Elections are sometimes decided by a single factor. Typically, whichever campaign moved the most voters through the pipeline of knowing, liking, trusting, and ultimately voting for its candidate wins.
While that process may be easy to describe, it’s becoming difficult to execute as disenchantment with the electoral process rises among voters.
Building your candidate’s rapport with voters has traditionally employed both macro and micro-level tactics. Macro-tactics (TV, radio, direct mail, digital) empower campaigns to address a significant number of voters simultaneously. They excel at increasing awareness and favorability of your candidate. But these tactics fall short in delivering a personal experience and can often drain the budgets for down-ballot campaigns.
Micro-tactics (door knocking, community events, town halls), on the other hand, allow campaigns to connect with voters on a personal level and address individual questions and concerns. This is where voters are moved from liking your candidate to knowing and voting for him or her. The challenge is that unless you’re campaigning for a small office in a suburban or urban district, meeting with a majority of voters in-person isn’t a realistic option.
Now, winning the most challenging districts during the 2018 and 2020 cycles will require a hybrid model that focuses on building 1-to-1 personal relationships with voters at scale. While that may seem contradictory, the evolution and incorporation of artificial intelligence (A.I.) as a core outreach strategy can provide micro-level voter experiences at larger scale.
Imagine building a digital persona of your candidate – known as a bot – on Facebook’s Messenger that is able interact with users in real time without manual input from the candidate or campaign staff.
Messaging bots are a form of artificial intelligence (AI) technology that use keyword triggers and structured message paths to educate users on your candidate, identify potential voters, collect valuable data, and subscribe supporters to future campaign updates.
While all four of these tasks can be accomplished with existing campaign mediums, messenger bots are more effective at reaching potential voters by engaging them on platforms they’re already using during times when their “mental spam filters” are removed.
While standard open rates for political email have fallen to around 20 percent for an internally generated house list — and less than 2 percent for a cold list — open rates for bots on Facebook Messenger can reach as high as 90-95 percent. At the very least, the higher open rates provide value to your campaign by increasing the opportunities for voters to see your message.
The effectiveness of traditional campaign tactics to walk voters through the process of know, like, trust, and vote is quickly declining. During the next election cycle, campaigns will need to employ a new hybrid model of outreach that focuses on building personal relationships with voters at scale digitally. While existing mediums may still have a place, effectively engaging voters means meeting them where they are.
Matt Hubbard is vice president of research and analytics at Cygnal, a GOP polling, communication, and bot-building firm with offices in Montgomery, Alabama, and Bogota, Colombia.