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Politicians and political candidates face three major problems. It’s expensive and challenging to know how well they are performing, many candidates lack visibility, and many know social media is important but don’t know where to start.
PoliticIt helps address these issues. PoliticIt provides It Scores on candidates and politicians that let them know how well they are performing relative to their competitors in elections, and colleagues while in office. The It Score predicted 91 percent of all federal elections correctly. PoliticIt helps politicians and candidates gain visibility by providing political profiles for every candidate on PoliticIt.com. Finally, PoliticIt helps politicians better utilize social media through its campaign and incumbency social media management software, PoliticIt Candidate.
MO: What inspired you to launch PoliticIt?
Sterling: I formed a relationship with a team of talented individuals while competing in the Microsoft Imagine Cup Competition in 2010. We continued to work together on various projects since that time. About a year before the election, presidential candidate Jon Huntsman sent out a controversial tweet about siding with scientist on evolution and global warming. We noticed many web metrics outside of Twitter reflected the excitement this tweet caused for Jon Huntsman’s campaign. We thought it would be fun to track politician’s digital activities in a website setting and PoliticIt was formed. PoliticIt seemed like a great way to combine the programming, statistical, design, social media, and marketing skills that the team of six co-founders had.
MO: How has your background and experience helped contribute to the direction and vision of the company so far?
Sterling: I’ve been fascinated with how the performance of an entity’s social media out often reflects the performance of that entity. I did research on the social media performance of Utah ski resorts and noticed the top social media performers were also often the top visited ski resorts. I did similar research on U.S. business schools and found the same results. This background has been helpful in analyzing the social media performance of politicians.
MO: Can you explain what an IT Score is and the process behind developing it?
Sterling: The It Score is a measure of digital influence. We have found a close correlation between a political candidate’s It Score and her chance of winning a seat in office on election day. We use machine learning to evaluate and compute multiple social media and other digital variables surrounding a politician or political candidate and assign each an It Score. These It Scores allow a candidate to see how she is performing relative to her competitors. When it’s not campaign season, an It Score allows a politician to know how she is performing relative to her colleagues – it’s a free way for candidates to measure sentiment, and it’s more than 91 percent accurate based on our 2012 election prediction results.
MO: Social media is more prevalent now more than any other election in history. How do you think that it’s changing the political landscape and do you think that are any distinct advantages or disadvantages to this new social media playing field?
Sterling: Social media has given every citizen the potential for a more powerful voice. Even in the last year, social media has been credited with overturning the Stop Online Piracy Act bill. As a result of the increased power and ability citizens have to voice their opinion, politicians have needed to become better listeners. This increase in communication has led to more opportunities for political gaffs.
MO: What have been the most common themes and topics you and your team have been discussing or debating around the office this week?
Sterling: We recently finished a 48-state tour meeting with and interviewing federal politicians and candidates. We’re currently focused on putting the final touches on our software PoliticIt Candidate while maintaining or relationships we built with politicians across the nation.
MO: If you could give each candidate a tip or feedback on their digital strategy or standing what would you say to them?
Sterling: My biggest tip to politicians who made it in to office is to make sure that their online social media outlets are updated consistently with content their followers finds valuable and engaging. Social media is best used as a method of conversation between politicians and constituents – not a megaphone for politicians to disseminate their views without feedback.
MO: Clearly, the election has been very topical but what happens once the election excitement dies down? What are you doing at the state and local levels?
Sterling: Our focus is directed toward launching the beta version of our software PoliticIt Candidate. This software is designed to help politicians and candidates manage and measure their digital influence. Many of the municipal elections across the country will occur at the end of 2013. We will be working with municipal candidates and political incumbents across the board in helping them utilize PoliticIt Candidate to improve their digital performance.
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