How Taylor Swift, Snapchat, And Millennial Marketers Are Changing The Political Game
Updated: Sep 18
Capturing the youth vote can make the difference in a candidate’s victory or defeat. Historically, 18-29-year olds have performed below expectations. In 2018, voter registration has skyrocketed. The question is whether the actual number of votes cast by 18-29 year-olds will match this expectation.
The initial signs are promising. According to The Institute of Politics at Harvard Kennedy School, the demographic comprised of Gen Z and millennials will be making it to the polls in high numbers this midterm election; especially in comparison to only 17.1% of 18-24-year-olds who voted in the 2014 midterms. In their latest survey, they found that 40% report they will "definitely vote" with student debt elimination, affordable health care and the labor economy driving interest.
In this current divisive political atmosphere, celebrities, brands, and political campaigns have all galvanized voters to register for the midterm elections. They’ve utilized millennial marketing tactics to make registration easier for digital natives. Here are three ways that marketing and community engagement activations have led to this historical voter registration.
Influencers encouraged their communities.
Celebrities have always had a voice in politics. Now with the rise of social media, it is easier than ever to encourage action by leveraging content and communities. This was most noticeable when Taylor Swift claimed her political voice. She posted her viewpoints to her 112 million Instagram followers and directed them to Vote.org which received 400,000 new registrations nationwide for people under the age of 30 in 72 hours.
Kamari Guthrie, Director of Communications at Vote.org, elaborates on this historical moment: “Taylor had such an impact because her message was genuine and heartfelt. When fans see their role models engage on important issues, they follow suit. Influencer marketing -- from both sides of the aisle -- has become a power for good this political season.”
Social media influencers also tapped into their communities to promote voting. Monique Coleman of High School Musical fame partnered with Firework app to encourage Gen Z’ers to get involved in politics. She did so with the “America To Me” campaign and asked users to express patriotism through video content creation. She also produced her own short, catchy videos titled “One bad day can equal four bad years” and “If you want change, you have to work for it.” Coleman explains: “I am very passionate about using my platform to motivate and inspire youth. The “America To Me” Challenge allowed me to engage with users in a way I wouldn’t be able to on my own.”
Influencers setting the stage for crafting content and galvanizing communities leads to a trickle effect with fans energizing their own friend circles and driving voters to register and then, hopefully, to the polls.
Social media platforms formed strategic partnerships.
Snapchat and Instagram are the social media platforms most used by the 18-29-year-old demographic. Because of this, TurboVote worked with both platforms to increase voter registration. Snapchat did so through coding voter registration directing into the User Profile page and sending a custom video message to all users with a link to register.
Jennifer Stout, Snap’s Global Head of Public Policy, emphasizes their commitment to voter registration: "Voting is one of the most important forms of self-expression we have, and we're committed to empowering our community to register and vote for their chosen representatives." Snapchat’s voting initiative led to over 400,000 Snapchat users registering and 600,000 signing up to receive election reminders.
Snapchat filters and Instagram stickers increase awareness and virality. On National Voting Registration Day, Snapchat created a special filter that will run throughout the election designed for sharing Snapchat selfies to remind friends to vote. Instagram is working with Get to the Polls to help voters find their polling location on election day integrating by using the “I Voted” stickers in Instagram Stories. These integrations propel social media users to create a viral loop for voting by crafting content, sharing to their communities, and then taking offline action.
Mobile communication focused on personalization.
With millennials and Gen Z’ers focused on one-to-one personalized communication, the increase of mobile texting as a way to reach voters emphasizes how constant communication can elevate voter engagement and registration.
Roddy Lindsay, CEO of Hustle, a texting-software startup, is working with political clients and sees first-hand how text messaging is having an incredible impact on campaigns like Gina Ortiz Jones’, a Filipina-American and former Air Force intelligence officer and Iraq War veteran. She is running for the US House of Representatives to represent Texas's 23rd district and has utilized peer-to-peer texting as a key strategy. Gina's team has been creative with the content they share to spark real conversations. On Halloween, they asked voters if they are voting early with a ghost gif leading to fun and genuine interactions.
“Personalization on social media and mass emails is a good start, and the next phase is humanization: having an authentic conversation with a real person over messaging.” explains Lindsay. “Every marketer struggles to reach young people with existing channels -- email, direct mail, voice calls -- and in the political world, there is so much urgency to reach and activate young people. The 2018 midterm elections are the tip of the sphere in terms of the shift to real-time, one-to-one private messaging as the key channel for driving results for marketers.”
What the future holds
These efforts in storytelling and technological implementations have already broken voter registration records, but the true test will be at the polls. With this generation polling as more fearful than hopeful, it will be up to them to go beyond a simple swipe up or a tap on the phone to implement change.