Reaching Young Voters with Social Media

Campaigns are always strategizing ways to target voters, engage in genuine conversations, and spark a fire that leads to voter action. Modern campaigns use multiple methods to reach out to voters, from canvassing, which dates back to Roman times, to text banking, which has become popular in recent years. Getting the attention of any specific group of voters requires reaching out to them where they already are, by using platforms that they already use. 

Young voters are now a good portion of those of legal voting age, meaning that campaign outreach tactics must make use of the same media used by the younger voters. This guide will provide insights to how campaigns can use social media to reach young voters.

Snapchat

Snapchat, the popular video and picture-sending app, is used by 188 million users dailyWith 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 there is no way to know whether a Snapchat user actually looks at a particular ad.

Using Geofilters

Geofilters are location-based images that can be superimposed onto an image the user takes. For example, on election day a campaign could create and 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 set by the campaign. Geofilters can get pricey very quickly based on distance and amount of time that it's 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. It's important for a campaign to build up name recognition simultaneously, however, and put into place a strategy for driving people to it's Snapchat profile. This is because Snapchat does not have the same features that some other platforms have, such as hashtags and suggestions for what pages to follow, like other platforms do. 

Instagram

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 Snapchat ads, Instagram has over 1 billion users, a number which is growing. 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

Twitter, a social networking app, is popularly among young voters. Similar to Facebook, Twitter focuses on text communications compared to visually-focused apps like Instagram and Snapchat. Campaigns can use Twitter to share updates. The goal of your Twitter campaign should be to gain 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 about which candidate or campaign has a positive track record online and in the media. Campaigns can grow their followers by interacting the targeted followers' with trusted leaders, like religious or community leaders.  

Today, more voters are likely to look to a candidate's social media account for campaign updates rather than the campaign's website or emails. Young adults - those aged 19-29 do so more than any other age group. 

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.

Pro Tip: It's important to caption any video your campaign makes, to ensure that it's accessible to your supporters with disabilities. Now, there are apps that will create captions as you record the video, so that those that you share instantly via social media can be captioned with the click of your record button. 

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