Moldova’s relationship with the European Union was a major issue that was repeatedly highlighted during the country’s parliamentary elections on November 30, 2014. While the country’s three pro-European parties won a plurality of the votes, the Liberal Democratic Party of Moldova (PLDM) won the most seats of the three. One program in particular that boosted PLDM’s performance in 2014 was its digital campaign — specifically, its use of a new social targeting and outreach program designed by GQR Digital called Social Canvass. This innovative application of technology optimized PLDM’s digital presence and helped the party better communicate its message to targeted voters.
PLDM’s digital campaign using the Social Canvass application allowed the party to effectively communicate its message over social media, specifically Facebook, to targeted voters through paid advertisements and messages. Social Canvass works through social media platforms. First, a PLDM supporter would approve access for the application to their Facebook network. Social Canvass would then collect multiple data points from the supporter’s friends’ Facebook profiles, analyze the data and compare it to voter information in order to identify trends and key swing voters. The software would then prompt PLDM supporters on social media to send personal messages to any targeted voters in their network. Using this tool, PLDM knew its money was being spent on engaging key, targeted voters, rather than allocating resources to engage party activists or unlikely voters.
As internet penetration rates continue to rise around the world, political parties in many countries have turned to social media to help them build public support or gain publicity. However, GQR Digital’s development of Social Canvass goes one step further, demonstrating a technological innovation in the program’s ability to aggregate and analyze data from social media. PLDM’s digital campaign with Social Canvass showed that the party understood technology’s strategic impact in campaigns: parties are best served by technology that helps them connect directly with voters.
In Moldovan politics, one highly sought after constituency is diaspora voters, comprising between 500,000 and one million citizens who are eligible to vote, although diaspora turnout has been significantly lower. In the past, it has been challenging and expensive to communicate messages internationally, and political parties have tended to primarily be concerned with domestic campaigning. However, social media allows parties to target users across borders at a relatively low cost. Further, the Moldovan diaspora have greater access to the internet than citizens living within the country’s borders —where only 37 percent have internet access — making social media a cost-efficient means of communication when trying to engage diaspora voters.
The Social Canvass application implemented by the PLDM demonstrates how political parties can leverage the full potential of social media. Developing an effective message requires information about the electorate, and microtargeting that message requires even more. Traditionally, political parties must generate that data actively, through public opinion polling or direct voter contact. Social media provides the potential to flip the dynamic on its head, as voters become the actors. Through their social media profiles, voters actively — whether intentionally or not — share information that informs political party targeting, saving parties time as well as social and human capital. Using tools like Facebook and Twitter Analytics, parties can assess the quality and quantity of engagement, and identify content that resonates. For the PLDM, Social Canvass proved a valuable resource by further streamlining the party’s capacity to aggregate and analyze data for microtargeted digital outreach.