Ain’t No Party Like a First-Party Data Set

In part one of this series, I talked about third-party data. You can check it out here if you missed it.
The kind folks at Campaigns and Elections were kind enough to publish it as well.

Third-party Data is data that is aggregated, and matched back to voters from thousands of different sources and
offered for purchase. The end result often misses this mark.

Third-party Data is kinda like when my 9 year old raids the pantry, grabs 10+ random ingredients then haphazardly tosses them into a bowl to make something. I try it when she asks, because she’s my daughter. Sometimes it’s not half bad, but I wouldn’t be surprised if it sent me to the ER one day.

Pros of Third-Party Data

  • Scales easily

  • Relatively inexpensive, even for smaller campaigns

  • Useful to fill data gaps missed by first and second-party data

Cons of Third-Party Data

  • Questionable accuracy

  • Often difficult to comb through and manage (like drinking from a fire hose)

  • Available to anyone, including your opponents (not special sauce)

Second-party Data is definitely a step up in terms of accuracy and reliability because it is actually another organization’s first-party data (more on this later). This is data that was acquired through a direct relationship to a voter by a like-minded, or complimentary campaign/org and shared with you.

Another example of second-party data would be information offered by online ad platforms like Google and Facebook. When you target using Google AdWords, you’re leveraging data offered by Google users through searches that suggest an interest in your campaign. The search data is first-party data to Google, and second-party data to you. 

Pros of Second-Party Data 

  • Scales better than first-party data

  • Not aggregated from thousands of sources (more reliable)

  • Less expensive than building first-party data 

Cons of Second-Party Data

  • Relationships with like-minded campaigns/orgs need to be managed

  • Still no direct relationship with voter

  • Difficult to verify collection methods, data maintenance

It’s Good To Be King 

First-party data is data that is collected from voters by the campaign itself. This can be data collected through phone banks and canvassing efforts, IVR polling, online activity and engagement, and in-person at campaign events. Put simply, this is data collected by your campaign, directly from the voter.

ChartHow does first-party data stack up against second and third-party data? A
study by Econsultancy,
a global independent community-based publisher, found that brand marketers value first-party data by a measure of 2-1 on most metrics when compared to second and third-party data combined.

Most notably, 74% of marketers feel as though first-party data gives them the best insight into their customers. This compares to only 18% for second-party data and just 8% for third-party data.

Clearly, first-party is the most valuable type of data that you can use in your campaign. There is no substitute for a voter providing information directly to you. The problem is that first-party data is the most difficult, and costly to acquire of the three (and it’s not even close).

Perhaps first-party data collection can be automated when humans become comfortable answering questions at their door from non-threatening androids with a flesh-like resemblance (like Carson Daly). Sadly, we are years away from that.

Acquiring First-Party Data

Truth is, there are ways first-party data acquisition can be automated today but there still is a lot of blocking and tackling involved to keep acquisition costs under control. Acquisition through petitions, surveys, and other online engagement is clearly the easiest path and ESPs (Email Service Providers) like
MailChimp make it super easy to onboard new supporters through automated drip campaigns after signup to keep them engaged.

Phone Banking and canvassing tools can simplify live voter contact for volunteers and paid staff and ensure the right questions are being asked, to the right voters.

The key now is to be certain the data is made actionable and doesn’t lay around dormant, like your 25 year old, unemployed son who scored a 1500 on his SATs and cost you 150K to put through school and now sits around and watches Narcos all day.

Weaponizing First-Party Data

So technology has eased the burden of collecting first-party data but it still ain’t all rainbows and sunshine. Since it’s coming from a bunch of different sources, you need to pull it all together to really understand who you need to talk to, and what you need to say.

APIs (Application Information Interface for the uninitiated) will help you connect the dots. APIs can connect your campaign data between your different digital platforms. The most obvious example is connecting your ESP (email service provider) to your CRM. Any data and user engagement (think opens, clicks), absolutely should not be siloed from other first-party data collected by your campaign (think phone banks, IVR, canvassing, donations).

In this case, integration of these siloed data sources amplifies your data.
I thought about putting together a fancy flowchart depicting what this looks like, but then I realized that flowcharts are incredibly boring and uninteresting.

Taking the Party Offline

I know what you may be saying in a condescending tone… “Hey, whatever your name is who thinks your funny. Our donor database was stored in Excel 2000, on our previous campaign manager Todd’s thumb drive, he has since made a fortune on Bitcoin and moved to Argentina. What do I do?”

Well, first of all, screw you Todd for running off with the data. Unfortunately for you however, your data is gone and it ain’t coming back.

This is not an uncommon problem. Keeping data continuity between cycles for campaigns is an organizational challenge, mainly because for 6 – 12 months each cycle, there is no organization.

But, should you be able to ever uncover that offline gem of first-party data, you need to immediately upload it to a CRM or data management platform, or at a minimum to an online data storage platform like Dropbox.

Key Takeaways

  1. First-party data will provide more value to your campaign when compared to second and third party data because the data is acquired by the campaign, directly from the source.

  2. It’s higher quality, but also comes at a higher cost since it requires a lot of time, effort and money to do it right.

  3. Once you acquire first-party data, you need to make it actionable, or you’ve wasted your time, effort and money.

Alright, last one in the series will be how to put the pieces together and build your data program from scratch!

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