Morning must-read: How Obama's data scientists built a volunteer army on Facebook

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This morning’s must-read is How Obama’s data scientists built a volunteer army on Facebook from Derrick Harris of the tech blog GigaOm.

Obama for America Chief Scientist Rayid Ghani compared his team’s [hyper-personalized] social media approach … to the shift in web content from reposted print material to material designed for the web. … Ghani said many older voters are still best reached via non-digital means, and even when his team was using volunteers to reach those demographics, it suggested they give them a call or talk in-person. It really was all about what was most effective for each individual. … Four years from now, … [y]ounger people will be even more difficult to reach via traditional telephones, and they might not even be watching a lot of over-the-air or cable television. On the other hand, he noted, older people will probably be more engaged online and perhaps with mobile apps …

Ghani’s team wasn’t writing speeches or managing communications, but it was helping the people who did those things do them better. … Matthew Rattigan, an analyst on the team, built a tool for looking at the coverage of speeches in local newspapers so it could break down by geographic region how people reacted and which parts were quoted most. Speechwriters were therefore able to see how the messages they wanted to convey were actually the ones that were covered. … It’s pretty amazing … how much the … team accomplished – not just Ghani’s data science team, but also CTO Harper Reed’s unit and the team led by Chris Wegrzyn responsible for building the analytics and data infrastructure … Ghani … had just a year and a half to recruit a team of data scientists … The campaign’s targeted outreach efforts on Facebook … only got up and running in August following an extensive effort to integrate the campaign’s myriad online and offline data sources.

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