As far as Presidential elections go, let’s just say this 2016 one felt long. There’s a few obvious reasons for that, but part of that feeling may be because the election has inundated the mobile space–our mobile space–like never before.

Choosing a president: important. And tiring.

One of the most fascinating things about Election 2016 for mobile marketers is seeing the growing role mobile continues to play and how it shapes voter engagement and decision making. After all, more Americans than ever before have smartphones: about ⅔ of US citizens. And from the start of the primaries, every candidate relied on mobile not only to connect with supporters and spread their message, but streamline and coordinate traditionally complex campaign planning and initiatives.

Analytics & personalization

Both the Democratic and Republican parties realized the power mobile apps granted them; the ability to collect valuable user data that allowed them to build robust “voter profiles” and target their messaging accordingly.

As a candidate, Ted Cruz was an especially big proponent of collecting and analyzing user data from his app in order to optimize his campaign efforts. In a crowded GOP race, candidates needed to work harder to stand out; but many held similar stances on national issues like gun control and abortion. In Iowa, the use of red light cameras was an unpopular issue with Cruz’s target audience, so the campaign sent targeted messages detailing Cruz’s stance against them.

Reaching young voters with mobile

President Obama’s wins in 2008 and 2012 proved the power of voters under 25. Tufts University’s Center for Information and Research on Civic Learning and Engagement (CIRCLE) found that the 18-29 voters will be electorally significant in a number of critical swing states like Iowa, Pennsylvania, Ohio, Florida, Virginia, and Wisconsin. Results in North Carolina, Nevada, New Hampshire, and Colorado, will also depend on young voter turnout.

So how did the candidates reach young voters, who could very well decide the outcome of this year’s election? Social media apps.

Snapchat is one of the most influential app among young voters, and it’s popular geofilters have been a powerful tool for all kinds of organizations to engage young voters. Why? According to a Nielsen study commissioned by Snap, Inc., the app reaches 41% of people ages 18-34 in the U.S. on any given day. Almost. Half. We probably don’t have to say that that’s a lot of young potential voters. Snap, Inc., also asserts that 52 million users watched more than 2 billion political snaps this election season.

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Photo: Trump supporters created geofilters around the Clinton email hearings.
On November 7, Hillary Clinton was the first candidate to be featured in one of Snapchat’s popular lenses. While primary candidates like Bernie Sanders and Marco Rubio frequently utilized geofilters in battleground states, interactive lenses are easily the most recognizable Snapchat feature, and custom lenses go for hundreds of thousands of dollars a day. According to Snapchat, Donald Trump’s campaign purchased the custom lens slot for Election day, so keep an eye out for that today. Clearly both primary candidates recognize that with Snapchat’s reach among young voters, the potential ROI is well-worth the cost.


Photo. Clinto 2016 Snapchat lens from 11/7.

Plenty of apps used their popularity with the under-30 set to promote voting and user engagement, rather than a particular candidate. Tinder capitalized on it’s popularity with millennials to encourage users to vote, and educate them about Clinton and Trump’s stances on the big issues. In a partnership with Rock the Vote, Tinder launched “Swipe the Vote,” users could swipe left or right (meaning yes or no) to policy questions served up by Tinder. Tinder analyzed their answers to serve up the candidate–Trump or Clinton– that was the “best match” for the user.

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Community Outreach

Reaching people in their communities and having personal conversations still matters. But with mobile, paper-heavy methods like canvassing are streamlined and much more efficient. Volunteers for Secretary Clinton could leave the stacks of paper at the campaign office, and access voter lists and record results right in the app.

“It makes it faster to get the results of a conversation back to data systems and decision-makers.”

Steph Hannon, CTO, Hillary for American 2016

Ted Cruz brought his efforts with data and personalization into his voter outreach, too. The Cruz Crew app gave canvassing volunteers 5 scripts based on marketing personas developed by the campaign. The app automatically selected scripts for volunteers, targeted and specially designed to resonate based on the information gathered about each home’s residence.

Hillary 2016 vs America First: App Comparison

While Clinton and Trump were slower to launch their own mobile apps than Cruz, both of nominees eventually brought a dedicated app to the public: Clinton in July 2016, Trump the following August.

Trump’s app focuses on news and original content, and offers a number of features that allowed Trump supporters to connect with each other, whether in online forums or at Trump/Pence events. In something of a twist, the app is named America First–no mention of the nominee’s name at all. In contrast, Hillary’s campaign app is named Hillary 2016. The app emphasizes gamification more than other candidate apps, letting users ascend through levels starting at Apprentice (get it?) and ending at BigLeague.


Clinton’s app bets on gamification as a means of keeping supporters engaged, too. Users. The Hillary 2016 app uses interactive content like quizzes on Trump sound bites and shareable social media messages. According to the Clinton campaign, more than half the app’s users had never donated, volunteered, or RSVPed to an event before being prompted by the app.

In 2016, candidates could connect with voters to an extent we hadn’t seen before, and largely through mobile. While the extent of such access does result in gaffes–no one should argue that Donald Trump made his best points on Twitter at 3am–for a certain subset of his supporters, it certainly supported the “tell it like it is” persona that has resonated through his campaign. But he didn’t truly master mobile, and neither did Clinton. (Our CMO Josh Todd doesn’t think so, either.) We would have loved to see the results had both candidates debuted their apps earlier, and taken even more time to build an engaged, loyal audience.

How did a mobile experience influence your vote this election season? Tell us in the comments.