The landscape of political campaigning has undergone a seismic shift with the advent of social media influencers. No longer confined to traditional forms of endorsements, political figures now leverage online personalities to tap into their vast and often younger-skewing audiences. This strategic evolution speaks volumes about the power of modern communication and the changing face of voter engagement.
Engaging the Youth: The Power of Relatability 🥳🥳
Today’s young voters live online, consuming content that speaks to their interests, aspirations, and values. Understanding this, campaigns have turned to influencers who command the rapt attention of millions. These influencers, often seen as peers by their followers, have the unique ability to humanize political figures, who might otherwise seem distant or out-of-touch.
In the 2020 U.S. elections, we witnessed an unprecedented rise in such tactics. The Biden campaign orchestrated a strategic push on platforms favored by younger demographics, like Instagram and TikTok. Notable was the campaign’s collaboration with beauty influencer Jackie Aina, who hosted a candid conversation with Kamala Harris, earning hundreds of thousands of views and driving substantial engagement.
Source: Forbes, “Beauty Influencer Jackie Aina Talks With Kamala Harris About The Race For The White House,” 2020 (https://www.forbes.com/sites/jenniferford/2020/10/31/beauty-influencer-jackie-aina-talks-with-kamala-harris-about-the-race-for-the-white-house)
The Double-Edged Sword of Influencer Advocacy ⚔️💻
But the use of influencers in political campaigns is not without its complexities. While their endorsement can make politics relatable and accessible, particularly for younger voters potentially experiencing political fatigue, it also blurs the lines between entertainment and statecraft.
The key concern is the depth and authenticity of these endorsements. Are influencers genuinely politically informed and passionate, or is their advocacy a mere transaction? The Fyre Festival fiasco serves as a cautionary tale — influencers promoted the event extensively, but it disastrously failed to meet any of its glamorous promises.
Source: The Guardian, “Fyre: the greatest party that never happened – behind the scenes of a music festival fiasco,” 2019 (https://www.theguardian.com/tv-and-radio/2019/jan/14/fyre-the-greatest-party-that-never-happened-netflix-documentary-billy-mcfarland)
Navigating the Influencer Terrain with Prudence 🗺️📌
Given these nuances, political campaigns must navigate influencer partnerships with careful consideration. Vetting is crucial, ensuring that an influencer’s values align with the candidate’s. It’s also prudent to foster genuine advocacy by providing influencers with deep dives into policy and direct dialogue with candidates.
Furthermore, campaigns can encourage influencers to mobilize followers for specific actions such as voter registration drives, participation in town halls, or virtual campaign events. In 2016, for instance, YouTube stars The Try Guys hosted a ‘Streamys Special: A Streamy for Good’ event, encouraging voter registration, leading to a spike in registered voters.
Source: Tubefilter, “The Try Guys Hosted A ‘Streamys’ Special To Encourage Voter Registration (And It Worked),” 2016 (https://www.tubefilter.com/2016/11/08/try-guys-streamys-special-voter-registration)
The Future of Digital Campaigning ✨✅
As we look ahead, the fusion of influencer culture and politics is likely to deepen. The reach and impact of these digital personalities are undeniable. However, it is the responsibility of political campaigns to ensure this innovative approach enhances democratic engagement authentically and ethically.
Political influencers represent a dynamic intersection of pop culture and politics, a trend that acknowledges the reality of the digital age in our social fabric. Their rise is a testament to the evolving mechanisms of political engagement and the continual quest to bridge the gap between the governing and the governed, particularly the digital-savvy younger electorate. With careful strategy, this fresh approach can invigorate political discourse and democratic participation for the modern era.