It's an ambitious goal considering only 40% of registered voters go to the polls in mid-term elections but looking at where we started, where we've gone, and our ideas going forward, iSideWith is poised to accomplish this goal.
Where We Started: 2012
iSideWith launched in April of 2012 with the goal of getting voters engaged in the 2012 election. In less than 4 months it grew from zero to 3 million users. That growth came from specific social features on the site, mostly users comparing and discussing answers with their friends. Users were surprised and fascinated to see they sided 36% with their Mom, 78% with their Dad, and 99% with an old childhood friend on Facebook.
The site was highly addictive. 26% of users would share their answers, which influenced on average 9 of their friends to try the site. We called this number their "influence score" and placed it on every user's page so they could come back and watch the uptick in how many people they influenced to take the quiz. Even celebrities started getting in on it with the highest influence scores coming from Kim Kardashian (417K), Drew Carrey (52K), and Roger Ebert (35K). As more users shared and discussed their results with their friends and family our Facebook developer stats exploded, showing over 3 million discussions posted on iSideWith results pages in October 2012. Users were engaging on a massive scale.
On November 6th, 2012 (election day), our servers were processing 80,0000 answers/minute (thanks to cloud computing, we were processing amounts of data that two years before would have been impossible in the startup world). In six months, over 6 million Americans were engaged in the 2012 election from iSideWith, but that was only 3% of all potential voters. The site grew exponentially, but we simply didn't have enough time to reach all 207 million potential voters.
This election year we are starting 4 months early, with a base of 8 million users, and 800K new users per month. That's quite a head start.
Where We've Gone: 2013
After the 2012 election, we took a step back to conceptualize what new ideas and technology could be used to further engage Americans in politics and voting, all while remaining one of the leanest and most agile two-employee startup teams out there.
We started 2013 with a goal to create the most personalized news experience on the internet, using the advantage of context. The quality of personalized news is based on two factors: filter and rank. Filtering articles down to topics you are interested in is easy. Ranking articles, by aggregated reading trends, is where we have the advantage of context. A typical personalized website knows how interested you are about an issue but they don't know how you "feel" about an issue. An average iSideWith user submits their level of interest and how they feel about a range of 48 issues. Organizing that users feelings into an overall belief set, and using the reading trends of users within that same belief set, creates an ultra-precise metric to determine what articles "you" will find the most interesting. And we mean interesting, not dogmatic. If another user liked an article that insightfully challenged their viewpoint, and they matched 99% of your beliefs, it would rank higher for you because they found the opposing viewpoint interesting. This high quality newsfeed works for you analyzing over 10,000 articles and blog posts a day to keep you updated on breaking news about issues that matter to you.
Our second goal of the year was to organize and categorize the results submitted to our quiz into individual polling pages, and allow users to dissect the overall results to see trends in public opinion by geography, historical data, and how news events change public opinion on individual issues. Once launched, we then mapped results to the U.S. Census Data to show public opinion on issues by Income, Race, Education, and Household. This section has been the most popular aspect of the site, increasing traffic by 5x, with the most popular of the polling pages being breaking current events issues such as the Government Shutdown.
Where We Are Heading: 2014
Last week, we added the first batch of local state ballot measures that are on (or gathering signatures for) the 2014 ballot to our political quiz. Users can now see which issues will be on their 2014 state ballot, what all the sides to the issue are, and see how they align with their friends and family. Once up, we immediately saw share rates increase by 17% and discussion about the local measures have exploded. Which leads to our next idea.
#1 Unwritten Rule: "Never discuss religion and politics with strangers. You're bound to offend or be offended." Most political forums, including our own Facebook comments, are incredibly heated and counter productive. We'd like to change that by allowing users the choice of who and how they would like engage in political discussion. Just like our news section allows you the choice to see news articles that support or challenge your viewpoints, we are building a discussion forum that lets you choose to enter a friendly discussion with someone that shares your beliefs, or challenge yourself by engaging in discussion with someone who matches the exact opposite of your beliefs. By knowing the type of discussion you are entering, and who you are entering it with, we feel this will lead to much more healthy and productive political discussion. If you would like to be the first to try this feature, let us know, and we'll alert you when it's ready.
On the candidate side, we will be launching campaign management tools allowing leaders and new candidates in all elected government positions to post their stances on key hyper-local issues, gain insight into local voting trends, and gain support directly from voters in their district. If you are an elected official or will be running for office, contact us to get a head start on connecting with voters.
On the user side, we are developing a user account system that will allow users more flexibility in updating their positions, supporting local measures and candidates, create news alerts, and print a cheat sheet of their stances on each ballot measure to take to the voting booth.
Our goal is to help make 2014 the highest American election turnout ever. By giving American voters breakthrough technologies to stay updated (news), develop (discussions), and organize (quiz) their political beliefs, we feel that Americans will be more prepared and excited to participate in this year's election than ever before.
Join us on this journey by submitting your thoughts / ideas or by sharing this page and vision of making 2014 the highest American election turnout ever.