Another election cycle is already upon us. Candidates are making decisions on digital matters that include websites, voter and volunteer data management systems and donation platforms. The savviest among them will be taking the time to determine how to best utilize and leverage the avalanche of data that is going to come cascading into their campaigns in the weeks and months ahead. For these initiatives, FourTier Strategies recommends NationBuilder.
The key reason we recommend it to our clients is because NationBuilder best supports four premises that we believe are vital to the success of a campaign.
1. There is no field strategy, digital strategy and communications strategy. There is only strategy.
2. Information in a silo is almost always underutilized.
3. Most campaigns should avoid “big data” and focus on perfecting their use of “small data.”
4. Websites should be user-centric.
THERE IS ONLY STRATEGY.
There is really nothing a campaign wants to do offline that it doesn’t also want to do online (e.g. increase name recognition, identify voters, find volunteers and raise money). Tweets, Facebook posts, emails or text blasts, literature drops, direct mail pieces and press releases are all communications. A pledge to vote page, a phone call and a door-to-door canvass all fall into the voter identification bucket. Imagine how much more efficient and powerful all of these efforts will be if they are all coordinated and tracked from one place! That can all happen within NationBuilder.
INFORMATION IN A SILO IS ALMOST ALWAYS UNDERUTILIZED.
As I mentioned above, a successful campaign is going to collect a massive amount of data. You can either be crushed under its weight or use its force to power your campaign to victory. Any single data point is virtually worthless, but dozens or hundreds taken together can be incredibly useful.
One of the most powerful NationBuilder features, for example, is the MATCH function. Whether you collect a potential supporter’s email address through your website or the GOP Data Trust API, NationBuilder will automatically attempt to match it to their Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and Klout profile. Why is this so powerful? If you use a WordPress site, Constant Contact for email and have a Facebook page, you have a lot of information but no easy way to use them in a coordinated fashion.
Let’s say you post on Facebook about 2nd Amendment rights and the post gets 1,000 “likes.” NationBuilder allows you to tag everyone who liked the post in the database. The PEOPLE SEARCH then empowers you to create a list or filter of those people that haven’t donated. Now, within NationBuilder, you can send a fundraising email to the selected list that could look something like this:
Subject: Help me protect your Right to Bear Arms
I believe our Second Amendment rights help us protect our First Amendment rights...and I think most people in our district do too. I need your help to ensure that local and federal officials NEVER infringe upon those rights.
Will you please help protect your rights by DONATING today?
Within NationBuilder, you can tag people who opened the email but didn’t click to donate. You can resend the email with a different subject line to people who didn’t open the first communication. You can send the email to Twitter followers with a Klout score of 50+ or with 1000+ followers and ask them to tweet a link to a related post.
You are going to have higher open rates and higher click through rates because you are able to send a targeted email to people who have just told you that they care about a particular issue. You can only do that because all the information you need is in one place and not in silos.
CAMPAIGNS SHOULD FOCUS ON DOING “SMALL DATA” WELL.
Unless you are running for President or perhaps statewide in a large state, you’re probably not going to have the resources to hire data scientists to do predictive modeling. Still, even with a congressional race your campaign is going to be dealing with millions of data points. Yes, millions. You can either get crushed by an avalanche of data or you can use its force to move your campaign forward.
In addition to syncing with the Data Trust API, NationBuilder will upload the latest voter file with voting history for your campaign whether it is a city, state legislative district, congressional district or the entire state. This information will be key to determining your targeting strategy. Walk maps, call and email lists can be created and assigned to volunteers with the tools inside NationBuilder based on hundreds of search criteria.
What is equally important is how well your campaign manages the data captured with each interaction with a potential voter, volunteer and/or donor. As an example, if someone has pledged to vote, signed up to volunteer, host a yard sign or donated they probably don’t need to receive that slick direct mail piece. Every dollar saved on Voter ID can be spent on GOTV. NationBuilder allows your campaign to control access to your database through Permission Sets so even volunteers can update the data they collect when contacting potential voters, once again, saving staff time and money.
Two very powerful features of NationBuilder are the Dashboard and, more specifically, the Follow Up feature. Virtually every interaction and activity of the campaign is tracked and viewable within your NationBuilder dashboard. Moreover, any time a user takes an action on your site they can be assigned a “Point Person” and tagged for a follow up within a specific time frame. Campaign Directors can instantly see if staff and volunteers are keeping up with their obligations and moving your campaign forward.
DESIGNING A USER-CENTRIC WEBSITE.
One of the more powerful aspects of NationBuilder is the ability to design a site that is “user-centric” or “user-aware.” Because the website and database are fully integrated once a visitor signs up on the website via email, Facebook or Twitter the website can be programmed to display different information to that user based on information about them in the database.
The simplest example is an email sign up. Once someone signs up, instead of using that screen space to ask them to do what they have already done, use it to ask them to do something that moves them up the ladder of engagement. It could be something as simple as replacing the email sign up with “Thanks Brad! Help us spread the word!” and include some social sharing buttons.
A slightly more complicated example is instead of Sign Up for Email Updates that user will now see a “Welcome Back” message with a specific call to action (e.g. “Thanks for signing up. We could use your help as a volunteer!”) and a button linked to the volunteer sign up page. If they do volunteer, that message could be replaced with “Thanks for volunteering! Please help build the campaign by recruiting friends and family!” with a button linking to a Spread the Word page.
This is all possible because of how NationBuilder organizes the information in the database. A user-centric website will help you develop a closer connection with your supporters, volunteers and voters by delivering the right message to the right person at the right time. That’s the point of a political campaign isn’t it?
Now a user-centric website is not something that comes out of the box with NationBuilder. You’re going to either have a coder on staff or hire a NationBuilder Certified Architect; but, based on how it can improve the performance of your campaign, we believe it’s well worth it.
This post just scratches the surface of all the features NationBuilder offers at surprisingly affordable pricing which only increases if your campaign grows. There are nearly 30 NationBuilder native page types from Activity Streams to Voter Registration and everything in between.
In 2014, organizations using NationBuilder added over 47 million supporters, recruited 894,000 volunteers and raised over $241 million for their campaigns and causes. Clearly NationBuilder works. We make it work better for you.
Certified Experts have the demonstrated skills and knowledge to make sure you get the absolute best performance for your campaign. Certified Architects can design a beautiful, responsive website. FourTier Strategies can do both.
There are hundreds of Certified Experts and Architects, but we are one of four firms in the country that are both dual certified and only work with Republican/Conservative campaigns and organizations. You can join the 60+ clients who have trusted both our abilities and our commitment to your values. Contact us today to arrange a complimentary consultation.
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