While the presidential candidates are focused on solving the nation's big problems, their campaign teams focused on getting their candidate's message out.
The role of the internet, social media, and online platforms has grown in significance to a level of importance never before seen. It's been a gradual change that's crept up on strategists. This has been the first election that pundits have referred to as a "social media election".
On October 17, Ion Interactive did a study on the campaigns' use of landing page and released this report card.
It Started With an Effective Team
In order to understand why the Obama Campaigns site and landing pages were so effective, it might be helpful to look at the background of top online strategist. In December 2007, Dan Siroker, who was a key engineer for Google’s Chrome browser and had been a product manager for Google Adwords, listened to then Senator Obama, speak at the Googleplex. The speech, about science and technology, and bringing it to government, inspired Siroker. He left Google and went to work running Obama’s online campaign.
Siroker introduced the idea of A/B testing to the Obama team and started to put data to work in the campaign. After the campaign was over he would go on to found a software company built around A/B Testing, Optimizely. He was given an initial $1.2 million in investment and the site now serves such companies as Starbucks and ABC. Siroker later told how he helped the Obama Campaign raise $60 million in 2008 by optimizing the campaign’s landing page in one of the company's blogs. The changes also translated into over 2.8 million additional email addresses submitted and 288,000 volunteers.
The Evolution of the Romney Campaign’s Landing Page
We can’t understate how good the Romney Campaign's landing page was by the end of the campaign. Initially their front landing page was ineffective. It focused too heavily on donations rather than on good messaging. By inadequately building value in the eyes of the site visitors, it failed to maximize both quantity as well as average donation size. By asking for too many data fields in it’s forms, the Campaign attempted to gather maximum data, but it decreased the number of forms users actually submitted. The campaign would have been more successful had it broken up this process into multiple smaller forms spread across different pages.
It did some things right. By allowing site visitors to segment themselves into different interest groups, they not only gave users a more customized and relevant experience, but it also gave the Romney campaign data that they could later use in targeting those visitors for donations or to shore up their support.
As the election got closer, Romney’s initial landing page became more interactive. It continued to get better as the election day got closer. Perhaps in response to the Ion Interactive Study, it started showing users several different Call-To-Action buttons and geo-targeting site visitors. The campaign also vastly shortened that amount of data fields that it asked from supporters in order to boost leads generated.
With multiple Call-To-Action buttons, the Romney Campaign had given site visitors several ways to engage the campaign. They’d build a powerful landing page that maximized user engagement by giving users several paths to connect with the campaign. It no longer was built so heavily around getting donations, but around connecting with visitors. Although by the end of the campaign they’d built an enviable landing page and website, they were still playing catch-up to an online campaign built by Silicon Valley’s brightest.
A Peculiarly Effective Landing Page Funnel
Like the Romney Campaign, the Obama Campaign’s initial landing page also had multiple relevant Call-To-Action buttons built around increasing user engagement. Upon clicking on any CTA link, the following landing page directed the user’s attention towards a central Call-To-Action in a style that would represent industry best practices. Each CTA was clean, neat, simple, and directed the visitor’s attention towards the task the campaign desired the person to take. After they filled out information, or connected via Facebook, it continued to gather additional value from the site user at each additional landing page.
Unlike the Romney Campaign’s page which merely redirected the visitor to the relevant social sharing page where they could like, follow, or otherwise socially connect with the campaign; the Obama Campaign integrated their site with the various social platforms' APIs.
On election day the Romney Campaign had 12 million likes on Facebook. The Obama Campaign had 32 million; almost 3 times as many. Part of this has to do with demographics of each campaign's supporters. Obama had more youth supporters. However, a large part of this owed to the Obama Campaign's focus on social strategy. The tools that they’d incorporated enabled easy participation and it showed in the number of likes and shares of each post made by the Campaign. Their most popular post garnished over 260,000 shares. When the election was over, the Four More Years Image put out by the campaign was the most retweeted tweet ever.
Both websites allowed users to "join the campaign" using their Facebook credentials. However, we at InstaPage, were blown away with how savvy the Obama Campaign's landing page funnel was. In the last 48 hours before the election when site visitors signed into the site, they were asked if they wanted to share with friends. A CTA click would prompt them to share with friends and suggest friends to whose walls the Campaign’s API would post a link telling the friend where to vote. After sharing the post, the Campaign then asked the user if they’d like to message friends as a means of getting them to vote.
Using a killer landing page funnel and Facebook APIs, the Campaign turned out a get-out-the-vote machine that was unstoppable. Within the progression of landing pages, the user would be asked if they'd like to help the campaign by volunteering. If they clicked in the affirmative, they'd be given different volunteer time options. They'd receive an email confirmation as well as a phone call. On the day that they were to volunteer they'd receive a phone call reminder. The funnel absolutely maximized value per user. When GOP strategists were confused because their projections were so far off in Ohio, it was because they hadn’t factored in the power of a good digital strategy.
Harnessing Big Data to Cement The Victory
In 2012 the Obama Campaign again enlisted Dan Siroker, this time paying Optimizely for services rendered to the campaign. They expanded the role that big data played in their campaign strategy. Across the country Obama for America Offices made phone calls targeting voters in swing states. They also collected data gathered from the phone calls made in the field offices. The data was fed real time to the data number crunchers at the Obama Campaign’s Headquarters in Chicago. The data crunchers would then make decisions sent back out to the field offices. Obama Campaign "Team Captains" would call out “Stop calling Virginia! Shift all calls to Wisconsin.”
The army of Obama Campaign volunteers, armed with MacBooks and cell phones, would then shift to calling the next state that the data suggested would be tight. Their landing page funnel had yielded an enormous number of volunteers and a large amount of relevant data on voters. On their MacBooks they would see the person's name, be given a script, and have the voter's polling place. It was the perfect combination of publicly available data with the data the campaign itself had generated. Amid the rampant flutter of phone calls and the chaotic coordination of trying to manage thousands of lightly-trained volunteers, big data worked to deliver momentous results. Obama would win every battle ground state, but North Carolina. It all started with best-in-industry landing pages.