on how best to roll out a successful friend-to-friend outreach program. Everything from timing, strategy, messaging and resource allocation has to be laid out in a step-by-step process.
  • Involve the Democratic Party. Working with the party is critical to success. They are the only entity that has the complete picture on what it takes to be successful. If you are not working with the party, your efforts may be duplicative and wasteful, or even worse, counter productive.
  • VAN Integration is Important. Most progressive campaigns leverage NGP VAN to host their data. Getting VAN integration in place was critical to a successful rollout. However, we also learned that we need to make our integration more robust (don’t worry, we are already working on this!)

Thanks for the insights, Sangeeth!

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Sangeeth Peruri
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  • I just started looking at this site, but I was interested in knowing your definition of “Super Influencer.” As far as I am concerned there is a difference between someone who has a lot of email and FB contacts who is considered credible and helpful and someone who is not credible or helpful. Trump has lots of Twitter contacts, but I don’t consider him credible or helpful. What is the distinction between a good super influencer and a not-so-good influencer.

    Also, the term Big Data gets thrown around a lot, but it seems to mean different things to different people. To me Big Data means data that is contained on multiple servers an can include more than relational data. Big Data to some others seems to mean having a lot of organized data in a relational database versus having poorly organized and limited quality data.