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5 GOTV Best Practices You Should Be Thinking About Today

By BPI Labs

Over the past few election cycles, we’ve learned a lot about how to optimize the components of a successful GOTV program. We’ve run dozens of GOTV tests to evaluate success before Election Day, helping improve our programs before the results are in as well as figuring out what impacts actual turnout after the votes have been cast. Along the way, we’ve learned a few, surprising things about best GOTV practices for digital. Below are some of the essentials we would include (or not include) in our ideal campaign this year.

-DON’T: Wait to Plan Your GOTV Campaign.

Based on our data, we know that we can’t start advertising on Day 1 and get our message in front of every member of our audience right off the bat. Plus, regardless of whether it’s a presidential or midterm election, it’s extremely likely that a significant part of the electorate is going to cast their ballots before Election Day. To effectively reach our targets, we’ve seen that 4-5 weeks is the optimal GOTV flight on digital, as it can take that long for our campaigns to scale and hit the optimal reach across platforms. Work backwards from the voting process in your specific states to make sure you have a meaningful conversation with your audience before it’s too late.

-DO: Start Creative Testing Early (even if it’s hard!).

We can’t wait until after Election Day to find out if our digital efforts were successful. But unlike persuasion, we know that turnout isn’t as simple as a single survey question (in a recent Pew study, 26% of people who indicated that they voted in the 2014 election didn’t actually cast ballots!). To get folks to the polls, we have to first convince our audiences that the election is important, that their vote matters, and that they vote the entire ballot, including down ballot candidates. Questions that measure an audience’s motivation to vote, rather than relying on self-reported voter information, may be better indicators of likelihood to vote. Understanding at an early stage which creative resonates best with each subset of our audience allows us to optimize campaigns while they are running, setting us up for success when it really matters most. With our new creative testing structure, we can field surveys and deliver results within 10 days, allowing for quick and flexible optimizations toward the most effective messaging for each audience in the weeks leading up to Election Day.

-DON’T: Rely Solely on Voter File Targeting.

The way digital platforms use consumer data is changing, which means our advertising and measurement needs to change too. To effectively reach our key audiences, we need to apply a mix of tactics to our digital campaigns — we can’t just rely on voter file targeting alone. That means we also need to measure the persuasive impact of entire digital programs and buying techniques, and not just the voter file components. Adapting our testing structure to accommodate these trends is key to reaching and understanding what resonates with voters at scale, providing more opportunities for us to glean actionable insights across more digital platforms, and optimize towards the most persuasive tactics throughout the campaign.

-DO: Look Beyond Traditional Social Pressure Messaging.

Traditional Democratic GOTV campaigns call for a focus on social pressure messaging, especially for mail; however, we’ve found that this doesn’t have the same effect on digital. Even though it may work in mailboxes, previous digital testing found that social pressure didn’t perform as well as aspirational messaging when measuring actual turnout among the treatment group. Planning further in advance and randomizing by zip clusters, instead of households, gives us more randomized media from which we can observe a treatment effect. Increased focus on testing creative helps ensure that we’re putting media spend dollars behind messaging that works.

-DON’T: Rely Solely On Social To Persuade Voters.

Social advertising is a critical tactic for delivering a message to voters, but we’ve learned that it can’t carry our message on its own. According to data from past GOTV campaigns we’ve run, layering additional tactics on top of social increased average weekly reach by 136% compared to reach from social targeting only. We’re not only reaching more people, but delivering a more persuasive experience by utilizing the entire internet to reach our audience. Additionally, we’re getting better bang for our buck quality-wise. We’ve seen that video inventory outside of social is over 300% more viewable than videos played on social, and users are more than twice as likely to complete a video if they don’t see it while scrolling through their newsfeed. While social plays a role in all of our campaigns, we know the best way to persuade voters is a combination of strategic buying tactics within a larger integrated campaign.

Please reach out to us for more information — we’d be happy to discuss strategies and solutions for your upcoming GOTV campaign.

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