Interesting . . . did Trump beat Hillary through better data analysis?

Dave Karpf says that “digital inexperience paid off” for the Trump campaign, in a big way.

The 2016 Trump campaign’s digital director, Brad Parscale, was featured on 60 Minutes last week. Much of the interview focused on the central role of Facebook in Trump’s digital strategy. Parscale shared that he “understood early that Facebook was how Donald Trump was going to win. Twitter is how he talked to the people. Facebook was going to be how he won. …We did [ads] on Twitter, Google search, other platforms. Facebook was the 500-pound gorilla, 80 percent of the budget kind of thing.” He also revealed that the Trump campaign had been closely advised by Facebook staffers who were literally “embedded” within their offices. While this little fact led the news, the truth is that top tech platforms have been offering such services to political campaigns for years. What was news, however, was the revelation that the Clinton campaign had turned Facebook down.

. . .

Back before Trump was being treated as a serious candidate, the 2016 election was supposed to be the one when Republicans finally started to catch up with Democrats in their use of social science experiments in elections. Then Trump happened, and everything got, well, weird. Many Republican digital campaign professionals were active #NeverTrumpers, further isolating the Trump digital team from any established base of digital campaign knowledge.

As a result, the experienced digital politics professionals weren’t in the room for Trump when Facebook arrived with its marketing pitch. The Clinton digital team had seen the experimental results. They had been around for past cycles, and had heard all these bold social media promises before. Facebook was touting its new-and-improved lookalike advertising product and asking for a giant slice of the digital advertising pie. The data from past elections said otherwise. Parscale, meanwhile, effectively responded by saying, “Magic beans?!? Take all of my money!”

Google and Twitter sent embedded staff to the Trump campaign as well. And the Clinton campaign accepted some staff embeds from big tech firms, even if Facebook was not among them. The digital technology firms didn’t just have a seat at the table with Trump’s digital program; they were often the most knowledgeable and experienced voices in the room. That’s generally a terrible way to run a campaign. You’ll get sold a bill of goods more often than not.

Except this time, the beans turned out to actually be magic.

There’s more at the link.

That’s a fascinating thought.  Were the “experts” on the Clinton campaign so over-exposed to “hype” about technology that they automatically distrusted it, or at least some aspects of it?  And were Trump’s “experts” less expert, and therefore less jaded and more willing to listen to technologically savvy advice?  Did that make the difference between victory and defeat?

I’m looking forward to learning more about this as the post-election analysis continues.  It may hold interesting implications for future campaigns.



  1. "Success has a thousand fathers, failure is an orphan."

    I'm pretty jaded myself, and I have no problem saying that Trump was the reason Trump won, and Hillary was the reason Hillary lost.

    The fractional slivers owing to use or non-use of social media probably didn't even matter in razor thin states like Michigan and Wisconsin, and the likely most heavily-teched in states were CA and NY, where Clinton won by huge margins.

    This smells more like Facebook and Twitter salesmen positioning themselves for a bigger piece of the campaign cash that's about to start flowing in next year's mid-terms, than it does like any serious recounting of How The Left Was Undone.

  2. Considering how Facebook and all the other platforms have treated Trump during and after the elections, I call BS.

    If any platform 'won' Trump, it was Twitter, and that was more because Trump is Trump than anything Twitter did except exist.

    As to the concept of Trump's people being too inexperienced? Doubt it one bit. He just didn't get the usual political handlers and hacks to work for him.

    And, as Aesop said, Trump won because he's Trump. The Dems lost because of Hillary and Sanders (and DWShultz, and all the others, including Obama.)

  3. So, basically what these snippets say is "Trump's team ran the better digital strategy. But we hate him, so we'll make up a bunch of arguments to claim that it happened by accident at least".

    Well, it could be true. In a world without facts and hard knowledge, any nicely made and convenient sounding argument could be true.

    But if you've ever worked in any business that actually relies digital advertisements, you can smell the BS coming off of that argument. Facebook currently is the most important advertising venue around. FB's lookalike-feature is useful. No accident there. Trump seems to have relied on people with actual business experience.

    If some "experienced digital politics professionals" disagree with that, well, they might still be able to trade that title for one in gender studies or alternative medicine.

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