Soft Serve: The new ways campaigns are reaching voters

With more and more people cutting their cable TV cords, how can political campaigns reach their target audiences?
As is often the case, we can look to our southern neighbours for guidance. Marco Rubio and Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaigns are now actively creating varied, original content and pushing it out through their social channels. By using platforms like Snapchat, Instagram, Facebook video, Periscope and Reddit, these campaigns are sidestepping the media filter and engaging voters on their own terms. And in the age of the 24-hour news cycle,with the social media cabal ready to dissect, parody and express outrage at every turn, message control is crucial to candidate’s ability to focus the larger campaign narrative their favourable issues. Further, creating fresh, genuine content can penetrate the cynical shell of the modern voter, while potentially, earning traditional media coverage of these efforts.

For example, Marco Rubio posted a video of himself on YouTube and Facebook responding to the most common search terms about him on Google. This allowed Rubio to gracefully discuss his religion, background and political beliefs while showcasing his sense of humour. The Rubio campaign has since followed up with another video, where Rubio answers a blitz of sports and political questions while catching (and even dropping) footballs.

Perhaps showcasing a fondness for disappearing messages, Hillary Clinton has been using Snapchat to promote the lighter side of her quest for the White House. This is in addition to Clinton’s active Instagram account, which features quotes from inspiring female leaders, ‘Throwback Thursday’ photos of her and Bill when they were younger, and video testimonials from supporters. These posts are softening Clinton’s image, promoting her issues and helping her reach more voters.
But are Snapchats about ‘just chilling in Cedar Rapids’ just frivolous?
While some social media content might be cringe-inducing, these campaigns understand that creative and original content enhances digital efforts to turn views into engagement, into real action. Someone who sees a Hillary Clinton meme on their newsfeed may become a follower, and later, an email subscriber, donor, or volunteer. Further, original content allows campaigns to test messaging and learn about the demographics and psychographics of their audience. In all, showcasing that like digital, creative content can no longer be treated like an afterthought.
The old political joke that the most dangerous place in Washington is between a politician and a television camera is becoming less and less relevant. But unfortunately for those who thought unplugging their cable meant avoiding political campaigns, tenacious politicians will continue to find new ways to reach you and ask for your vote.
Photo: “I voted!” by Vox Efx