A secret digital weapon propelled Rodolfo Hernández to the second round of the Colombian presidential election

On May 29, Rodolfo Hernández, an anti-establishment politician, defied pollsters’ expectations when he qualified for the second round of Colombia’s 2022 presidential election later that month. There he will face Gustavo Petro, the former left-wing mayor of Bogotá.

Much of the international coverage of Hernández’s unexpected success highlighted the candidate’s proliferating use of TikTok – at one point Hernández had more followers on the short-form video platform ahead of the election than any its competitors together, earning it the title of “King of TikTok”. But behind the scenes, the Hernández campaign also appears to have benefited greatly from another digital tool: a low-key SaaS (software as a service) political marketing platform that uses messaging apps to build political support networks for candidates. called Wappide.

In December 2021, the Hernández campaign signed a contract with Wappid, software that on the surface resembles a social network, connecting supporters primarily through WhatsApp, which is used by around 92% of Colombians. But Wappid also uses referral marketing and gamification techniques to encourage registered users to develop their own personal support networks under the Rodolfistas.wappid.com umbrella. The site was built and is operated using Wappid and is the primary link for Hernández’s campaign team with over 500,000 supporters. supporters of Hernández who spoke to Rest of the worldlike Andrés Cabrera, attribute a substantial part of Hernández’s electoral success to Wappid’s network multiplier effect, which he called “the backbone of the campaign”.

“[Hernández] does not fill public places,” said Juan Manuel Corredor, Founder and CEO of Wappid. Rest of the world. “He goes and creates his [digital] network, and the network does the work for him.

Cabrera, a 38-year-old senior volunteer from Hernández, witnessed it firsthand. He grew his own network to over 22,000 users using Wappid, which he says helped automate and scale the digital flyer he previously did manually. Thanks to Wappid, Cabrera has become the hub of a larger network of other rodolfists (supporters of Hernández) who were connected to him via Whatsapp. Through these networks created through referrals, which in turn grew into WhatsApp groups, they organized on-the-ground support, including motorcade gatherings called caravans across the country.

“Having a community of volunteers is important,” said Juan Sebastián Delgado, vice president of the Colombian Association of Political Consultants. Rest of the world. “Because at the end of the day, they are the bearers of the message and the ones who are called upon to perform the final act of a campaign, which is to vote.”

“Referral Marketing Tools [like Wappid] will be the future of political marketing.

Wappid was founded in 2017 and currently operates as 56-year-old Corredor, which took inspiration from benchmark marketing tools to create “the tech solution to winning elections through WhatsApp”. Although Corredor and its core team of a few full-time employees are based in Colombia, it hires freelance engineers and designers to work on projects remotely throughout Latin America. In total, around 20 people normally work on each project.

Built for José Francisco Yunes Zorrilla, then a candidate for local elections in the Mexican state of Veracruz, Wappid’s main customer base so far has been in Latin America and Spain, but the platform plans to launch in the United States and in France next year. The company says it has been used in successful presidential and local election campaigns, including for Luis Abinader, elected president of the Dominican Republic in 2020, and a year earlier for Daniel Quintero, the now-suspended mayor of Medellín.

Rest of the world contacted people involved in the Abinader, Quintero and Yunes Zorrilla campaigns but received no response.


Sebastian Barros/NurPhoto/Getty Images

Wappid deliberately kept a low profile online with Corredor claiming it avoided publicity. Corredor is Colombian and a die-hard rodolfista, so he sold the Hernández campaign exclusive rights to use the platform in the first round of the election for just under $37,000. Now Corredor – which also administers a Facebook group of volunteer rodolfistas – is donating its services to the campaign.

Users who join are encouraged to invite friends via WhatsApp to help Wappid grow networks of activists. There they can receive information, chat with other supporters and share multimedia content. The system is based on prompts to act, rather than the more passive voyeurism of other social media. Once users sign up to Rodolfistas.com, they must share links inviting their friends to do the same through an automated WhatsApp message, as Hernández himself explained in a personal call recorded on the site: ” You have to do it if you want to help me.” In doing so, users create an ever-growing “spider’s web” of networks, to which they are incentivized to constantly invite new people, who invite their friends, who invite their own, etc.

“Referral Marketing Tools [like Wappid] will be the future of political marketing,” said Daniel Palis, CEO and co-founder of Ekkofy, a go-to marketing technology for the private sector, who joked that Wappid could one day become a competitor for his company. . “Every day, the public generates more and more barriers and rejection of traditional political propaganda, and it is a way to group together, to lock oneself in, and get to know a currently atomized audience.

https://wappid.com/ranking

Wappid gamifies user participation by ranking users based on the size of their network. That’s the countryside napa (extra) tweeted journalist Perla Toro, specializing in digital communication.

In return, the top volunteers who invite the most friends are rewarded with personalized voice and video messages from Hernández. Sofía Higuera, a 22-year-old biomedical engineering student who ran Rodolfistas.com and now coordinates the campaign’s call center, says the prospect of direct communication with Hernández attracts voters looking to connect with him. . “I haven’t seen another campaign in which a candidate has that kind of closeness to the people,” she said.

Wappid targets users by inviting them to join networks based on their location or profession, details they are asked to provide when signing up, instead of bombarding them with generalized network suggestions. Delgado believes this segmentation works because users can join groups tailored to their own interests. Wappid’s networks then become a database allowing Hernández’s team to send supporters more personalized information.

As the second round approaches, according to Cabrera, the strategy of Hernández’s team is to increase the Rodolfista user base to 1.2 million users, each of whom is responsible for garnering at least 10 votes to give Hernández the 12 million he needs to win the election. .

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