Campaigns often face a dilemma whether to fire back at someone bashing their candidate on social media or to ignore the increasingly toxic posts taking over their feeds.
Engage the trolls and you’ve created local or national news headlines. Ignore what you think are meaningless comments and the campaign may seem out of touch or worse, timid.
Now, there are a myriad companies offering social media monitoring, but Echelon Insights has unveiled a service it believes will do more to empower campaigns and issue organizations’ digital activism. The GOP polling firm is billing its new service, dubbed Optimized Listening, as a way to let organizations know the repercussions of Twitter troll bashing.
“It gives people confidence,” said Patrick Ruffini, the firm’s co-founder, “if this is only an issue permeating inside the Beltway, or an issue permeating only among the trolls.”
He pointed to the donnybrook over Arkansas Sen. Tom Cotton’s (R) recent open letter to the leadership of Iran regarding the country’s ongoing nuclear talks.
“This issue was entirely being driven by the Left,” said Ruffini. “If people just looked at their Twitter feeds, they’d see a lot of angry mentions there. [Lawmakers] are wondering, ‘should I back off on this because I’m getting all this negative feedback?’ This [service] can help tell them where that negative feedback is coming from. Who are these people in the aggregate?”
The prime focus is on Twitter, because it has the best data to draw from, according to Ruffini. While Facebook and Instagram are larger social media platforms, “the problem is there’s very little actionable political content being created on these platforms that we can get at. There’s a lot on Facebook, but we can’t really get at it the way we can the Twitter data,” said Ruffini.
The methodology for the Twitter listening service is similar to a poll and involves sampling a selected group of users. “And then we can figure out what is that level of conversation,” said Ruffini. “You can get a very good ranking of who matters, more or less. That’s what we’re using to determine, is this influential or not?”
One trap campaigns fall into is believing that negative reaction on social media is coming from their supporters. In fact, it’s mostly driven by the opposing side, said Ruffini.
“We can help [answer]: what are the topics and issues that are galvanizing donors most, or grassroots conservatives most? Or what does the Beltway think on any given policy issue?” Ruffini said. “What we found missing was a layer of actionable insight into what really people should do with the massive amount of data that’s being generated.”