Cover Story: The Direct Marketing Election
Precinct polling is an "old-school" political targeting tactic, but the concept is very similar to identifying influencers and evangelists who can help promote your product and enroll their followers in a marketer's opt-in campaigns. Is it more effective to target individuals based on household-level behavior and demographics, or to aim more broadly to convert larger groups identified by affiliations or interests?
People curious about Obama can now log on to his campaign website and—if they are logged into a Facebook account—they can see in the middle of Obama's homepage the names of two of their Facebook friends who "Like" Obama's site. On top of that personalized message is a box labeled, "Are You In?" People then have the ability to enter their email addresses and ZIP codes to receive even more personalized messages to help get out the vote or ask for more donations.
The ability for the Obama website to recognize the Facebook cookies embedded within users' computers, which allows it to list specific Facebook friends who have "Liked" his site, might be seen as a way to excite people that their friends are supporting Obama, says Patrick Donnelly, manager of corporate development for WCG, a global public relations and social media engagement firm based in San Francisco. WCG analyzes conversations on the Internet, particularly within social media, to determine the 50 most influential people who are discussing issues pertaining to their clients—whether they be political candidates or commercial marketers—whom the PR firm targets with tailored messages. It also analyzes conversations to make sure clients' messages are in sync with what people are actually talking about, Donnelly says.
So what does that reveal about the tactics being used in the election?
"If you are an undecided voter and you want to learn about how a candidate feels about some of the issues, you can go to his or her website, and if you see that X number of your Facebook friends already support that candidate, you might be more likely to read the positions—it's almost like an endorsement," Donnelly says. "Or you may be more likely to ask your friends about how they feel about that candidate, or what they think about his or her positions."