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Using Cutting Edge Tools to Inform Campaign Decisions

During the 2020 General Election, REAL Strategies assisted one of our clients with an independent expenditure campaign on behalf of an incumbent State Senator running for re-election. The incumbent State Senator was running as a middle-of-the-road Democrat in a progressive state versus a more progressive challenger.


The campaign had the odds stacked against it. As the campaign entered the final stretch, it was becoming apparent that the challenger was gaining momentum. They had received an endorsement from the Governor, garnered some favorable write-ups in popular publications, and generated lots of positive attention on social media. If the incumbent was going to win, they’d need to make some strategic decisions to counteract the challenger’s momentum.


Using our social listening tools, we were able to identify some key areas where the incumbent could make up ground versus the challenger. We analyzed a number of key data points and trends including: the latest social media activity, candidate mentions broken down by source, and keywords used to describe both candidates. Using this data we noticed a number of trends:


1). The volume of discussion surrounding the candidates was overwhelmingly dominated by the challenger. The endorsement by the Governor in late September also skyrocketed the conversation about the challenger and their campaign. 

Latest Activity First.png

2). The challenger was pacing ahead of the incumbent in mentions, with their name dominating across blogs, news, and Facebook, mainly because of the viral distribution of the Governor’s endorsement.


3). The keywords for the Incumbent were straying from their core messaging, which could be considered alarming. Similarly, discussion of endorsements for the challenger dominated the conversation along with the corresponding keywords used to describe the candidate. 

First Keywords.png


Based on our findings, we shared key strategic recommendations with the client to help the incumbent overcome the challenger’s momentum. The recommendations were as follows:


  • Seek out endorsements and highlight current endorsements by sharing across social media.

  • Double-down on authentic, core messaging and positioning. The messaging was being steered by the media, and the campaign needed to retake control of the narrative. 

  • Focus on amplifying Facebook posts and messaging to gain a larger share of the conversation on the platform.

  • Continue to run digital ads aggressively so voters understand why they should vote for the incumbent. 

  • Use pre-roll and video spots and push them using Over-The-Top advertising (OTT) and other high-cost / high-engagement channels to boost engagement with the candidate and their positions. 



The client followed our recommendations and was able to regain control of the narrative surrounding the incumbent and regain some of the momentum in the race. Using our social listening tools again, we compared the social media activity and keywords for the incumbent for the remainder of the race after our recommendations were shared and acted on. Using the same tools and methodology, we were able to visualize the incumbent’s turnaround.


1). The incumbent was able to pace the challenger in social media activity and regain momentum compared to the previously dominating performance of the challenger.

Latest Activity Final.png

2). The incumbent was able to reshape the narrative of their campaign and highlight core policy positions as highlighted by the keywords below.

Final Keywords.png

Because of our Social Listening technology, we were able to see what needed to be done to turn the tide of the campaign and then provide that strategic guidance to our client. Ultimately, after a nail-biting Election Night and a recount, the incumbent was successful in winning re-election, beating the challenger by a razor-thin margin of 56 votes. The recommendations we provided were incorporated into the outreach messaging, which steered the public conversation in the direction that ultimately helped solidify the victory. Without this insight, gained through our social listening services, counter-messaging tactics may have proven ineffective. Our visibility into the social media and broader media conversations surrounding the election allowed us to stay several steps ahead of the competition and ultimately win the election.

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