Identifying Influentials

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Traditional ID calls are a cornerstone of any campaign. These calls help measure the support for a candidate, organization or issue. At Stones’ Phones, we take them a step further and have developed a way to help campaigns cheaply identify their “Influential” supporters and persuasion targets – voters who won’t stop talking about politics and current events.

In order to find these supporters, we add our Influential question to an ID call and ask a very simple question:

“When you are interested in a political issue or candidate, how many people outside of your immediate household do you talk to about it? None, 1 to 5, 6 to 10, 11 to 20, or more than 20?”

Anyone who talks to six or more people is considered an Influential. Research by social scientist Ed Keller shows that one in ten Americans – the Influentials – tells the other nine how to vote, where to eat and what to buy. Decades of research show these people are word-of-mouth hubs, and that word-of-mouth is more important that it’s ever been for shaping public opinion. Influentials often fly below a campaign’s radar and cannot be modeled using other variables.

Influentials that support a candidate become powerful advocates when armed with information and can persuade their friends and family members. Undecided Influentials are key targets for persuasion. When undecided Influentials become supporters, they also become some of your greatest allies on the ground. They are key to building grassroots buzz around a candidate, organization or issue.

In 2006, Claire McCaskill ran for Senate after having lost her bid for Governor of Missouri two years earlier. If she wanted to win her Senate bid, she would have to win rural Missouri.

Her opponents had successfully used word of mouth against her in the past. The campaign needed to counter this on the ground. Stones’ Phones developed an Influential call program to identify support for Claire and find Influentials in the rural parts of the state. Supportive Influentials received more information and direct mail to educate them on her positions. They also received a volunteer call asking them to stand up if Claire was being falsely attacked.

Undecided Influentials received extra persuasion, field outreach, and direct mail from the campaign to turn them into supporters. In the end, Claire won rural Missouri and her bid for Senate. Our Influential phone campaign helped get rural voters talking about their support for Claire.

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