How Social Media is Changing Campaigning this Election Year

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How Social Media is Changing Campaigning this Election Year

The 2016 presidential race is an anomaly. Not only having become a spectacle akin to The Voice or American Idol, the 2016 race is buzzing throughout social media, and may be the first major race to directly target Millennials.

Millennials, or Generation Y, are the digital generation born between the early 1980s and early 2000s. The majority of them are of working age and voting age. Their votes matter during this race more than ever. With the majority of this demographic being unlikely to pay attention to traditional news outlets, how has this race captured the Millennial generation in overwhelming numbers?

1. The Global Conversation
This presidential race centers on the internet more than any before it, and this is due in part to attempts to track down Millennial votes. Millennials are the first generation to have experienced the internet for most (if not all) of their lives. They are attached to the global conversation, using the internet more than most other generations, and use it as their main medium to communicate along or against party lines. Campaign dollars are a precious resource, one that isn’t required to create a viral YouTube video or podcast interview.

2. Memes
In many cases, supporters of either candidate have taken it upon themselves to spread political party messages to fellow Millennials the best way they know how. By combining colloquial internet jargon with images of candidates, presidential memes have created a viral sensation for the in-the-know voter.

One notorious example originated on Tumblr: entitled Hillary or Bernie, this series of memes provides a humorous fictitious commentary of both Hillary and Bernie’s presidential platforms, particularly biased in favor of Sanders. The Hillary or Bernie memes spread like wildfire in January 2016 through Tumblr, Reddit and Facebook, earning upvotes of 97% (via Reddit) and 300 likes each (via Facebook).

Anti-Trump memes have also become commonplace, either by juxtaposing an awkward image of Trump against Adolf Hitler quotes or by comparing Trump’s physical appearance to something absurd, like an ear of corn. However risqué the messages, user-created memes have become an effective tool of “viral marketing”, an online-based sect of advertising used to communicate messages quickly across social media platforms and raise brand awareness.


3. Embracing Social Media – snapchat, spotify playlist, instagram
According to a Pew Research Study conducted last year, Millennials choose to use social media as a means to get close and personal with political candidates. Following politicians on Twitter, Instagram, Facebook and even Pinterest has become an effective way to “get to know” politicians—what they like, who they are, how they think outside of the race. It not only affects the 18-29 demographic, but individuals between the ages of 30 and 49 say that they also follow politicians on social media to hear about breaking news before others. And these numbers have been steadily increasing since 2015, with presidential hopefuls taking full advantage of this registered voter following. Hillary Clinton, for example, has adopted a wide array of outlets from Snapchat to a personally curated Spotify playlist to soften her image, making her more relatable to voters.



4. Quirky Merchandise
Unrelated to either party’s national committee, more fan-created merchandise has come out of this year’s presidential race than any election in recent memory. Where Obama had the “Change” campaign, Bernie and Hillary have a wacky assortment of merchandise created by avid Millennial supporters. From Bernie coloring books, to quirky T-shirts, Bernie prayer candles, and “Feel The Bern” lighters, the Sanders Revolution has created an assortment of tongue-in-cheek items by Millennials for Millennials. Hillary isn’t far behind. Equipped with slogans like, “Love trumps hate,” and “Herstory,” fans have created a brand awareness of Hillary’s personal history. Items branded with “Hillary Can Do It” in Rosie Riveter garb and “Yas Queen” portray Hillary’s unrelenting dedication to the presidency through a pop-culture commodity lens.

5. Celebrity-Approved
Most recently, Red Hot Chili Peppers and Vampire Weekend agreed to headline for a Los Angeles area Bernie Sanders concert fundraiser. Sanders has acquired a multitude of celebrity pals to spread his platform and persuade young voters. The most “viral” of which was the interview conducted by Killer Mike in an Atlanta barbershop. The six-part interview earned more than 250,000 views each and solidified Killer Mike as one of his most buzzworthy celebrity endorsers. Bernie seems to have his fingers on the pulse of what grabs Millennial attention.

Celebrity endorsement in marketing reveals strong ties to personal branding. For example: “I identify with Angelina Jolie, if she wears Covergirl, Covergirl must be a great product, for it has earned her favor.” Similarly for the presidential race, the candidates’ beliefs are reflected through the friendships they keep, a similar effect to popularity by association.

For Sanders, his strong endorsement by Killer Mike placed him squarely within the #blacklivesmatter discussion, a topic that later proved to be a hot-button issue for both parties after high-profile bouts of police brutality. Sanders’ endorsement and candid discussion of race in the video series chronicles his political beliefs through a medium that is free to watch and share.

Where Bernie has earned some praiseworthy friendships, Trump received the oddest of celebrity endorsements, among them Sarah Palin, Loretta Lynn, and Hulk Hogan. These friendships align him more closely with a particular demographic, one that likely works in his favor, and one that would be supportive and impressed by this variety of celebrity endorsement.

Knowing where your target market lives online is becoming an increasingly more important aspect of branding and brand awareness, and Creative Juice is here to help. The 2016 Presidential Race exposes the breadth of online marketing, and how cutting-edge design and copywriting can be used to find your audience.