This cycle campaigns will have access to more useful data points on an unprecedented number of voters than in any previous election. They’ll be able to harness records of purchases, website visits, search queries, and social media statuses in order to target potential supporters. But with this added level of sophistication comes a growing risk.
Incidents of hacking in the political and corporate worlds are piling up. As a result, there’s a growing concern among voters over the storage of their personal data and their privacy online. To avoid alienating their supporters, campaigns have to thread the needle on privacy while running an effective data program. Here are some tips for how to do that effectively:
Secure Your Data
Data security risks can never be totally overcome—but there are some easy ways to lessen the probability of a major breach. Campaigns should educate their staff in security methods and have at least one information security specialist on payroll.
A campaign is a high-value target for hackers, and a softer target than companies that have spent years creating their digital security architecture. Building protections into a voter information database, and making sure staffers are aware that they’ll likely be the target of various cyber security threats, can narrow the chances of a campaign-wrecking data loss.
The privacy issue is harder for campaigns to resolve. Consumers now expect web giants like Google and Facebook to track and analyze their online activity. They might not expect political campaigns to use the same methods, and data mining from candidates could lead voters to question a campaign’s dedication to online privacy. So while campaigns should track and analyze visitors to official websites, there’s a need to be actively aware of how to address privacy concerns should they arise.
Expand Your Reach
Proctor & Gamble recently announced that their consumer targeting had become too narrow and they forgot the importance of a broader reach to achieve its awareness goals. The same branding principle holds true when using data to connect with voters.
A campaign trying to persuade a set of voters on a specific issue can achieve solid results when using data to precisely target their video ads. Additionally, down-ballot candidates can greatly benefit from the ability to directly connect with voters in their home districts.
But as candidates, particularly Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump, get closer to election day and hope to deliver a broader GOTV message, a strategy that casts a wider net will help reach potential voters who may not have been served those earlier, more targeted video advertising messages.
Make It Social, But Respect Privacy
Campaigns should set up their own social networks on Facebook, Twitter and any other platform they think will be effective to reach voters. This can be a sophisticated and effective means of allowing voters to voluntarily provide information. While these networks can provide a trove of valuable intelligence, caution is necessary: targeted messaging that references a voter’s online behavior could be counterproductive.
Campaigns should use data analysis to identify possible voters, and to study online populations of voters they need to reach. At the same time, effective use of that data requires a heightened degree of sensitivity to users’ privacy concerns.
Companies are beginning to understand that there’s a middle ground in terms of collecting and using online data. Yet in contrast to larger operations that focus, at least in part, on consumer advertising, campaigns are temporary, civic-minded, and fast-moving. They have less room for error, and less time to correct public perceptions. Campaigns can take advantage of the big data revolution – but only if they recognize and manage some of the inherent risks involved.
Bryson Smith, is the VP of political, government affairs and advocacy at YuMe, a multi-screen video advertising technology company.