Campaigns consistently strategize on how to target voters, engage in genuine conversations, and spark a fire that leads to voter action. Canvassing has an age-old history of reaching voters, with text banks taking advantage of new technology. Today, gaining the attention of young voters involves both old and new techniques.
Young voters are now a good portion of those of legal voting age, meaning campaign outreach must highlight media used by the group. This guide will share insight into how campaigns can use social media to reach young voters.
Snapchat, the popular video, and picture-sending app is used by 188 million users daily. With 71% of users under the age of 34 and 45% of users between the ages 18 and 24, Snapchat has the potential to be an incredibly effective way to reach young people. Three main ways a campaign can use Snapchat are:
- buying ad space
- creating a geofilter, and
- maintaining a public profile
The effectiveness of each depends on a candidate’s name recognition and campaign’s resources.
Buying Ad Space
Users of Snapchat view ads in between looking at pictures posted or sent by friends, typically every 4 to 5 pictures. Because of lower market competition, Snapchat ads tend to be the cheapest of the main social media ads to purchase. However, these ads can be immediately clicked through, so the Snapchat user may or may not actually look at the ad.
Geofilters are location-based images that can be superimposed onto an image the user takes. For example, on election day a campaign could purchase a filter with the candidate’s name and a small picture reminding people to vote within a particular precinct or district. The filter will be seen by anyone on Snapchat within the geographic area, though they can get quite pricey very quickly based on distance and time the geofilter is available to the public.
Maintaining a Public Profile
Finally, a campaign can create a Snapchat user account for the candidate. The campaign’s social media team can post about events and interact with people that subscribe. However, without large name recognition, it is unlikely that users would stumble upon a candidate’s user page without looking for it specifically.
Instagram is a very widely used app by young people to share photos and videos. A campaign can use Instagram effectively by creating a page for the candidate and buying ads. Although Instagram ads are more costly than an ad on Snapchat, there are over 1 billion users of Instagram and growing, and about 60% of users are between 18 and 30 years old. Beware that anywhere between 75-80% of Instagram users are not in the United States.
Twitter, a social networking app, is popularly used by young voters. Similar to Facebook, Twitter focuses on text communications compared to visual-highlighted apps like Instagram or Snapchat. Campaigns can use Twitter to share updates, though young voters tend to engage with posts that aren't word-heavy. The goal of your Twitter campaign should be active followers that retweet, like, and share posts regularly.
Young voters place great value on sincerity and the way a campaign communicates with followers. On Twitter, campaigns can post news stories, particularly stories that display the candidate’s viewpoint of the narrative. This helps build trust among young voters, who tend to care more on which candidate/campaign has a positive track record online and in the media. Campaigns can grow their following through trust networks such as interaction with religious or community leaders.
Today, a campaign’s social media presence is a tool for both parties. Most voters are likely to use candidates’ social media for news updates compared to their website or email, though youth use social media as the main source of campaign info.
Because users interact with each platform very differently, as a matter of personal preference, there’s no foolproof method for how to reach young voters. As a result, we suggest a combination of social media platforms to spread messaging and create a consistent presence on social networks to remain visible to younger voters.