We’re always busy on election nights, it comes with being a politics and crisis communications agency. And it’s worth knowing something we’ve discovered through monitoring election communications that has implications for political and corporate clients alike.
As election days near, while we monitor and manage our candidates’ digital campaigns, we begin to gain qualitative insight into how things could net out. It’s not a quant thing, in large part because there is not yet a reliable resource for analyzing the political intentions of the U.S. electorate. It’s more of a feeling, a sense driven by the tone and volume of commentary flowing on digital platforms.
Not to say polling and other assessment tools aren’t reliable. But, they don’t capture how people feel at their cores. Social media does.
So whether we’re reviewing organic social content, dark posts, forums or video comments, about two weeks out from an election, things begin to crystalize.
Case in point, we felt something coming ahead of last week’s midterms. The experience was a reminder digital has undoubtedly become the frontline, the tip of the spear, in understanding how people really feel.
The challenge is deciphering it, an intensive, manual process that requires manpower and diligence.
Specifically, digital can tell us how people really feel, just ahead of the election itself. Not months before, or years, but right before the end. It’s as much about timing voter commentary as it is where they share it.
Typically, we’d expect a lot of ‘toxic enthusiasm,’ troll behavior from the people opposing our candidates on, say, Facebook or Instagram throughout the cycle. And this year, there was plenty of that. But there was also a steady, intense parade of commentary from people who were making it clear they intended to vote, and not for Republicans.
There was far less “I’m definitely voting, Republican” than there was “Democrats can count on me.”
The opposition voters made a point over the last two weeks to seek out the Republicans in their districts, and let them know their plans. Or to post similar thoughts in forums, video comments, etc.
It wasn’t an overwhelming flood, more like a pugnacious stream. To the untrained eye, this may seem like gentle trolling. But when you spend as much time as we do researching how the public responds to content, A/B testing, revising and honing, you refine your ability to discern posturing from an actual shift in intention.
Now, no one could predict the specific outcomes that came to pass, particularly in Virginia. But it is fair to say digital can reveal changing tides, maybe even better than polls and pundits.
That should be valuable information to brands, whether they’re running digital campaigns, dealing with a crisis, or just trying to figure out what people really think of them.