Terry McAuliffe

How can a political candidate connect with the right voters in real time to ensure a historic victory?

Key result #1

Terry McAuliffe won Virginia’s 2013 gubernatorial race

Key result #2

14.59% peak Promoted Tweet engagement rate

Key result #3

78% of total paid impressions were delivered on mobile devices

The opportunity

In the 2013 Virginia gubernatorial race, Democratic candidate @TerryMcAuliffe wanted to leverage the digital lessons of the 2012 presidential election and scale them at the statewide level. Voter turnout in odd-year elections can be substantially lower than during a presidential year (45% lower from 2008 to 2009) so @TerryMcAuliffe needed to connect with specific voter audiences and persuade them to cast their ballots for him on Election Day.

The strategy

@TerryMcAuliffe and @BPIMedia developed a rapid response, highly targeted Twitter strategy that maximized efficiency by reaching the most receptive audiences at every stage of the race. As the first state-wide political campaign to use Tailored Audiences CRM segments on Twitter, @TerryMcAuliffe was able to match its voter file list with Twitter accounts and reach the precise voters most necessary to turn out.

Once matched, the campaign was able to deliver a specific, action-oriented “get out the vote” message to the individuals they specifically needed to turn out. And during the last few days of the campaign when it was increasingly important to reach people on the go, wherever they might be, Twitter’s mobile capability was critical.


Throughout the race, the campaign tapped into existing ‘Throw Back Thursday’ (#tbt) conversations on Twitter to connect with key voters in a fun but persuasive way. Promoted Tweets included the popular meme hashtag and embedded rich media featuring stylized images of the Republican opponent paired with a questionable quotation from his past.


The campaign also used keyword targeting to reach a receptive audience in real time during big campaign moments like the gubernatorial debates. Promoted Tweets were developed well in advance around key issues and targeted to broad keywords (“Virginia”, “debate”, “government”) and corresponding hashtags (#vagovdebate and #vagov).


One of the most critical demographic groups for the campaign in the final days of the race was women in suburban Virginia. To capture the attention of this audience, @TerryMcAuliffe partnered with the popular ‘Scandal’ actress, Democrat, and political activist Kerry Washington (@KerryWashington). A few days before Election Day, the candidate’s campaign obtained permission to promote her Tweets and targeted her mobilization message to the most relevant voters using Tailored Audiences.


On Election Day, @TerryMcAuliffe used Twitter to stay top of mind with key voters. Throughout the day, the campaign updated Promoted Tweets to count down to the time polls were closing with the most relevant messaging. Tweets were targeted to mobile devices to connect with people on the go and linked to mobile optimized sites.


Promoted Tweets encouraged voters to tweet their pictures or retweet to show support. Photos of Virginians voting filled @TerryMcAuliffe’s Twitter feed, creating a digital form of “peer pressure” to vote for anyone still on the fence.


TerryMcAuliffe’s three keys to success

  1. Connect to live, relevant conversations.

    Relevancy was at the core of the campaign’s strategy on Twitter. “All of our tactics – #tbt messages, keyword targeting during debates and Promoted Tweets targeted to mobile devices on Election Day – helped our message reach voters at precisely the moments they were either engaged or making decisions about the election. The best part about Promoted Tweets is that they are much less obtrusive than other forms of digital media, especially on mobile. Our message always feels like a relevant part of the conversation,” said Danielle Butterfield from Bully Pulpit Interactive.

  2. Partner with Influencers.

    @TerryMcAuliffe maximized reach in the final days of the race with an influential advocate. “Kerry Washington was a great surrogate for the campaign. She is very active in the Democratic Party and on Twitter. Her fan base was closely aligned with our target audience of turnout voters. She helped our message cut through the noise and get the attention we needed as the race came to an end,” said Alex Kellner, the digital director for Terry McAuliffe’s campaign for governor.


  3. Optimize content for the platform.

    @BPIMedia helped @TerryMcAuliffe’s campaign drive engagement with highly visual Tweets and medium appropriate design. “We were very focused on creating high quality, eye catching images that would catch a voters’ eye as she scrolled through her timeline. We knew Tweets would be auto-expanded, so we tried to leverage large images to tell a story,” said Butterfield.


View from the campaign

“By applying the work we did on Obama 2012 to the statewide election of Terry McAuliffe, we were able to prove that targeted digital campaigns can scale at any level. Tailored Audiences on Twitter ensured that every eyeball we reached was someone that we needed to turn out and vote.”

Andrew BleekerPresident, Bully Pulpit Interactive


“Twitter is a great way to advertise in a contested political campaign because it’s not in your face marketing. It offers a very relevant experience. Tailored Audiences lets you serve Promoted Tweets only to the people that need that extra push to get out and vote. That alone is a huge advantage because it ensures no dollars are misspent.”

Alex KellnerDigital Director, Terry McAuliffe for Governor Campaign and current Director at Bully Pulpit Interactive