March 16, 2012 Mark Bulling

Voter Relationship Management

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Customer Relationship Management (CRM) seems to be coming into the mainstream, with the New York Times recently reporting how Target has used such analytics to identify expectant mothers based on their shopping habits and was then able to target them appropriately with special offers and vouchers.

As the 2012 US Election approaches, it seems that data analysis is coming of age, being increasingly used to target voters on a scale not seen before. Credited in part for Obama‘s win in 2008, where voters were profiled and segmented, just as advertisers tend to segment and cluster their clients based on behaviours, demographics and attitudes.

The growth of Facebook, Twitter and the like since 2008 have added a new dimension to what was a fairly static dataset and which shied away from the behaviours dimension. Adding this newly available dimension brings massive new opportunities for market research and targeting. The reaction to a new ad can be evaluated in real time and A/B testing can help to pick out the messages that work.

Obama’s Data Crunchers

There have been a few interesting pieces about how Obama’s re-election campaign are using methods more commonly associated with consumer marketing to target supporters and voters. This piece in the New York Times gives an overview of some of the team behind the analysis, which includes Rayid Ghani who was previously at Accenture Technology Lab and who has written extensively on Data and Text Mining.

Social CRM seems to be one of the growing areas of buzz to come up with a “holistic view of the customer”, with several players claiming the ability to be able to join a users various online accounts together (e.g. Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn) together in one place to give a single view, so called “Social Identity Mapping”. How well this works is still up for debate; Infochimps offers an API with this capability and the results seem to be biased towards the more socially savvy.

A recent set of donation raising emails show how the set of data and analysts are starting to put this to use with emails tailored to the individual, and doubtlessly also has a large test and learn component to it, where the emails that yield the highest response are then used more widely. At the same time, Google and Facebook are coining it in through serving ads based on what people say and do online.

Facebook and Politico

Facebook has made its first foray into publishing insight from its data collecting machine, aggregating up individual’s wall posts and status updates to report back on the Republican primaries and how the various candidates are performing, the results are then being published by Politico. This seemed to generate a lot more buzz at the time it was announced than the ongoing analysis of the campaigns. I suspect this is a dry run ahead of November.

And just to be clear, Facebook isn’t handing over users’ information to the Republicans! 

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Machine Learning and Analytics based in London, UK