How Influencers And Social Media Helped Shape The 2020 Presidential Election
As we touched on a few weeks back, Democratic hopefuls were using paid influencer marketing strategies to gain traction during the early stages of the election cycle. One such example is the Michael Bloomberg campaign, which partnered with influencer meme accounts like @Tank.Sinatra and @KaleSalad to increase awareness. At the time, agency execs told media outlets like Digiday the buzz created by Bloomberg had stirred up an increased interest from political candidates to consider the use of paid influencer marketing strategies.
Now, with the election behind us and a new President on the verge of taking office, the dedicated push to work with influencers and celebrities seems to have born fruit.
It’s abundantly clear that the consumer landscape is changing, and influencers over the past 3-5 years have played an increasingly large role in how brands communicate with potential consumers. Back in 2018, only 39% of marketers said they planned to grow their influencer marketing budget. Fast-forward to 2020, and 65% of influencer marketing budgets will increase. This is largely due to the fact that over the last five years, brands have collaborated with influencers to create a $5-10 billion dollar industry.
With this continued growth and influence (no pun intended) came an increased interest in leveraging these online creators for purposes beyond selling a product or service. Politics seemed like an inevitable destination for influencers, in some capacity. While campaigns in years past may have been more hesitant to employ the services of an influencer, campaigns in 2020 weren’t shy about partnering with social celebrities to help push the message.
So how did influencers help shape the 2020 Presidential Election? Let’s begin with how social media platforms as a whole played into the election and campaigning process.
Social Media Platforms & The Election
For some, the thought of politics and social media brings about an unsettling feeling. Going into Election Day, there was a laundry list of horror stories that could have played out on social media. There was the potential of rampant interference by foreign governments, floods of deliberately false voting information, fast-spreading hoaxes, and much more. The spread of misinformation and foreign government interference riddled the 2016 election and instilled a sense of uneasiness amongst voters heading into this year’s election.
The full scope of how many people used tech platforms during the election may not be discovered for quite some time. Keep in mind that when Russian operatives bought ads on Facebook in 2016, it didn’t become public knowledge until September 2017.
However, times have changed, and since then, tech companies have undergone a series of changes to help stem the flow of misinformation. This includes practices like a more aggressive investigation of secret foreign networks, limiting the types of targeting that advertisers can use, and overhauling policies for posts that could have led to voter suppression. They’ve stepped up their use of fact-checking labels, and in the weeks and months before Election Day, platforms rushed to immunize their platforms against the most unsavory information sources; the known super-spreaders of disinformation and proponents of political violence.
TikTok, the wildly-popular video-sharing app, said it pulled down some videos from high-profile accounts that were making fraudulent allegations about the election. TikTok said these posts violated the app’s policies on misleading information. For platforms like Facebook and YouTube, their policies mostly entailed attaching authoritative information to election-related posts.
Voting Goes Social
In addition to the increased emphasis on informational integrity, social media platforms also aimed to increase voter turnout.
Leading up to National Voter Registration Day, Instagram partnered with TurboVote in an effort to make voter registration as simple as possible for U.S. voters. Instagram connected US voters with the information they needed to get registered, and on Election Day, provided an “I voted” sticker option for users to share their voting experience with the Instagram community.
Instagram utilized ads in both the standard Feed and Stories, giving users an easy way to get up-to-date information on how to register, update their registration, and research their state’s voting rules.
Having said it helped over 750,000 U.S. users get registered to vote, Snapchat announced new voter-focused programming with a wide array of celebrities, including Arnold Schwarzenegger, Snoop Dogg, and former President Barack Obama. The social platform also launched some new Snap Originals themed around the U.S. election.
Twitter also put voter registration in the spotlight. Back in September, all U.S. Twitter users were sent a prompt asking them to register or confirm their voter registration through TurboVote. This reminder prompt supplemented the platform’s existing voting information hub, as well as its #YourVoiceYourVote campaign. Twitter recruited celebrities like Chrissy Teigen and Marshmello to promote a link to Vote.org’s registration check page, adding new hashtag emojis linked to #NationalVoterRegistrationDay and #VoteReady.
We only do marketing that works.
Memes & The Election
In this social-media-driven world we live in, there is no unit of culture that has more currency than the meme. We touched on this recently when examining some of the best trends and memes on TikTok. In what has been a truly chaotic year, the world needs a little bit of humor more than ever.
The week that decided the next U.S. presidency was exhausting, to say the least. The endless news cycle surrounding the monumental event was inescapable, and at times even felt divisive for some. But even if you weren’t glued to the TV for four days straight, you could easily keep tabs on the story of the election simply through the various memes it produced.
While some may scoff at the idea of an election being communicated to the voting public in the form of memes, it shouldn’t be surprising. It’s just the latest example of the place they hold in current pop culture — once again exemplifying an uncanny ability to translate complex emotions and sentiments into easily shareable content. These photos, videos, and text posts offer comfort in times of uncertainty and apparent division.
The sheer amount of memes that were created during this election would make it impossible to overview as a whole; partly due to the fact that most of them are absolutely hilarious. But we selected a few we thought were pretty funny and seemed to set the internet on fire.
Nevada Milking Every Second Of Its Spotlight
With the nation on the edge of its seat in anticipation of the results from the state’s tight race, Nevada was clearly not in the same rush. After announcing Wednesday it wouldn’t be releasing new votes totals until the following day, social media users riffed on Nevada (and other key states’) attempts to prolong their time in the national spotlight attention by counting votes at a tortoise pace.
Meet Gritty: The Secretary Of Defense
The city of Philadelphia became subject to increased interest during this election cycle. After it became clear Philadelphia would be largely responsible for pushing Biden to his forecasted victory, many were offering praise to an unlikely candidate – the Philadelphia Flyer’s mascot Gritty.
Lebron Celebrates Biden
Once it became clear that Biden was going to win, many celebrities posted video reactions to the news. But basketball superstar LeBron James opted to go another route, posting a classic meme. The four-time NBA champion and Finals MVP posted an edited photo of himself blocking a shot from then-Golden State Warriors forward Andre Iguodala during a game in the 2016 NBA Finals. But in this photo, Lebron cleverly superimposed Biden and Trump’s heads onto the image.
Trump Refusing To Leave?
The Friday following Election night, it was reported that President Trump had no plans to concede the election, in spite of a path to victory that was likely blocked. Regardless, memes began sprouting up that predicted the transition of power – often in hilarious fashion.
How It Started/How It’s Going
Another popular meme template — How It Started vs. How It’s Going — made its way into the meme circulation during the election. As they always seem to do, users effortlessly summed up the last four years, putting into perspective just what a historic moment we all just experienced.
Influencers Played Their Part In The Political Sphere
It goes without saying that, in 2020, times are changing. And that means the sentiment of being nonpartisan has all but come to an end. Everyone from newly-founded start-ups to Fortune 500 companies is stepping forward and letting consumers know where they stand on important social issues. It’s one of the many reasons that the ‘partisan influencer’ has become a growing trend in 2020.
In some ways, it’s the dawning of a new era. As this culture of partisan influencers continues to grow and take hold of our social feeds, their influence over the thoughts and opinions of their audiences will grow as well. But what role did social media and influencers have on the 2020 election?
Well, for one, it’s not only politicians who utilized influencer strategies for the election. Celebrities and brands alike leveraged their influencing power to help sway and encourage votes. One great example of this is what David Dobrik did back in August. Dobrik has a history of giving away cars to his followers and sharing the experience on his Youtube channel. During the election cycle, Dobrik decided to extend the same giveaway incentive to potential voters. He directed fans via his Instagram page to a voter-registration portal managed by HeadCount.org, and nearly 120,000 people registered to vote. This is significant because it was the single largest voting drive in the 16-year history of HeadCount.
Influencer Tactics Utilized To Generate Awareness
Influencer campaigns during the election cycle used numerous tactics to generate awareness. This includes utilizing the right social platform, fastidious timing and targeting, maintaining authenticity, and making sure they have all their contracts and messaging covered from a legal perspective.
Here’s the interesting thing about influencers; they have an innate ability to drive philanthropic movements, and their audiences typically have very similar interests and beliefs as they do. This all but eliminates the risk of conflicting views or feedback being incorporated into the messaging. This can be seen in how influencers develop their own brands (material and image), where they’re becoming a major part of the overall consumer market. This is because their followers align so closely with their likes, dislikes, taste, etc.
Some young voters said whether it’s coping with COVID-19 or waiting days for election results, dark humor is the main tool Gen-Z uses to cope with ambiguity. This is why memes were so prevalent during the election cycle this year. But as we highlighted throughout this piece, influencers and social media played a huge role in this year’s election. As we continue to advance towards a more online and mobile-driven media, it’s likely that the power influencers hold over their audience will only continue to grow. So while we will have to wait another four years to see how they will affect the next election, we expect even further implementation of influencer strategies in the coming years.