Campaign 2016: These are the big tech companies powering the election
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Top Election Tech Companies
The 2016 campaign is the most technologically sophisticated general election in the modern era. Two major tech trends–big data and social media–play a major rule inside both the Clinton and Trump campaigns, as well as local and regional down ticket races.
In modern campaigns, data informs everything from spending and resource allocation, to policy and communication strategy, to get-out-the-vote efforts. Information is aggregated from voter registration files, social media accounts, numerous federal agencies, and private data vendors.
READ: Cybersecurity spotlight: The ransomware battle (Tech Pro Research ebook)
On the ground during the primaries, campaigns used data and social tools to hyper-target robocall scripts, and personalized direct mail. Grassroots door-knockers were able to better target neighborhoods, and canvassers had fresh scripts from which to read.
Automation is also emerging trend. It’s not enough, campaign experts explain, for big data tools to simply be powerful. Today, everything from data mining utilities to mobile apps must be easy to use, and programmable. Campaign managers need to quickly build and run ad campaigns on broadcast and web media using mobile apps.
This is a list of the most interesting and influential election technology companies in the general election.
- Video: election technology timeline (TechRepublic)
- Predictive analytics: ‘We know what you want before you want it.’ (TechRepublic)
- Election Tech: Leadership is more powerful than technology (TechRepublic)
- NationBuilder profile: how campaigns win with big data, and you can too (TechRepublic)
- L2 profile: Big data proves that America is a purple country (TechRepublic)
- Social media’s inescapable presence at the RNC (CNET)
- The DNC in pictures (CNET)
- Stolen data on the dark web is cheaper than you might think (ZDNet)
The data firm employed by Ted Cruz, Ben Carson, and now Donald Trump has over five thousand individualised data points on over 220 million consumers. The company uses predictive analytics to model voter–and consumer–behavior. After the campaign, Cambridge Analytica will sell their tools to enterprise clients in healthcare, financial services, advertising, and marketing.
NationBuilder helps campaigns raise money by converting curious consumers into active donors. The company blends various data sets, ranging from voter CSV files to social media profiles, to help campaigns “build and manage personal relationships at large scale,” according to founder and CEO Jim Gilliam.
Operated by Obama for America’s chief integration and innovation officer, Michael Slaby, and funded by Alphabet chairman Eric Schmidt, The Groundwork is a compact team of data analysts that worked for the Clinton campaign during the primaries.
From local elections to national campaigns, NGP VAN is a get-out-the-vote tool used by nearly every major Democratic candidate. The company’s core competency is making big data actionable. Candidates use the tool to help contact voters through canvassing, phone calls, email, direct mail, and social media.
Remember Bernie Sander’s famous “27 dollar” campaign donation claim? ActBlue helped the Sanders campaign crowdsource small donations at massive scale. After Sander’s upset victory over Clinton in New Hampshire, grassroots donors swamped ActBlue’s donation hub.
L2 Political is a data portal that sells demographic information on nearly every voter in the United States. Voter information including home address, occupation, and salary range is overlaid on granular maps. Campaigns use L2 data to target voters with personalized marketing messages.
Co-founded by former Romney campaign data guru Zac Moffatt, TargetedVictory creates a product that makes multi-screen ad-buying simple. The political technologist explained in a recent interview, “programmatic targeting is vastly improving the ability of political campaigns to more efficiently reach their target voters.”
uCampaign is a mobile app developer that focuses on user and voter engagement. On the surface, the tool looks like a campaign-skinned social media app, with gamified check-ins, a leaderboard, and achievements. Behind the scenes, though, is a sophisticated data collection platform.
Successful campaigns rely on creating a personal connection between voters and candidates. In-person town hall meetings are time-tested methods of letting voters speak with candidates about important issues in a small venue. Tele-Town Hall virtualizes the in-person experience by making large-scale, interactive phone meetings affordable to cash-strapped campaigns.
Through the course of an election cycle, campaigns rely on a vast array of data and social media tools. During the primaries, CFB Strategies worked behind the scenes for the Cruz campaign to integrate disparate data services.
Bernie Sanders’ insurgent 2016 Democratic primary campaign was powered in large part by small donations. Hustle is the mobile app that helped convert a groundswell of grassroots support in to an army of financial supporters. The app integrates with data platform NGP VAN and text messages to help campaign workers to establish a personal connection with voters.
i360 has a voter and consumer database of over 190 million American voters, and 250 million American consumers. The company works with campaign and corporate clients to create sophisticated predictive models of user behavior.
No campaign would be complete without robocalls! Callfire is an automated phone call and text message broadcast engine. The company’s political and non-profit solution allows campaign clients to message a contact list, create and distribute polls, and send news alerts and campaign updates by call or SMS.
Social Media Companies
Campaigns rely on social media to help disseminate messages, and mine networks for valuable insights about voter behavior.
- Facebook – A large source personal data about key topics.
- Instagram – Used by campaigns to humanize candidates.
- Twitter – The conversational pulse of the campaign, used daily by candidates, journalists, and engaged individuals.
- Periscope – Used by media agencies to broadcast breaking news from major campaign events.
- Google – Provides trends and data analysis to the public, and media organizations.
- Microsoft – Provides Surface screens, and server technology for the RNC and DNC.
- Skype – Provides communication technology for the RNC and DNC.