FLASHBACK: Messina Touts 2012 Obama Campaign's 'Targeted Sharing' Technique on Facebook

March 20, 2018

Barack Obama campaign manager Jim Messina in 2013 touted the 2012 campaign's use of "targeted sharing" on Facebook to use supporters as a way to persuade their undecided friends and family to support Obama.

A former Obama campaign official said this week that Facebook allowed the team to access data and information to a degree it wouldn't normally allow, except "they were on our side."

Messina discussed the campaign's use of "big data" to propel Obama to victory in 2012 during the Milken Institute's global conference in 2013.

"We decided on the first day of the campaign to use data across department, because we thought it was the best avenue to the truth, and we ended up using data to inform almost every major decision we did in the campaign, and we had a singular goal to run a personalized campaign, where you got a different campaign than you did, all based on our ability to move you and persuade you to vote and support Barack Obama," he said.

"And there's 332 electoral votes that show it worked," Messina added. Obama trounced Mitt Romney in the electoral college, 332-206, and he also won a majority of the popular vote for the second time, a rare feat for any president.

Messina noted a sea change in social media between 2008 and 2012; his tech team began to use targeted sharing to get Obama re-elected.

"We built this thing called targeted sharing ... It allowed us to use Facebook to persuade people," he said. "We spent a billion dollars to figure out a simple truth: What your friends and family and neighbors say is more important to your consumer decisions and your political decisions than anything else because you're getting so much data thrown at you."

He touted how the campaign told people targeted on Facebook to share videos with specific friends who were being also targeted by the campaign.

"So the final six days of the campaign, six million people logged onto Facebook through, and they saw a 20-second Michelle Obama video, because everyone loves Michelle Obama," Messina said. "And at the end of the 20 seconds, we had matched our data with their data, and we gave them five of their best friends who are undecided voters, and said, 'Click here to send them a video, click here to send them information.' Of those people, 78 percent of them voted for Barack Obama."