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Political Campaigns Have Gone Mobile, and It's Changing the Game

How has the shift to mobile affected political campai...

How has the shift to mobile affected political campaign efforts? originally appeared on Quora - the knowledge sharing network where compelling questions are answered by people with unique insights.

Answer by Steph Hannon, CTO for Hillary for America, on Quora:

By all accounts, 2016 is a mobile election. More than two-thirds of Americans today have smartphones--nearly twice as many as during the last presidential election. For the first time, more Americans prefer to get their news and view content on mobile devices than on their laptops or desktop computers.

The shift to mobile presents a huge opportunity for political campaigns to persuade voters, engage existing supporters, and support field operations. Here are a few ways we've adapted our digital strategy:

Activating Supporters Through Gamification

Our research showed we had a significant number of supporters who wanted to help Hillary but either weren't sure how to get started or wanted more options to get involved. We wanted to give these supporters high-impact volunteer opportunities, because identifying and activating every last supporter is critical to winning in November.

We developed the Hillary 2016 mobile app as a way to give supporters other options in addition to donating or volunteering at field offices. The app is a great tool for sharing key pieces of content and messaging, informing people about events in their area, and briefing them on policy issues. We took advantage of uniquely mobile features like push notifications, geolocation, and persistent login.

We purposefully chose game mechanics as the framework for the experience so we could offer daily quizzes and activities--and reward players with new content and features as they progress through the challenges. Game mechanics also give people a structure to complete volunteer tasks and gradually increase their level of commitment, engage their friends, and measure their impact. We also know game apps score high on metrics like daily active users and download rate, and they have the highest retention rate of any genre, aside from messaging apps.

The concept has proven out: Tens of thousands of people are using the game in the field as a way to stay connected to the campaign, as well as to find phone banks and field offices.

Reaching Supporters Via SMS

Text messages are a unique and personal way to engage with supporters. Even people with inboxes full of unread emails are likely to read their texts. So SMS is a key component of our digital program to keep supporters in the loop about breaking news. We first announced Tim Kaine as Hillary's running mate via text, and we used our SMS program during the convention to highlight key moments. As we get closer to Election Day, we'll use text messages to remind people about registration deadlines and help them find their polling places. You can check out some of the best texts from Hillary herself here.

Supporting Organizers in the Field

We're also using mobile tools that simplify traditional campaign tactics, such as canvassing. Traditionally, volunteers go into a field office and pick up a large stack of papers with lists of voters to contact and a printed map for their shift. That's a data entry time-suck. This cycle, we are using a mobile app to complement--and sometimes replace--the paper approach. That makes it easier to navigate to a door, find the quickest path between doors, and make dynamic changes to the list of target doors--and it makes it faster to get the results of a conversation back to data systems and decision-makers.

During the primary, we built a mobile reporting app to help our precinct captains count delegates in states with caucuses. The data collected across all the contests in Iowa, for example, was visible in real-time to campaign leadership and analytics teams. By having the majority of our captains use our mobile app for reporting, we were able to identify and triage issues at certain precincts faster than in previous cycles.

Mobile-Friendly Content

In addition to using mobile tools, we've designed everything on our website--from the home page to individual blogs posts--with the mobile user in mind. That means delivering quality content with very limited space. Each page has to be readable on small screens, so we use standard-sized fonts and try to break up long chunks of text with photos, graphics, headings, and other formatting to make them more readable. Performance is also a key consideration--we have to optimize every page to load quickly for mobile users.

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