Data was the edge Obama’s team had on Romney. It was so strategic they would only talk about it “on the condition that the information not be published until after the winner was declared”.
Using a centralized database fed from hundreds of sources, Obama’s data scientist were able to gather an unprecedented knowledge on what was really happening on the field, understand what makes people pledge money, resubscribe to a newsletter, or send an invitation to vote via Facebook. Some of the initiatives described are quite impressive, a mix of science and ingenuity that every politician must be dreaming of (while very few will be able to actually make it happen).
Data is profoundly changing the way everything works, because it can be obtained in realtime, and allows daily refocus into better directions. Measure, understand, act. That’s the formula the best organizations will apply in the future.
A large portion of the cash raised online came through an intricate, metric-driven e-mail campaign in which dozens of fundraising appeals went out each day. Here again, data collection and analysis were paramount. Many of the e-mails sent to supporters were just tests, with different subject lines, senders and messages. Inside the campaign, there were office pools on which combination would raise the most money, and often the pools got it wrong. Michelle Obama’s e-mails performed best in the spring, and at times, campaign boss Messina performed better than Vice President Joe Biden. In many cases, the top performers raised 10 times as much money for the campaign as the underperformers.
Chicago discovered that people who signed up for the campaign’s Quick Donate program, which allowed repeat giving online or via text message without having to re-enter credit-card information, gave about four times as much as other donors. So the program was expanded and incentivized. By the end of October, Quick Donate had become a big part of the campaign’s messaging to supporters, and first-time donors were offered a free bumper sticker to sign up. [...]
“We ran the election 66,000 times every night,” said a senior official, describing the computer simulations the campaign ran to figure out Obama’s odds of winning each swing state. “And every morning we got the spit-out — here are your chances of winning these states. And that is how we allocated resources.”