With the presidential conventions upon us, the campaigns are focusing on the big race and how best to position their candidates to win. They are pondering clothes, hair, geography, colors, words and photo opportunities. They are listening to the polls and surveying the populace with passion. While each party's nominee is focused on policy and platform, they should also focus on voter preferences—not through polls, but through social engagement.
As a complement to traditional polling, both campaigns can take advantage of the massive scale available via social affinities. Using an algorithm-based approach to measure the engagement behaviors of hundreds of millions of social users—think commenting, photo posting and retweeting—candidates can see which brands, TV shows, movies and celebrities engage their social bases. Affinity measurement is a perpetual polling mechanism, constantly monitoring millions of preferences and passions. In contrast to social listening tools, measuring affinities identifies which entities will be most receptive by gauging the intensity of engagement between candidates and their potential voters.
For example, because Donald Trump is the most surprising candidate in recent political memory, there has been a lot of discussion about his supporters. Who exactly are they?
It's not hard to imagine that he has supporters who are more likely to drive West Coast Choppers or eat at McDonald's, something he himself did to celebrate clinching the Republican nomination. Campaigning with pal and New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady could make him resonate even more with voters. From a tactical vantage point, affinities also show that Trump has avid supporters in Phoenix which is particularly critical as Hillary Clinton has made the GOP stronghold state competitive again.
Social affinities can be prescriptive even down to the smallest details. Potential voters might not notice it consciously, but tossing Doritos to the crowd at rallies would have a big impact for Trump because of social affinity. And who knew that Trump's fans engage more with Kanye West than any other artist? Blasting "Power" at his rallies is a sure way to get the crowd going, and despite the Rolling Stones asking him not to do so, playing "Start Me Up" would also be a good choice, according to affinity data.
On the Democratic side, Clinton's branding prescription can help widen her gap with Trump and also appeal to Bernie Sanders' supporters. Aside from Sanders' own endorsement of Clinton, campaigning with documentarian Michael Moore would be a smart choice. He has a strong affinity with Clinton engagers and very publicly endorsed Sanders during the primary season.
On the campaign trail, Clinton should offer free Ben & Jerry's, a high affinity snack with engagers hailing from Sanders' home state of Vermont. If there are any photo ops at an auto manufacturer, Clinton should be sure it's where they make Toyotas. In contrast to Kanye's "Power," Clinton's rallying cry should be Beyoncé's "Run The World (Girls)." Clinton should also maintain a strong presence in Pennsylvania and Ohio, states where she has a strong fan base but could easily flip from blue to red.
Campaign managers with an eye on the polls can layer on affinity data to determine if overall engagement is increasing or decreasing. As with polls, candidates can trend positively or negatively with various brand audiences identified by affinities. For example, Hillary Clinton has gained traction with fans of MTV drama Teen Wolf since clinching the Democratic nomination. Clinton could purchase air time during the program and would be delivering her message in a highly receptive context.
By heeding the active declarations of engaged social users, candidates can source supporters from a variety of new—and sometimes unexpected—fan bases by aligning themselves with these audiences thoughtfully and strategically. Affinities are an incredibly powerful tool that belong in every campaign manager's toolbox.
J.T. Compeau leads client services for AffinityAnswers, the first industry platform for predictive branding. Founded in 2005 and headquartered in Austin TX, AffinityAnswers has offices in New York City, Chicago, Los Angeles & Bangalore, India.
Article originally appeared on Adweek Advertising & Branding: Link.