Marketing, Politics and Policy

Why are all US Presidential campaigns asking you to text?4 minute read

Social media organic reach is awful these days. We see it over and over and over. Every day, clients are asking “why are my Page likes and views going down?”

Again, as Facebook, Instagram and so many other networks are monetising their audience better, they’re reducing the number of organic page views, and increasing the number of ads and promoted posts you see. In the past, if someone liked your Page, there was a 20% chance they might have seen your Page’s post. Now it’s less than 2% chance any of your followers will see your post. Unless you pay.

The social networks have decreased organics views because they have to encourage “pay to view” as a core part of their business model. For them, it’s about about giving the consumer a fine line between seeing things they “signed up” for versus ads they might vaguely be interested in. Too many ads and they’ll be turned off. Too few ads, and their revenue doesn’t increase.

It’s one of the key reasons why Facebook and Instagram removed your ability to see likes. All the evidence/data we’re seeing says these are going into freefall. Instead of people being able to compare their falling likes with others, Facebook cleverly hid the like numbers on both Facebook and Instagram in order to hide the broader shift away from free engagement to paid engagement.

Because of this, communicators, brands and organisations are rediscovering tried and true mechanisms for communicating with people via “direct” media, with an eye on data capture that social media provides.

There are a few direct and data-driven options for communicators in this post-organic social media era.

Email is a very good one, but even so, email open rates might range between 20% – 30% for the best performing emails. Still, 20% is significantly better than the 2% rate on social media.

Effective websites and digital platforms is another solution. As obvious as it sounds, platforms, apps, websites and other digital channels are truly effective at building mental and physical availability, and communicating direct/personalised messages. These channels can be personalised easily and can gather detailed information on the user, thereby allowing for some excellent automated communications.

Mobile is another effective direct channel. Specifically, mobile short messaging (SMS). SMS is personal. SMS is immediate. Mobile messages get acknowledged and read. A PENSO survey undertaken in 2019 showed that on average, at any given time, people read all of their text messages (0.02% unread / N=273), versus email and other notifications. In an era of notification fatigue, this is a medium that endures.

Mobile is looking like the key channel in the 2020 Presidential Election.

Another advantage of mobile is that it allows campaigners to get in touch with people via mobile message, voice calls and also via a data platform if they do data matching/building/buying third party audiences based on mobile number data enrichment. In other words, with your mobile number as a link, they might be able to find more about you.

They can still do targeted messaging, too. Trump’s campaign team are plastering their key videos, ads and media screens with specific keywords in order to gain an insight into the “trigger” policy that caused the person to subscribe to the mobile message. Whether it be text “Join”, text “MAGA”, text “WALL” or any range of topic or time-specific keywords, it’s allowing their campaign team to understand something of the attribution channel, and potentially personalise or customise on that basis. Been at an event an asked to text “UPDATE”? Then the campaign team will know you’ve been there. Seen an ad and been asked to text “MORE”? It may well be they’re testing TV viewership. Or policy messages. Or messaging hierarchy. Or your propensity to feel strongly about a particular message.

Where voting is voluntary and voter numbers fluctuate wildly from election to election, this is an important consideration. Dragging people out of their homes to vote is vital to gaining a majority – or for the success of any business. After all, in politics, decisions are made by people who turn up. And in business, sales are made under the same principle. And if campaigners can get more people to turn on up the basis that their policy issue is being addressed, then they’re on their way to victory.

Importantly also, given mobile numbers in the USA are assigned on a geographic basis, it’s easy to see where people live (suburb). If they are targetting broadly with TV and get a lot of text messages from a particular suburb with the message “UPDATE”, then it may demonstrate a strong local propensity.

If campaigners then send a text message with a trackable link, and the person clicks on the link, campaigners are then able to link a phone number with an issue, with a retargeting cookie, with the IP address, and maybe the specific location of that person. Ask that person for an email address and name, and campaigners have their hooks into them for the duration. And are on their way to victory.

Published by Constantine Frantzeskos

I help global businesses meet their future digital customers with user-centred digital strategies, innovations and ideas.