SES Chicago Morning Keynote by Dan Siroker

Welcome to Wednesday, day three of SES Chicago. We have been promised that never again will this happen in December. I checked my flight when I woke up and it’s already listed as delayed. It doesn’t take off for another 11 hours.

I’m going to try not to worry about it and just focus on the excellent keynote that we have today. Dan Siroker will be talking to us about the Obama team’s online strategy during the campaign, which is pretty awesome.

Dan wants to focus on five practical takeaways in his presentation.

He starts off by showing some clips from Obama’s visit to Google two years ago. Dan was then a product manager for Google Chrome. At the time, Obama said (in the interview) “I want you to help.” Dan took that to heart and moved to Chicago for a month to help and then later joined the campaign as the director of analytics.

slide from Dan Siroker's keynote presentation at SES Chicago 2009

He was in the New Media part of the organization as part of analytics.

Campaign Results

The vote: The Obama campaign won the popular vote and the electoral vote. He brings up a chart that compares the Obama and McCain campaigns’ engagement by Facebook friends, YouTube viewers and unique Web site views. Obama’s campaign was much more effective in those areas.

slide from Dan Siroker's keynote presentation at SES Chicago 2009

[This is a very graph heavy presentation, apologies.]

Money raised: Money is easy to measure so he’s using it for a metric. Not only did Obama raise more money but he also raised most of it online.

Lessons Learned

Lesson 1: Define Success

Success was getting the candidate elected. But what he really means by success is meeting goals.

metric > goal
cost per click > Web site > sign up rate > e-mail signup rate > $ per recipient > raise money

They found they had a break down between getting people to the Web site and getting them to sign up for the e-mail campaign.

Lesson 2: Question Assumptions

slide from Dan Siroker's keynote presentation at SES Chicago 2009

They tried several different copies and media images/video to see which was the most effective in getting signups. After some testing of the audience (we liked “Join Us Now” and “Sam’s Video”) he tells us the results:

“Learn More” and “Family Image” did the best in the real world. They used Google Website Optimizer to do their multivariate testing. 8.2 percent to 11.6 percent increase in conversions using the combination of “Learn More” plus “Family Image”.

Lesson 3: Divide and Conquer

It’s time for another multivariate test. They tested five buttons: “Donate Now”, “Please Donate”, “Why Donate?”, “Donate and Get a Gift”, and “Contribute”.

The audience choice is “Contribute”. What did tests show?

slide from Dan Siroker's keynote presentation at SES Chicago 2009

The most value was actually quite scattered. It depended who you were in terms of which copy did the best.

Lesson 4: Take Advantage of Circumstances

He throws up an image of the campaign headquarters during Bill Clinton’s speech in August. As Clinton was talking, Dan was updating their splash page to mention Bill.

Another example of a circumstance they took advantage of was when Sarah Palin mocked “community organizing”. The campaign sent an e-mail to their e-mail list asking for $100 donations to prove that community organizing is not something to be ashamed of, and they raised $10 million from that push.

Lesson 5: Turn Your Customers Into Evangelists

He shows what he thinks is the most effective video during the campaign. It’s a video about one of the volunteers for the campaign — Charles from Boulder. Not gonna lie, I’ve seen this before and I’m still getting a little teary-eyed. And I’m totally not the only one.

The audience applauds when it’s over. Dan tries to explain why he thinks it’s an effective video.

Users rally around a cause, which leads them to donate, volunteer, and vote. But it’s more than just users coming to a cause. It’s users talking to other users and bringing them in. There’s viral spread.

The video came out on October 28 and garnered half a million views instantly.

This is basically the idea of social media marketing.

He defines affiliate marketing and then blends the two into “social affiliate marketing”, where the cause/affiliate gets money from the business and the users interact with the cause. It’s a transparent relationship.

Take the partnerships formed through Spreadly, for instance. It marries causes and shopping.

slide from Dan Siroker's keynote presentation at SES Chicago 2009

Example: ArmorMount wall mounts for TVs. [I need one of those.]

After buying a wall mount, on the confirmation page you have the option to donate some amount of money to a cause. If you do, then you have the option to have ArmorMount donate money if you share the link with your social media networks. [ZOMG PAID LINK]

Free beta:


Dan Siroker at SES Chicago 2009

How did you use analytics to integrate your marketing campaigns across channels?

They really didn’t have time for it. He wishes they could have done better but they just didn’t have the time.

Did you do demographic segmentation in analyzing your results?

It’s hard to know that on the Web. It was difficult to do segmentation by gender. They never did experiments to segment by that.

After donating, they didn’t really look at the information they got there either. The challenge was to figure out what worked before they signed up, not post hoc dissection.

Did “Learn More” decrease dollars per recipient because it sounds educational?

He thought that would be the case too but it wasn’t a hard sell to donate anyway.

Obama had a lot more visitors. Was the number of visitors directly proportional to the amount of fresh/unique content provided?

No, it wasn’t. He thinks the difference is that their content was persuasive, not hard asks. He also thinks that the online success was that Obama’s policies brought in young tech-savvy people.

For Spreadly, why don’t you explain the cause on the donate page? Why does the short link just go to the home page?

He thinks that’s something they need to do, or put up an interstitial page to give the users the choice to move on to the site or on to more information. He doesn’t know if merchants would be okay with that.

I’ve heard that you have more e-mail addresses than any marketing database in the U.S. How do you use that database now?

He doesn’t think that’s true. It might be one of the highest quality databases in the country, but that’s it. Right now it’s run through the DNC and it’s owned by Organizing for America. It’s not run by the White House.

What was the most important factor when deciding what would appear on the campaign home page and landing pages?

There wasn’t one. That’s why defining goals is so important. The honest answer was the politics within the campaign. What were the things that people cared about in the campaign? Messaging was more important than donations or persuasions.

Where you invited to go on to to do analytics for them?

He had the opportunity to do some work with the administration on the transition team but he decided that personally he wanted to have as much impact as he could. He wanted to do something entrepreneurial.

What did the White House New Media department learn from the campaign?

They have different success metrics than the campaign did. The metrics aren’t as clear cut and easy to prove. He thinks they’re doing a great job. One of the people from the campaign is still with the White House team.

For Spreadly, can we bring in local charities? Do the charities sign up with Spreadly?

Charities love money, they will be happy to take your money and we will be happy to help. We really want to be able to expand to something like little league teams.

If you want to get your charity involved, email him

Awesome keynote.

Susan Esparza is former managing editor at Bruce Clay Inc., and has written extensively for clients and internal publications. Along with Bruce Clay, she is co-author of the first edition of Search Engine Optimization All-in-One Desk Reference For Dummies.

See Susan's author page for links to connect on social media.

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2 Replies to “SES Chicago Morning Keynote by Dan Siroker”

Another example of a circumstance they took advantage of was when Sarah Palin mocked “community organizing”. The campaign sent an e-mail to their e-mail list asking for $100 donations to prove that community organizing is not something to be ashamed of, and they raised $10 million from that push.

Thanks for the blog post! Glad to answer any additional questions your readers might have.


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