For months, the Trump campaign has been criticized for not investing in staff and a robust data campaign to boost turnout across the country and in key swing states, but Trump may have an ace up his sleeve in the turnout battle.
That ace is the uCampaign app used to beat expectations earlier this year by both the Ted Cruz presidential campaign and the “Leave” movement on the landmark “Brexit” vote in the United Kingdom, where the voters narrowly ordered the U.K. to leave the European Union back in June.
Direct engagement with voters has become an increasingly critical aspect of campaigning in the digital age. After George W. Bush lost the popular vote in 2000, his campaign put a much higher priority on boosting personal contact to drive up turnout in 2004. Both of Barack Obama’s winning presidential campaigns are noted for their tech-savvy approach to voters, while Mitt Romney’s highly touted ORCA technology crashed and burned.
It was in the wake of ORCA’s failure that uCampaign was envisioned. Creator Thomas Peters told WND and Radio America the concept is really quite simple.
“You can download our apps off of iTunes or the Google Play Store onto your smartphone. Pretty quickly, it’ll show you a variety of actions you can take to impact the bottom line,” Peters explained. “It could be donating or sharing a social media message or sending a message only you could send to a friend or family member that we think you should reach out to.”
But how does it work on a national campaign?
“What this allows us to do is send tens, if not hundreds, of thousands of pinpointed messages to people in swing states who are making up their minds about who to support for president,” Peters said.
Listen to the WND/Radio America interview with uCampaign creator Thomas Peters:
“We set out to use smartphone technology to its fullest extent, so we use push notifications,” he explained. “We use address book matching. And we use fun stuff like gamification and social capital to give people points and credit for what they’re doing. I think that’s much more the future of political activism is to make it engaging and fun, just like all the other games that you might download on your phone, from Candy Crush Saga to Pokemon Go.”
Political debates on social media happen frequently, seemingly without many minds being changed. What makes uCampaign different?
“We cut through the noise by letting folks send text messages,” Peters said.
“If I get an email from a campaign that I’m not particularly interested in, I might ignore it or if might go to my spam, but text messages are read at a 99 percent rate,” he said. “The text messages that we send are sent from friends and family, so if I get a text message from my brother saying, ‘I’m supporting Donald Trump for president. Here’s why,’ that’s a message that I’m much more likely to read.”
But it’s not just a person-to-person approach. There is a big-picture strategy to the app as well.
“We do it both ways. We let people choose for themselves who they want to reach out to, but we also allow them to opt into sharing their address book contacts,” Peters said. “From there, if they say yes, we can match that to a voter file. That’s the kind of 21st-century stuff we’re doing here.
“This allows the campaigns to get a look at who your friends and family are, and then in turn make it easier for folks to reach out to folks,” Peters said.
He said the campaigns can also recommend specific messages on different issues to appeal to family and friends.
Peters said the Trump campaign is making great strides by using the app.
“(With) the Donald Trump app, actually we’re bringing in one new person for every 12 that they do. And that’s actually an incredibly impressive statistic. To get new people to actually download and get very involved in a campaign is a hard thing to do,” Peters said.
Other uCampaign clients include Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., the Colorado Republican Party and the National Rifle Association.
Peters said using the app will help Trump, but he’s not making any definitive predictions.
“I think the impact will be that more people will be more involved in the political process than they would have been without our app,” he said. “And that is our proudest achievement.”