After 2016 and Cambridge Analytica, data has a strange role in politics: necessary, but kinda dirty. Substantial changes to social media platforms’ data policies have occurred and continue to occur. Canada’s Bill C-76 has some of the most stringent disclosure requirements on digital advertising anywhere, including requiring disclosure on organic social posts.
Some of the changes that have made use of 3rd party data, affecting marketers’ ability to target are:
- Lookalike audiences: Facebook used to allow advertisers to upload lists of cookies or IP addresses or pages and find audiences if similar interests; not anymore.
- Cookies: Facebook has taken away the ability to target based on third-party cookies, trackers that are placed on websites to link traffic to industry burials.
- Mirror audiences: currently you can still target an audience based on a public page or fan group, although this appears to be changing. Facebook has recently removed the ability to build audiences based on film fan pages.
- 3rd party data: whether it’s a party database mapped to consumer data, third party cookies or buying lists, this is the most scrutinized and most risky form of data acquisition.
Combined with Facebook’s slow closing of the organic audience aperture, marketers are now contemplating gathering first-party data. What’s the solution? Parties, candidates, and ridings need to start collecting their own data. This needs to happen at the local riding level and roll-up. This is difficult because data expertise is scarce and tends to be centralized.
Political Data Stack
But as we know, all politics is local, data is gradually being democratized, and this is allowing parties and candidates to start building riding specific data. Here’s what a sample political data stack could look like (from local to national):
- Riding Database: Members, donors, volunteers.
- Riding email list: Acquired by opt-in from CTAs on websites, social media, and advertising campaigns. Your house email list and the data it generates will always be your most important marketing asset.
- Issue email list: Mail list divided into issues.
- Federal email list: All riding email addresses should also be permissioned for federal communications.
- Behavioral content database: The newest form of political database is completely anonymous, keeps identities unknown but allows advertising retargeting based on location and issue. Pools of prospective or newly convinceable voters who don’t feel passionate enough to join the party but are looking for policies to make up their minds are in this part of the audience.
- Federal behavioral audience database: a national map of anonymous citizens and their content engagement
Like any other scenario, political marketers should gather the least amount of information necessary, and use anonymous targeting wherever possible, and create mechanisms to move voters from casual visitors to committed voters.
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