nextMedia.Hamburg: Amelia, as Director of Digital Analytics for president Obama's 2012 re-election you claimed to have unleashed the "Holy Grail" of digital campaigning. How did this help to win the important swing-states?
Amelia Showalter: Digital Analytics was primarily important for the Obama campaign's fundraising effort, though we also used analytics for volunteer recruitment as well. But fundraising was a really important piece of our work -- campaigns are very expensive in the United States! By raising enough money from small-dollar donors, we were able to pay for all of the campaign's important technology and field organizing efforts. We won the election because of the amazing efforts of on-the-ground organizers and volunteers, knocking on doors and talking to their neighbors in swing states. For those of us doing digital analytics, we are just proud to have helped fund that in-person operation!
nextMedia.Hamburg: During the campaign loads of data was created and you did a lot of A/B tests. Did the insights only remain in the HQ or did they ever reach the political leaders?
Amelia Showalter: The results of our A/B tests usually stayed within our campaign office. Political leaders are busy with other things!
nextMedia.Hamburg: Your team consisted of more than 100 statisticians, predictive modellers, data mining experts, mathematicians, software engineers, bloggers, internet advertising experts and online organisers. You designed and implemented hundreds of experiments to improve the performance of all types of digital outreach - who helped you most and what worked best?
Amelia Showalter: It was a group effort. The campaign needed all of those people, with their diverse backgrounds, so that we could meet all of our digital and technological challenges. We all worked together.
nextMedia.Hamburg: Do you think that the Dashboard could work in other countries? The German Pirate party's "Liquid Feedback" is also used by some public authorities, but struggles with low participation.
Amelia Showalter: Yes, other countries are starting to use similar software to Dashboard. Many companies that were started by Obama campaign veterans, such as Blue State Digital and 270 Strategies, are developing client bases in other countries. But it is still very rare that anyone has as sophisticated an operation as the Obama campaign. We had the advantage of being so big -- lots of staff, lots of money, lots of email addresses, lots of volunteers. Not every campaign or party has that economy of scale.
nextMedia.Hamburg: Smart Data is an interesting way to look at information, sales figures and trends. How can the pitfall of only reproducing our own business beliefs be avoided?
Amelia Showalter: Becoming an expert about A/B testing has really taught me to keep an open mind about everything. Many times we would test out ideas we thought were brilliant, and testing showed us we were wrong. I think many people who work in business or technology have an inflated self-image -- they want to be the smartest guy in the room. But A/B testing is a good cure for ego. If you develop a culture of testing at your business, you are more likely to innovate and discover best practices based on real evidence.
nextMedia.Hamburg: Some say, that an effective social media campaign is based on the psychology of social behaviors, not the newest and flashiest technology and networks. Do you agree?
Amelia Showalter: Yes! Our best emails were usually the most simple, informal, and heartfelt -- nothing flashy. And email itself is an under-appreciated medium. Everyone thinks social media is so sexy, but email is actually still a very effective way to reach people and get them to take action.
nextMedia.Hamburg: Amelia, thank you for your time.
Mehr Infos zum Talk von Amelia Showalter auf dem Reeperbahnfestival 2014 "Towards a culture of testing": http://bit.ly/1n6f0Kl