Will data profiling on social media ‘Trump’ the General Election?

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As the General Election enters its final few weeks, Ed Gould, our creative director, explores why what you put on Facebook might swing this election more than anything the politicians have been saying.

In this special feature Ed explains how political parties are likely to be using your own ‘likes’ to help you decide where to place your cross.
 
“With the General Election just around the corner you would be forgiven for thinking the media, politicians or perhaps the policies will define the outcome. 
 
But in fact, what you, your friends and family are putting on social media might have a much more significant impact in how votes are finally cast.
 
Influencing human behaviour through data manipulation on social media is claimed as a major factor behind President Trump’s shock election victory and the UK’s vote to leave the EU. 
 
And it’s a little known British data company called Cambridge Analytica that allegedly helped sway the masses on both occasions into these watershed results. 
 
‘There are no longer any experts except Cambridge Analytica,’ Frank Luntz, an American political pollster who was previously a sceptic on data profiling, is reported to have commented.
 
So how did the company, and others working in their field, influence people in the way they were to vote? With your help. By collecting masses of data from people’s Facebook accounts they built profiles and targeted the messages they were sending. Sounds simple. As you may expect, however, there is more to it. 
 
Building psychological profiles of the electorate is achieved by grouping together people with similar traits. Once this is achieved political parties and those with vested interests can  target their messages, often through advertising, directly to those who will be sympathetic to a particular point of view.
 
The use of such targeting methods is startlingly similar to the way the team here at Carswell Gould approach our work for businesses. These proven techniques are nothing new in the marketing industry. Politics, however, is playing catch-up and perhaps the fact Trump is a businessman first goes some way to explaining his confident adoption of this approach that agencies like Carswell Gould use every day. 
 
In the US, building profiles was achieved by carrying out over a million personality tests which allowed people to rate themselves against 120 statements such as: I dislike myself; I’m the life of the party; I make rash decisions. The answers were then graded on psychological personality traits that include openness, conscientiousness, agreeableness, extroversion and neuroticism.
 
According to Cambridge Analytica, the company has psychological profiles based on 5,000 separate pieces of data on 220 million American voters. These included details such as age, gender and ethnicity to what magazines they read, which TV programmes they watch, the food they eat and the cars they drive, amongst various other things. The key, though, is using this data to understand people’s innermost emotions and then target them accordingly. This is what happened in the Trump campaign as people were targeted with ads through Facebook.
 
The company seemingly worked its magic once again in the Leave campaign with Facebook again proving to be the key to success. According to Andy Wigmore, Leave.EU’s communications director, a Facebook ‘like’ was the key weapon in their armoury. ‘Using artificial intelligence tells you all sorts of things about that individual and how to convince them with what sort of advert. And you knew there would also be other people in their network who liked what they liked, so you could spread your message. And then you follow them. The computer never stops learning and it never stops monitoring.’ 
 
The Vote Leave campaign also paid £3.5m to a tiny Canadian company called AggregateIQ, which specialises in targeted Facebook advertising and profiling. In addition it worked with agencies around the UK on a localised marketing approach - Carswell Gould was approached to deliver parts of the campaign and while we decided not to play a part in the work we did get to see inside the campaign strategy for Leave.
 
Whatever the outcome of the UK General Election and the part firms specialising in on-line analysis play in who resides at Number 10, it is obvious those who wish to influence the outcome of polls will only seek to find out more about how we all think.
 
After all, Cambridge Analytica says that armed with knowledge of just 150 ‘likes’, it can predict someone’s personality better than their spouse. With 300 ‘likes’ they claim they can understand you better than yourself.”
 
At Carswell Gould, we work with a variety of clients across a range of sectors who we have delivered laser targeted social media campaigns for. This has resulted in increased visitors, greater brand awareness and engagement - ultimately delivering a marked improvement in business, as was the case with international removals client John Mason recently, for example. 
 
They can now boast awards also won by the likes of Deloitte, IBM and Time Warner after receiving gold and platinum Hermes Creative Awards following our social media video campaigns that generated 20,000 views in 24 hours. Read about both award-winning campaigns here and here.
 
For more information or to explore how social media can affect your businesses then contact us at info@carswellgould.co.uk or 02380 238001.
 

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