Digital Transformation Assembly Keynote
Sharp Things Founder and CEO Adam Sharp gives the keynote address at the Millennium Alliance's 2017 Digital Marketing Transformation Assembly. In his remarks and subsequent "fireside chat," Sharp discusses Donald Trump's use of social media in the 2016 presidential election and the lessons that may be drawn for consumer marketers.
I hope you all enjoyed the fantastic evening. I just want to take a couple of moments to introduce tonight's keynote speaker, Mr. Adam Sharp. Adam was labeled the human embodiment of Twitter by the New York Times after forging a 20-year career in politics, journalism and technology. Adam was the head of news, government and politics at Twitter until December 2016 and was the longest serving member of the Global Media Partnerships Team. He joined Twitter in 2010 after previous roles at NBC News, The US Senate and C-Span. It's my honor and please join me in welcoming our keynote speaker for tonight, Adam Sharp.
No, I'll just shake your hand. Thank you, Nick. A little scheduling note for you all, if you're contemplating whether to order that extra glass of wine, I'd like to point out that the only thing standing between you and dessert is a conversation about the 2016 Presidential Election. It's probably time to open another case back there. Nick, thank you so much for the introduction. As Nick mentioned, my background is, as a journalist and political operative and for the last six years at Twitter, working with colleagues in both those fields and applying technology to be more effective in their work.
When we talk tonight about the election, that is the lens I bring. It is the perspective that I bring to the conversation and then after my remarks, Anne Marie Stephen from Quality is going to come up here and together with your questions, we're going to try to unpack some of these themes from the election and connect them to some of the other conversations you've been having today and into tomorrow. I should put a disclaimer here at the top that tonight's discussion is not an endorsement of any candidate or another. It is not a commentary on either of their policies or who should've won or who deserve to win.
It is looking at the realities that one candidate did win and did so largely because of effective tactics where his opponent did not apply them as effectively. It's going to be focusing on some of those tactics and what lessons we can draw from them particularly those in the space of social communication. Donald Trump over the course of this campaign became the single most visible user of Twitter worldwide. His account over the course of the campaign generated an average of one billion on platform organic impressions a month. To put that in perspective, that is more than the 10 most followed users of Twitter.
Kanye West, Lady Gaga, Katy Perry, Justin Bieber, a couple of Kardashians, Barrack Obama, the pope. I'm missing one or two, I think Taylor Swift is in there. More than the 10 most followed global accounts combined and almost twice the reach of his opponent, Hillary Clinton. We are entering a new, fourth generation of political communication. It's a sea change that started with the birth of the web in the 90s. We saw it developed through the campaigns of Howard Dean in '04, Barrack Obama in '08, 2012, the Tea Party but this election, and Donald Trump's use of platforms like Twitter really solidified our place in a new era of political communication.
To really appreciate how we got here and why it matters, we need to understand the history a little bit. The single best way to get a vote today is the same as getting a deal and it's no different than it was 200 years ago or 400 years ago. It's the look in the eye, it's the outstretched hand, "Hi, I'm so and such. I'm running for congress. Can I have your vote?" Even Thomas Jefferson knew that doesn't scale to a country, which at that time, was just a couple of million people. It works just fine if you're running for city council and standing on the street corner but not when you're trying to run for a nation of more than 300 million voters.
In the first wave, politics was actually very similar to commerce. It was all on the local level. Any goods or supplies, if you didn't grow or produce them yourself, you are buying them from someone who live near you. For politics, you are being influenced by those around you. If you are hearing from the candidates at all, it was in the form of pamphlets being distributed by someone in your neighborhood. You never saw a candidate, you never heard them speak so the century before photography didn't even know really what they look like except for line drawings and paintings. Everything was the influence of the community around you.
Fast forward, the American industrial revolution brings us the railroads, makes us more interconnected than we'd ever been before. Commerce comes to the doorstep with the emergence of the first mail order catalogs. People can shop from home and have a product come from Chicago or New York to their front porch. Candidates started barnstorming across the country. Other candidates started bringing voters to them, 1896, William McKinley bought train tickets for over 700,000 supporters to come to his front yard in Dayton, Ohio and everyday he'd walk out to his front porch and give a speech and the press would cover the resounding response he got from these supporters, he'd tracked in that day.
To put some sense of scale on that number, that represents one in 10 voters who voted for him in the election that year. Imagine if Donald Trump had bought plane tickets to bring six million people to Trump Tower to hear him speak and I do think now with some of the protest, he may hit that number by the end of the year. With radio and TV, we passed it to a third generation. The last whistle stops of FDR and Truman faded into the horizon and now, our candidates were being packaged like our products, 30 second spots, identical from coast to coast. What we lost in the interim was some of that sense of immediate contact.
The process was being wholesaled so instead of hearing from our neighbor who is as active as they were before, now, the message was coming directly from the campaign, from a studio in New York or LA or Washington. Virtually indifferent from the other stars on primetime or the boxes of soap sold in the commercials. Over this time period, we see retail shift away from the small mom-and-pops to the big boxes, the chains, online shopping. As this continued, all of a sudden technology started to have a magical impact. Now, these online retailers, where we'd all gravitated through these big national and global brands where we're shopping from, losing some of that local connection, the same way as we'd lost the connection to our elected officials.
Now, Amazon reshuffles the racks of the store for every customer. Instead of going into Blockbuster and perusing the new releases, Netflix has a shelf of recommendations just for us. Instead of seeing what an editor shows for the front page of The New York Times because they want to make sure we eat our vegetables. We're getting our news from social networks and algorithms that are deciding, "Well, what do you want to read, what will you agree with, what will you like to read?" In every aspect of our consumer lives, we began to get back some of this apparent personality.
This sense of direct interaction, that even the biggest, most global corporation could still be that waiter who always remembers your drink. Same time you see technologies like Facebook and Twitter emerge. Twitter being at its core, a real-time distributed conversation, connecting disenfranchised communities to each other for the first time around common ideas, the Tea Party, the Arab spring, the protest we saw in response to Donald Trump's election. Into this environment enters Donald J. Trump of New York and his recognition honed through years of being a television personality, of some of the core pillars of effective social communication.
Engagement, immediacy, relatability, relevance and diversity. I'll start with engagement. There have been a number of studies that have shown that when you ask someone in a poll, who are you going to vote for on election day? The single greatest predictor or if that person will actually turn out to vote for that candidate is the follow-up question, have you ever met them? It's no wonder we feel like a lot of our public figures are out of touch. Most voters have never touched a candidate and over the last century that's even dwindled, they're crisscrossing and going to some states.
A full third of residents of New Hampshire have met the president. A full third of the country, he's never ever been to their state and that is true on both sides of the equation. Now Texas Tech did a study a couple of years ago where they looked at engagement on Twitter and they discovered when a voter gets a retweet or a reply or even a like at that time, it was a favorite, sorry about that, from a candidate on Twitter, that little piece of engagement had the same level of impact on voting behavior as meeting a candidate in person. In fact, that little piece of engagement from a candidate's Twitter account had more of an impact on shaping a voter's choice than the opinions of their own friends and immediate family for most demographic groups.
The implications for organizing and constituent service on the political side, and for customer service on the brand side are immense. The power of that little touch, that little bit of outreach, that little, "I heard you," which is usually what Donald Trump does. He doesn't deeply engage with voters, it's usually just a retweet but that I saw it, I read it, acknowledgment has a massive impact and a lot of these private interactions are now public. This isn't a phone call to tech support or a letter to your congressman where if you're unhappy with the result or thrilled with the result, you might tell a few people over the dinner table that night.
These interactions are more like standing up at a town hall where good or bad, they can go viral in a heartbeat and thousands of people see how that interaction plays out and reward or scorn accordingly. A perfect example, Barrack Obama on one of his earliest Twitter town halls, these were the periods where the president would usually give a surprise announcement, a tweet from the white house or later at POTUS account saying, "I had a break between meetings for 20 minutes, who has questions?" He'd go into the Roosevelt room or the oval office, be put in front of a laptop and get to as many as he can.
Later they'd release a YouTube video of it. One of the earliest ones, this probably was around 2012, 2013. He's sitting there, he's been answering some questions and in the video, there's a point where Corey Shulman, his social media director says to him, "Now, Mr. President if you hit up there where it says, 37 more replies, you can bring in some more questions to choose from." He says, "No, there's this one question from Michael, it was a question on tax policy, it's a good question, it deserves an answer. I want to write back to him," and he gets down to the keyboard and starts typing.
We have no idea who Michael is but we can make some guesses of that experience. We know that like anyone else in the country, he didn't know the president was doing a Q and A until 20 minutes earlier. Maybe he was standing in line at the pharmacy or sitting on the bus scrolling through his timeline like a lot of us turned to in moments of quiet boredom. Wherever he was, he saw that the president was taking questions, was one of thousands of people who asked a question. A few minutes later, he gets a tweet from the President of the United States, responding to his question, a question that was actually critical of the president's policies.
Just when he might be scratching his head, thinking, "Do the president really like this?" He gets a YouTube video of the President of the United States telling his staff, "No, we are not moving forward with what you want me to do because Michael has a question." For Michael, that's huge. For the thousands of other people engaging in that Q and A witnessing it, it was equally profound because for them, now, in every subsequent town hall, in every single engagement with the @whitehouse, @BarrackObama, @POTUS Twitter accounts, there is always that possibility I could be Michael because this is a president who answers our questions directly.
That's the big different between going to an event like this or candidate's town hall and just not being called upon but at least you're in the room and saw the candidate engaging with people versus being told, "Sorry, no questions." I'm just going to do Doner lunches. The same thing is true of brands. You see it play out each and every day when the hospitality sector, Anne Marie and I were talking about this last night, does this very well, engages just a little bit on those moments of praise, handles those bad moments really well and shift brand perception in between. Second big area, immediacy, the campaign of now.
Generation ago, our perception of the presidential campaign, chronicled in books like Boys on the Bus, went through a very distinct process. All these events would happen over the course of the day. They'd stack up, reporters would start bouncing around what they were going to write. The candidate's staff would push back a little bit, there would be some negotiation, around 6:00 deadline is hit and that's the take on the day that hits everyone's doorstep the next morning and your view into the presidential campaign was almost 24 hours old or the Evening News started coming, maybe a few hours old but reduced to a soundbite.
Cable News started giving us a perspective but now for the first time if you are inclined, you can go to any rally, any protest, any debate and live it through the eyes of another voter just like you from the front row. Several primary debates this year, you could actually participate, there is a democratic primary in Iowa, a debate in Iowa, CBS News hosted it and they said, they take questions from Twitter along the way. Hillary Clinton was asked a question about taking donations from Wall Street and she defended it by saying, she'd done a lot for lower Manhattan after 9/11.
In the control room, CBS News saw instantly this was the most tweeted moment of the debate. They could see instantly that most of the tweets were a negative reaction. They could immediately see thousands of public follow up questions and responses to her statement and they picked one from an undecided voter in Iowa City and asked it as the follow-up. From her first answer, to looking at the tweet per minute data, to looking at the accounts, the questions, doing some vetting of these to make sure, "Okay, it's not someone who's donated a lot of money to one candidate or another." Everything top to bottom, eight minutes.
That follow-up question was presented to the candidate who could not escape that she had in the previous debate, on a similar question by saying, "Oh, that's just a media fascination," because now the question was coming from a real voter, that we found out the next day was sitting in Iowa City in his pajamas, live tweeting the debate for the very first time. For 50 years, we have watched televised debates between presidential candidates on television and for 50 years, we've by the millions yelled back at the TV screen and that night in November in Des Moines, Iowa last year was the first time one of those yells got heard on stage.
This immediacy of the campaign changes the paradigm entirely. Donald Trump recognized that and decided to play to that audience as supposed to the infrastructure laden press corps. Knowing that there's 100 people sitting here in front who are broadcasting live and telling the story of this debate or this rally live and who are supporters of mine and telling a positive story. I'm going to play to them instead of the pen of 100 people further back who might not be as kind to me and who have to run back to their satellite trucks and pick just what excerpt to talk about.
The third element, relevance. Humans by our nature aren't single dimension beings. We have multiple interest. Sure, during the day at work, we might be focused on one, at home, that interest focuses on something else. It might be music, it might be sports, it might be our families. We become inherently distrustful when we run into one dimensional people. The person who is just so focused on convincing you of that one point or that one sale or that one product. The entire golf industry probably exist because of this as a form for business. The public speaking classes that tell you, "Oh, you have to open with an icebreaker," comes out of the same psychology.
Candidates though are trained, "Stay on message, talk about only one thing." A complete departure from what people are taught in every other field of speaking, business and entertainment. What we've seen over the last few years, when you've put devices in the hands of these elected officials, there's several senators, for example, who don't even give their password to their staff because they see Twitter as their way of busting out of the staff bubble on Capitol Hill. When you give them this device and allow them to be themselves, they wind up being more effective communicators.
Claire McCaskill, a democratic senator from Missouri got up one morning and tweeted, "I'm sick and tired of looking and feeling so fat." I guarantee you that tweet was not market tested or run by her press staff. Ahead of some big games, she tweeted a picture of a very large glass of Scotch she'd prepared to consume while watching the game. A conservative Republican, congressman from Florida, happen to be a hip-hop aficionado. In addition to tweeting about the various issues before congress, that day he hops a plane from DC back to his very white, very conservative, very Republican district and spends the flight live tweeting his review of a new Jay-Z album.
Then goes back and forth tweeting with Jay-Z about important moments in hip-hop history, going back to the late 70s and early 80s. The list goes on and the one thing that is consistent through every elected official who add some of this personality to their tweets and is consistent of every journalist who adds some of that color to their tweets, is that when they do so, the engagement on the politics tweets, the engagement on the policy tweets, the engagement on the news tweets goes up. This is true in every country. It's true for Republicans and Democrats, Conservatives and Liberals.
Because now that voice is not just another Max Headroom talking head on TV. It is someone who watches what I do. They're drinking what I'm drinking, they're as angry at the quarterback as I am. When you have that brief pause for humanity, it creates a much more open window for the marketing message or the policy message to follow. Now, with Trump, he adds that diversity. He also recognizes how that intersects with the timing and the immediacy to generate relevance. You've seen people in the last few weeks try to correlate the president's tweets to what he was watching at that time.
He'll tweet a response to something, it'll turn out that, "Oh, that was being talked about on O'Reilly just five minutes earlier." Some have dismissed it as being unpresidential. I'd submit that it's actually quite true. We've had more than 200 years of presidents putting out statements, responding to Department of Labor studies and GAO reports. How many Americans do you think read Department of Labor studies and GAO reports and are sitting there at 11:00 at night, saying, "I wonder what the president thinks about that." He's going where the audience is. The same way as at this cocktail party we just had.
You probably had more luck if you're walking around the room and found a conversation you had something to contribute to than if you just opened the doors, stood in the corner and said, "I have something to say," and eventually they'll come hear it. Go where the ball is, go where the audience is and you'll discover new audiences, and one more receptive to having a conversation. On the other side, it's no surprise that one of Hillary Clinton's best days on Twitter in terms of follower growth was during Super Bowl two years ago. She tweeted something along the lines of, "It's nice to see someone else get blitzed and sacked on Fox."
Good tweet but that got it into the trend. People responded to it so those who are following #SuperBowl saw this tweet from Hillary Clinton and up to that date it was her single biggest follower growth on Twitter ever. It clips only by the day she announced she was running for President. Do you think there was a Hillary Clinton supporter on Twitter who didn't know Hillary Clinton was running for president or might have a Twitter account? No, but there were voters who had not curated their Twitter stream to be about politics. They might be a supporter over here but Twitter is their channel for news or their channel for sports or their channel just for following pictures of their grandkids.
By crossing those streams and entering that Super Bowl conversation, she introduced herself to an audience that was ready for her message and simply not opened the door to it yet. It's these four pillars, engagement, immediacy, diversity and relevance. Like any architectural pillars, all acting unison to hold up one fundamental capstone and that is authenticity. That is where Donald Trump won 2016 on Twitter. It's where you can argue he won 2016 off of Twitter. When I was still at Twitter back in 2013, we did a study, where we ask people their reactions on tweets from politicians, 3,800 political figures from around the world.
We are trying to find correlations to what causes engagement and some were predictable. You tweet a photo, it's going to have more retweets than if you tweet text only. One question basically gave us the three most important findings of the study. Do you believe this candidate tweeted it themselves? If the answer was yes, it was the single greatest predictor of a retweet of any metric we studied and this was true in every country we sampled. If the answer was no, I think a staffer did it, it was the single greatest predictor of an unfollow. Just the same way as in all these other aspects of life, we've come to accept this, sometimes AI driven and fake.
This sense of individual connection that we simply won't accept it when it sounds like a staffer and not the principal. The third big finding to come out of this, those of us who worked with a political figure actually had a pretty good idea of who tweeted themselves and who had staff doing it and you know what, the users nailed it. Even when tweets were written in the voice of a candidate or an elected official people just knew what was genuine and as a result, they forgive a lot. One of my favorite accounts on Twitter is Chuck Grassley, 83 year old Republican Senator from Iowa.
Not what you immediately think of when you think core demographic for the platform. He is phenomenal on it. He's known for his frequent misspellings, occasional double entendre where he's the only person who doesn't know how blue his tweet is, rants against the History Channel, and the occasional live tweeting of, "Hitting a deer on the highway, #AssumeDeerDead." The account is amazing but it cause some shakiness for staffer so they go to a focus group in Iowa and they ask the question, does it bother you that your senator can't spell? The resounding answer from the focus group was, "It's how we know it's Chuck."
In many other cases, you've seen that when it has been the result of coordinated effort by staff and there's a mistake on an account, the public reaction is always much harsher than when it is the candidate themselves. Almost the exact opposite of almost every political scandal we've been used to up to that point, because we're now in an age where that individual connection and authenticity is rewarded and that is one of the most critical things to appreciate, to understand 2016. Now note, authenticity and truth do not necessarily mean the same thing. In this election, we had the two most unpopular presidential candidates in the American History, we have the two most untrusted presidential candidates in history.
Neither candidate was able to convince the majority of the American people that they were trustworthy. Yes, for many voters, voters who probably would have voted RND no matter who is on the ticket, it came down to one candidate is trustworthy, one isn't. For swing voters in some key parts of the country, they fell into that bucket were neither candidate was trustworthy to them in their perception. Their perception was a choice between two liars. Now, given that devil's choice, they narrowed the choice to the candidate I've seen for over 20 years, who has the most crisply packaged presidential campaign ever, where any message that comes to me, whether it's true or not, I am fully confident has gone through focus groups and message testing to death.
Or, the candidate who for lack of a better phrase, lies from the heart. In many ways, Trump's inability to stay on message, his inability to follow the traditional rules of politics while they may have in the micro-sense undermined the political message of the day wound up strengthening his broader brand point, that of independence. With him, when has a guff, it's now seen as a point of endearment because he is not a managed scripted candidate where there's this expectation that it has been through the focus groups and the studies, a downside of the cynical take of House of Cards and Scandal and on the business side, even The Apprentice.
It's that when you start telling enough people this is how in the worst case scenario politics or business can be, they start to assume that's the way it is and they start imagining these operatives and for a candidate like Hillary Clinton, who's been around for 20, 30 years, when these attacks are coming, it brings back echoes of Whitewater and this that happened in the 90s, that nobody remembers what they're about but now, she is the institutional brand and he inherits that maverick mental that John McCain and his running mate tried to get in 2008. These trends of gorilla marketing and smaller footprint retail and AI driven experiences online are now intersecting with political communication and putting us firmly in this new era of campaigning.
Trump was able to pivot to that, after ironically being a titan of the 20th century, 3rd era model. A big branding and broadcast messaging. Hillary Clinton, this is evidence in her Twitter account, even with the occasional dash HRC tweet, wasn't able to make that pivot. Maybe the distinction is that Donald Trump was smarter than all of us all along, maybe it was an accident. Maybe it was simply that his brand was always about the individual. It was never about the corporation or anything more than that gilded five-letter name emblazed on the front of every building and every product and he played the game of last century and now, this century finally caught up with the individual brand running for President.
With that, I'm going to follow my own advice and end the broadcast portion of our conversation, invite Anne Marie up here and we'll unpack this a little bit with the help of your questions and see how it connects back to some of the conversations you had this afternoon, tomorrow and maybe a few more detours into political war stories and questions as well. Thank you so much.
Okay, so that was pretty painless, right? Was anyone nervous like it could have gotten ... right? We'll keep it tempered but fun and lighthearted so Adam, thank you. I had the great privilege of having dinner with you last night so we got to chat about a lot of this and we could have probably been there for a lot longer but ...
They did kick us out.
They did so, there's so many things that are very parallel. I took a page of notes because I hadn't heard the presentation but I don't even know where to begin. I think I want to start with, when we speak to ... the themes I hear you saying a lot of, we talk about authenticity and I wrote humanity and then later, you mentioned humanity so that was one of the things I wrote down. I think what has happened with technology, there's so many awesome things that have happened. One of the things though is that it allows us to communicate, which is great. We can communicate in high level, we can communicate easily, quickly, immediacy that you talked about.
We can communicate with whomever we like really, whether they're the high level previously inaccessible. Now, they are accessible. What has shifted the conversation, what is missing is that sense of community that we talk a lot about in the fiscal world too, is that people are looking for community and they find communities online, they find them in the physical world and creating that. I think where we're at now and what maybe he has successfully done is really capturing that humanity. It's the language of which we need to now learn and master the technology because it separates us physically, yet it brings us together, right?
I think that's true and zeroing in on that term community for a moment, I think a lot of the trends we've seen in recent years, politically speaking, both domestically and globally are because of that. Our politics up until a few years ago, were very geographically defined. The Tea Party voting block didn't come out of nowhere but they were pretty distributed and so, in any county, in any congressional district, for the most part, the more traditional chamber of commerce and the Republican Part was dominant enough that there was no ground organization for this more independent streak of what became the Tea Party.
Many of whom could just as easily have become Democrats by the way. What Twitter allowed was by having a network that was based around ideas and not off platform connections, which I think has become less of an important distinction now as each of these platforms have become mature but when you rewind, let's say five years, six years, seven years was a critical distinction. Facebook had to be a bilateral relationship. This was before Facebook pages, I friend you, you have to friend me back. LinkedIn, we had to work together. If I didn't check that box, I need to know your email address.
It wasn't really a great organizing tool beyond the people you already organized with but Twitter on the other hand, all of a sudden you could find other people who shared those ideas and now, those connection is formed across state lines, across county lines and now, with that organization and infrastructure that the main party apparatus had, the Tea Party had a voice at the table. This is the same dynamic you saw overseas in the Arab spring where you have almost the exact same dynamic and add the fact that Twitter is the only platform that allowed anonymous accounts and it was a platform that degraded well, it doesn't need a smartphone. You can do it via text or a satellite phone and therefore was the hardest for regimes to shut down.
Piece of cake, right? Sure. I'm thinking a lot about when we talk about disruption and technology and marketers, there's a lot of tech marketers out in this room, retailers, brands, whatever your ... entertainment, sports. We look at disruption, I mean, there's one thing that he has absolutely mastered, is he's disruptive, right? I mean by using Twitter, by using it the way he has been using it and we will assume that he is tweeting, that's what a lot of the reports are saying, that he is the person that is tweeting so thereby he is authentic. Given where his status is now and I think brands really think about this a lot too, is you want ... we talk a lot about authenticity, being real and sounding real and I think your stats pointing to people, know if you're not.
Is there ... I'll give you examples. When there's errors, right? When an airline makes an error or a brand an error or even a corporate entity mistweets and then they call it back, right, and they have to explain to others are, "Oh, sorry, we made a mistake," and that's been lauded as a great way to handle that, like, "Oh, we're so sorry, we made this mistake, we're calling ourselves out." That's all good, is there though a risk, is there a possibility that he could be pushing the envelope? Is it possible for a brand to be too authentic?
Absolutely and I think that's where ... if the authenticity is driven by simply trying to find the authentic voice that isn't in concert with your audience, then it's very easy to do that. That authentic voice needs to be in tune with the audience. For Trump, it is. For his supporters, it is 100% in tune and for his detractors, he doesn't care. For brands, there's probably a greater concern there. For government agencies, this was a very common concern we'd run into. A law enforcement agency is not going to be telling jokes all day but little bits ...
Which, you know, maybe they should because it would ...
Well, but there's the thing, but there's the thing.
I like watching the YouTube videos where a cop pulls somebody over and they give him an ice cream cone, no, thanks. It's hard for me.
Exactly and that's where little sprinkles of it can have an impact. For example, one of my favorite was someone had tweeted ... it's basically a picture of a fistful of drugs and the tweet was something along the lines of, "Parties at my house." The local police department at, replied, "Awesome, what's your address, we'll be right over." That's sort of an oculus humor work but at the end of the day, at public safety organization, people following that, yes, they want to know there's a human at the other end of the connection but the principal purpose of the account still needs to be focused on that.
I think when a brand or an individual loses sight of the principal focus, that's where you get into trouble and going back to something I said in the talk, principal focus does not necessarily mean singular focus. The principal focus can actually be reinforced sometimes by dialing back a little bit as supposed to doubling them.
We might find out only by trial and error and something like that, where you've crossed the line potentially or you do a lot of focus groups and studies or you go with your gut, because he seems to be very gut-driven.
Yeah, and I think he only talk about those pillars of social influence. He's really driven by immediacy. He recognizes that not being afraid of speed works to his political advantage. I'd say for most brands, speed is terrifying. Having to come up with that response in five minutes is terrifying. Five weeks, where we can have a lot of meetings about it, yes. That's not the age we live in right now. Right now, speed particularly wins out, especially if you are a public figure or entity that deals with the press, because the press has long move past that 6:00 deadline and the typical reporter is filing multiple stories a day.
They're expected to tweet, they're expected to blog, they're expected to record the podcast, do live hits for a network and just constantly be on a rolling deadline. You walk into a newsroom now, it's more often than not, three screens on a reporter's desk. One screen with tweet deck, where they're monitoring Twitter, one screen in the middle where they're writing their story, one screen where they're getting AP wire or anything else they're looking up. That's how the story gets formed. When I would meet with members of congress, very early on, there was a ... sort of the first baby step to using Twitter for most political figures is we're going to use it to send out press releases.
The same way as for most news organizations and brands in many cases, the first tweets are always headline, link, headline, link, headline, link, the recipe by the way for killing all engagement on your account. I would ask these offices, well, don't talk about the Tweet for a moment. Talk to me about your process for writing a press release. They say, well, the press secretary writes it, it then goes to the comms director to approve and it goes to the chief staff to approve, then it goes to the senator, they make some changes, it comes back, so on and so forth. It gets all the way through the process, it gets posted on the web and then we pull out the headline and tweet it.
Maybe we'll put out the quote and tweet it. Reporters aren't waiting for that. Today, there's a critical vote on the education secretary and almost every story that I saw coming in my timeline from reporters writing about that vote, was timestamped, two, three, four minutes after the vote. Everyone had the obligatory quote from a Republican and an obligatory quote from a Democrat. The first one to pop up on their screen gets in the story. The advice I would give offices is invert the entire process. Write the tweet, write the quote. Okay, maybe that has to get approved.
Tweet that out, then write the next quote, tweet that out. Build the scaffolding of the release through your tweets and then at the end of the day, at the wrap up for the archive, you take all those tweets. You slam them together and boom, you have a release. The associated press has been doing this for decades. For any of you whoever wander the AP wire during a breaking news story, what happens? AP Alert, plane crash. AP alert, second write-through, plane crashes in whatever city. An hour later you're up to the 17th write-through as the story is developing in front of you, one line at a time and every sender, every email of the house who switched their procedures that way came back and said their press pick up increase twofold, threefold, ten times.
I think ... and it's really about storytelling, right? We're in a ... that's social media for storytelling, which I think you might be hearing some about tomorrow and there's some sessions on that. Looking back at some of the things you mentioned, the parallels are really uncanny and it make sense, right, in terms of the relationship of the political arc we've seen in his historical political arc in comparison to what the retail and commerce political arc being, starting local then it went big in mass essentially, right, reaching most people. Now, we're sort of a hybrid of those things, right?
We're trying to personalize at scale and really reach people in a time and place and where they're at and speaking to personalization, context, relevance, immediacy, that's all balled up into one. I think often times, we think about as marketers and commerce-driven folks retail brand people is that mobile is the channel for that and there's loads of channels. One I would argue to, as we talk about local, this is the time of the mom-and-pop shop. We do see in the retail world and I don't have to tell everyone in this room, the retail giants that are shuttering their doors by the hundreds.
There is access in all these other channels that are digital but it's really important I think to not overlook that physical connection with whatever medium you're operating in because now, is the hybrid and we see even pure play digital creating a physical presence so the physical presence being also in a time and place and accessible to people in the flow of where they are. I'll give you a quick example, we're just talking about this at dinner but there's a great mall that we are ... my company is doing some work with in New York City. It's in the subway at Columbus Circle. Some of you might have seen it and it's called Turnstyle.
You've been there and it's two blocks and 10 million people go through this two blocks of tiny footprints, highly curated, very cool feeling place where people are going to hang out. That is in the subway and this is common in Asian countries. They redeveloped and repurposed. We see ... and it highly carries some big brands in there, Starbucks, Dylan's Candy Bar, things like that. Then, also very highly curated local brands, they are there. You've created a marketplace in the place where people flow and so one of the things that would challenge this room is to think about places like that. It's not just limited to mobile and digital, that our physical world is an important piece of connecting those dots as well, right?
Yeah, and I think in politics, mobile has been critical this cycle particularly for millennial voters. If any of you still watch your local news, you will not see any commercials, if you're in a swing state in the month of October, that are not campaign commercials. The reason for that is pretty clear, you want to put the ad where people are engaging around that issue. People are watching the local news. They're seeing coverage of the campaign, that's where you need to hit them. Millennial voters, they're getting their news while walking on the subway, looking down at the phone.
It's been a particular challenge in politics because until very late in the 2016 cycle, you cannot take political donations through an Apple App Store app. Even if campaigns had apps or we're engaging through native units in Twitter or Facebook or elsewhere, there had to be a sort of kludgy push to mobile web. Apple is starting to mature on that but it's being driven more on the charity donation side and there is that need where the ultimate fulfillment, there is no digital alternative for, right now. While in retail, yes, you'd like to get the traffic in the store but if they come to your mobile app and buy the product there, that's probably just as well.
There is no digital destination to drive a campaign, to drive their audience to. You need to drive them to a polling place. You need to get them to not go to work one day and stand in line potentially for hours, for no compensation other than feeling like proud Americans for doing so. That is an extremely hard conversion and where I think a challenge for Hillary Clinton this year was, she was very good at that first touch engagement, particularly through mobile web and that base activism but in some key places they just didn't get up that Tuesday morning and go to the polls.
Brick and mortar things I say, are problems. That is a challenge. We have some time for questions while we're up here and Adam is available so anyone that has an interesting ... Yeah, right here and we have a microphone too so ... and Nick will bring that for you.
Hello. In terms of your perspective and it's a fascinating one, while the election was going on, could you confidently predict who was going to win, kind of like a Michael Moore style and what was your POV on who is going to win, whether right or wrong?
In the primaries, I was pretty confident pretty early on that it was Trump, looking at Twitter data internally. Primaries especially are just an excitement level measure and that was translating and it was patterns, similar to what we have seen in the summers of 2009 and 2010 from the Tea Party where in '09, opposition to a Obama Care wasn't polling as the top three issue. For most in Washington, I had just left Capitol Hill that time, it's like, "Okay, yeah, the Republicans are stirring up but out in real America, nobody is worried about this." It was the number one issue among conservatives on Twitter and members of congress went back to town hall meetings in their communities that August and ran into a buzzsaw of protest.
Because the voters who turn out to a town hall in a dead of summer, in a non-election year are the same ones who are tweeting about politics every day. Measuring that likely voter versus registered voter is one of the most difficult things in poll modeling and I would have a belief that if you're tweeting about it every day, 10 times or more about politics, I am pretty sure you're coming to the polls on election day. It is a sample of that very heightened and engaged reliable voter and so in the primary, I was pretty confident about Trump. Going into the general election, I thought Hillary was going to win, even though all my Twitter data was pointing for Trump still.
That was my bias as a political operative, that I just came in and said if you take the Obama-Romney 2012 map and the top seven or eight swing states, Hillary just needs one of them and she has the presidency. Trump has to clear the table and there's no chance that a first time candidate is going to do that.
No chance that will ever happen. Yes but I think that really speaks to the value of data, right? It's the storytelling in the data and the art versus the science of something and I oversimplify it and make jokes but we're amongst friends here but data is the idiot's guide to whatever information you want. Now, certainly it's the intelligence to put the dots together and ask the right questions but that is the beauty of data.
Asking the right questions is the tough part and because for a poll, it's about asking the right questions and asking them of the right people. All these numbers you see telling you what America thinks is being determined by a sample set maybe 10 times the size of this dinner for a typical National Poll. The models are getting increasingly complex. It is no longer just a straight up demographic sample. There's people in that sample who are being weighted 10 times as heavily as anyone else, particularly among younger voters where the lack of landline phones is a real problem for polling.
I think as a result, there were in the models a lot of assumptions made about young support for Clinton and underestimating the young support for Trump. I'll leave just with one note there. Around the time of the conventions, we did an analysis of the followers and engagers with each of the major candidate's accounts, across both parties, all primary candidates. Hillary Clinton had the oldest demographic of support, of any candidate running for president in terms of her Twitter audience. Bernie Sanders had the youngest. Donald Trump was a close second. A lot of people were doing that just for entertainment value but at an 18 month campaign, you don't really care why they're following you.
If you know that you're going to be able to put your message in front of a few million people multiple times a day, every day for a year and a half, and you only need maybe a half of percent of them in the right places to actually flip because of it, that's a win.
I think we have another question.
I actually had two questions but you don't have to answer them both but the first question is really more of a comment, could you talk a little bit about fake news and how you think that will start to play out in social media or change social media? The second is really, you talked a little bit about polling and one of the things I read was that people were almost embarrassed to say they were voting for Trump in the exit polls on election day. I don't know if that was true or not but I wonder if social media is going to be used as more of a proxy for those things in the future, given that to your point, your Spidey sense was one thing but your data is another thing, about what was going to really happen.
I'll be very Washington and say, I'm going to answer the second part first and the first part, second because it stems from what we were just talking about. The effect you're talking about has many words or many names in the UK, if there are any brits in the room, it's called the Shy Tory effect, where people who vote conservative don't like telling pollsters, they're going to vote conservatives so conservatives tend to overperform and that was certainly evidence in their general election in 2015 where Cameron won an outright majority when they thought he'd have another coalition government.
In the US, we've talked about the Wilder effect, which was, Governor Wilder of Virginia, African-American candidate, where his turn out, wound out being much lower than anticipated because people didn't want to tell the pollsters they were voting for the white candidate over the African-American candidate. That is the dynamic we've seen in many places, and it certainly contributed to the exit polls. The other factor that contributed to exit polls was actually similar to what we saw in 2000, which is exit polls are really expensive. It's one reason why the networks and major newspapers all pull together on one exit poll.
Every single network is citing the same survey, so you have no back stop to look for two different researchers getting different results. One bad question, one bad sample, taints the bunch. They're also only paying attention to a few dozen precincts around the country and making assumptions about all the rest. In 2000, the assumption was Miami Dade is going to stay solely Democrat and nobody thought, "Oh, wait, but we just shipped out Anne Gonzales' back," which is why, they called Florida for Gore and then Miami Dade came in more Republican and they had to pull it back. A lot of assumptions were made by pollsters that were congruous with the assumptions made by the Clinton Campaign as to how Rustbelt, working class voters were going to perform.
They were just not a big enough part of the sample to tell a good story that night. To your first question, well, just to finish that point, on Twitter, I think you do get a leveling factor there. Twitter is not going to replace polling. I think Twitter can make polling better. You look at Nate Silver's Model for example that are all based on polling and some economic factors, by my back, that can work, everyone has models, it would have been more predictive if he'd included Twitter data in it. Twitter data is not susceptible to asking the right question because it's just the answers people are volunteering.
Polling right now dramatically under-samples people who don't have landlines and mobiles, mobile users. Twitter dramatically over-indexes for this. I think long-term, you're going to see models where they take an approach of, for each individual you need in your sample, what is the best way of reaching them? For this voter, it's a knock on the door. For this voter, it's a phone call. For this voter, it's monitoring their social activity and finding more efficiency. Most campaigns do weekly tracking polls. They go in the field Tuesdays, you get results on Friday. Why do we do that, because we always do that.
Well, if the social data is showing that nothing has changed since last week, why are you spending money putting up field poll out on a Tuesday. Save that money for when the canary in the coal mine shows, "Whoops, something just happened on a Monday," feel it now. On your question on fake news, there's certainly is a filter bubble effect on all platforms. By nature of the algorithms, I think Facebook was in the most difficult position here because their algorithms were most squarely focused on what will you like. Twitter's algorithms were focused on what's most recent but as Twitter started to add more relevance algorithms and so on, it started having the same challenges.
It opened up an environment for snowball effects where you could have a team of kids sitting in Romania, creating a thousand fake articles and targeting them to the right people who just wanted to be true so much, they hit like and the next thing you know it takes off. There's a really interesting project right now that Google, Facebook and a few other organizations have partnered on in the French election where people can basically, in their interaction with a story, rate if they believe it's true or not and that then feeds back into the clients so you start seeing, if this has been rated true or not.
We talked about brands becoming more national, that happening on the news front has been a challenge, the number of sources has gotten smaller. We don't have the same local news sources we used to. That's also have the effect by the way of now, we get our knowledge of Washington from national media as supposed to local media, that's beholding to covering our members of congress, our senators, which means, the perception most Americans have of politics is no longer through the lens of their representation but of the national leaders of which there is only one and that has shifted a lot of the power from the legislative to the executive when it comes to the bully pulpit.
I'm excited by investments in local news, recognition of ... even if it's not for-profit businesses but seen as a community value because I think that's what's going to have enough of the relevance to help combat some of the fake news and also bring some of that bully stick back to congress, which is the counterbalance we've been provided to the executive branch.
With that, we're going to wrap this up. What I heard tonight was engagement, immediacy, diversity, relevance, authenticity and the other thing that I heard was disruption, disruption, disruption and we've seen it, demonstrated time and time again and the Super Bowl was another one of those. I'm a Chicago Cub fan so we've seen it there but ...
Yeah, Bears. In all seriousness, I mean, really the playbooks of the past whatever they are, whatever industry you're in, they have to be thrown away. We are in an absolute new age. It's been verified more than one time so just know that whatever we were doing in the past, whatever it is, is not an indicator of future success. We have to create the future that doesn't exist yet. Adam, thank you very much. Thank you. Thanks, everybody. Have a good night.