Well, in case you were in a coma the past 24 hours, Barack Obama narrowly defeated Mitt Romney to win re-election as the nation's 44th President. Save your political leanings for Facebook, please, because there is a technology story here worth mentioning.
First, this past election was, as some are calling it, the nerdiest yet. Both sides, and in particular the Obama campaign, really leveraged technology and statistics to raise more money, contextualize polling data more accurately, and target certain demographics more directly. Time today had an interesting piece detailing the Obama campaigns efforts in this regard.
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...
The magic tricks that opened wallets were then repurposed to turn out votes. The analytics team used four streams of polling data to build a detailed picture of voters in key states. In the past month, said one official, the analytics team had polling data from about 29,000 people in Ohio alone — a whopping sample that composed nearly half of 1% of all voters there — allowing for deep dives into exactly where each demographic and regional group was trending at any given moment. This was a huge advantage: when polls started to slip after the first debate, they could check to see which voters were changing sides and which were not...
Data helped drive the campaign’s ad buying too. Rather than rely on outside media consultants to decide where ads should run, Messina based his purchases on the massive internal data sets. “We were able to put our target voters through some really complicated modeling, to say, O.K., if Miami-Dade women under 35 are the targets, [here is] how to reach them,” said one official. As a result, the campaign bought ads to air during unconventional programming, like Sons of Anarchy, The Walking Dead and Don’t Trust the B—- in Apt. 23, skirting the traditional route of buying ads next to local news programming.
With respect to social media, it's also worth noting that Obama made Twitter history yesterday. Following his victory, Obama took to Twitter where he tweeted "Four more years" alongside a photo of him and Michelle Obama embracing. The tweet has since been retweeted over 769,000 times and rather quickly (22 minutes to be exact) eclipsed the previous retweet record of 320,000, previously held by none other than Justin Bieber.
In a blog post about election-related Tweets, Twitter notes that at its peak, usage hit 327,452 tweets per minute and the total number of election tweets topped 31 million. And in a sign of the times, news of Obama's victory at the election party I was at was first noticed via Twitter and Facebook (via NBC of course) as opposed to more traditional forms of media.