Here’s a look at three unique areas in which Gillespie’s digital strategy made a major impact, as first reported by Darren Samuelsohn of POLITICO.
1. Facebook targeting of Buffalo Wild Wings Republicans.
Gillespie’s campaign used the digital consulting firm Engage to create an internal Facebook app, building an algorithm to find potential supporter that haven’t necessarily “liked” a political page, by mining other business and people users may have “liked.”
For example, Gillespie’s camp found out that the restaurant chain Buffalo Wild Wings was the second most common shared “like” among conservative leaning independents in Virginia. So Gillespie made an appearance at Wild Wings, and posted a photo of himself sitting in the establishment to Facebook. His campaign then spent $100 for a targeted Facebook promotion, ensuring it showed up at the top of the newsfeed for 25,000 Virginians who were fans of the restaurant.
2. Having Twitter surrogates tweet out the campaign’s message.
Gillespie’s campaign made a point to pre-craft tweets to respond to any number of things Warner could criticize the Republican on. This way, whenever Warner or his campaign said anything, Gillespie’s campaign could immediately fire back on Twitter.
Popular Republicans in the state such as state Senator Mark Obenshain, Representative Bob Goodlatte and former Marriott CEO Fred Malek were also recruited to blast tweets from their own Twitter accounts praising Gillespie’s performance in the debates, which contributed to #VaSenDebate becoming the top trending hashtag in the Virginia and Washington markets.
Twitter was used constantly as a first line of defense for the campaign, and even on election day Gillespie was able to make a splash in encouraging voters to turn out, by highlighting how close the race was expected to be according to the exit polls.
3. Developing a mobile app for targeted canvassing.
Gillespie’s campaign built out a mobile app called Advantage, which drew on the RNC’s massive database of Republican leaning and undecided voters. Built by the Arlington-based firm Advantage Inc., Republicans paid $3,000 a month to use the app in order to more efficiently reach out to potential voters, skipping Democratic households and focusing on building report with independent voters.