Geofencing: The Political Value of Data


Anyone who has been tasked with marketing a nonprofit, campaign, candidate, ballot proposal, or initiative must find the people interested in their cause and connect with them in a meaningful way. And never has connected with prospective voters been more important or more challenging, with limited personal contact. Gone are the days of in-person canvassing, parade appearances, and public face-to-face townhalls. Geofencing in political campaigns can help, especially given the anticipated increase in absentee voting.

For example, absentee voting increased as much as 86% in some Michigan counties between the March 2016 Primary Election and the March 2018 Primary Election. 

With 95% of Americans owning a mobile phone of some sort, and nearly 80% owning smartphones, marketers of all stripes are more poised than ever to capture their attention when they’re on the move. Geofencing and geo-targeting acquire people’s device IDs, from smartphones, laptops, or tablets at high-value locations where they spend time outside their homes. Forget connecting with people as they pull into the parking lot of their local schools or polling places, you’re more likely to find them at their local supermarket, home improvement store, or pizza place. By mapping these high-value areas, we can identify their devices and target them with digital ads at their home – and across all of their devices.

Two types of proximity marketing have emerged as good tools to connect with consumers through their mobile phones. The first is geofencing, which uses GPS tracking to serve up marketing messages to consumers within a specific geographical area. The second is beacons, which use Wifi or BlueTooth technology to connect when a person is near the beacon. In both cases, the customer must have opted-in for you to connect with them.

So how and where do you find constituents?

Reel Them in With Geofencing

The most common use for geofencing is to set up a perimeter radius around key locations. If a customer enters the area around a store or other high-value destination, you can ping them with a message or promotion designed to get your careful timed and planned message across. Geofences can be drawn as small as the property boundaries of a school, library, or church used for a polling precinct or as large as a superstore or home improvement store parking lot or even an entire neighborhood or zip code. 

Another good use of geofencing is to set up a radius around a business you know a lot of your constituents work at or regularly visit. For instance, if a key target for your campaign was auto workers, you could set up a radius around the plant where they work. 

The Beacons are Beckoning

Like geofencing, beacons allow you to market based on proximity. The difference is that beacons work in a much more specific area. You put a beacon device in a location and when a person’s smartphone comes within range of the beacon, it triggers the messaging you have set up. It’ll be able to tell when the person is interested in a specific cause or candidate. Then, the campaign can send the user a message via a push notification that’s related to what they’re looking at. Or, it can give the potential voter more information on the campaign – so if they have questions, they can get answers about the candidate or cause right on their phone.

Why You Need a Mobile App Now

For beacons to work, your customers need to download your app and opt-in for push notifications. Beacons are a great way to improve the reach of your campaign’s mobile app.

Once the app is installed on a user’s device, it will activate when the app user walks by a beacon. Then the campaign knows exactly where the potential voter is and can send them information, event notifications, and fundraising requests.

Mobile apps give politically like-minded people an exclusive space to interact and share ideas outside of larger social media platforms. Some apps encourage participation for tweeting pre-written political messages, sharing their contacts with the campaign, or calling their representatives to discuss preset talking points.

Younger generations have recognized the importance of this technology. That’s why they are adapting sooner. But the rest of the population is sure to follow, as it becomes more common and they see the benefits of it. Your company needs to jump on board now to stay ahead of the curve. You won’t be able to leverage beacon technology without a mobile app. 

Tags: Geofencing, beacons, marketing, mobile app