Empty seats at Trump's Tulsa rally & Biden's Instagram livestreams demonstrate social media influencers' political clout


We’ve long-known that influencer-generated content on TikTok sells stuff. In the UK 30% of 16-24-year-olds report being influenced to buy a product or service as a result of seeing Tiktok influencer content according to Takumi, an influencer marketing platform. The percentage rises to 40% of Generation Z in Germany.

But influence is the ability to change opinions, behaviours and actions. The outcomes of influencer content can have remits above and beyond shifting product. 

Last Saturday US president, Donald Trump, spoke at a rally in Tulsa, Oklahoma. A week ahead of the rally Brad Parscale, the chairman of Trump’s re-election campaign, took to Twitter to boast of over a million ticket requests to the event.

An infinitesimal proportion turned up. The fire marshal for the Tulsa Fire Department counted just 6,200 scanned tickets of attendees according to a New York Times article. 

What gives?

TikTok users claimed they had registered potentially hundreds of thousands of tickets for the campaign rally with no intention of attending. They urged their followers to do the same. Their efforts: a political statement against Trump’s re-election campaign.

Potentially more damaging to Trump’s team than the no-shows at the event will be the false positives thrown up in the surrounding data.  Pollsters will now be unable to pore of the data of those who those who registered for tickets. They will not be the sway voters the Trump team will be pushing to commit.

Joe Biden taps into influencer marketing

TikTok influencers with anti-Trump sentiment are not the only way political campaigning is reshaping for the 2020 elections.

Democratic presidential hopeful Joe Biden is tapping into influencers’ authority and audience in a bid to get in front of young voters during the pandemic.

Last week, influencer marketing agency Village Marketing set up video calls between Biden and six social media influencers: Khadeen and Devale Ellis, Allison Holker, Keke Palmer, Bethany Mota, and Jerry Harris. 

The creators hosted Instagram livestreams with the former vice president and posted short videos on their accounts.

Importantly the influencers were not paid for their efforts. Vickie Segar, founder of Village Marketing, told Business Insider: “None of these influencers are paid, and many will tell you this is not even an endorsement. That's what I think is so authentic and awesome about this campaign and this approach. We picked people who have the right voice or the right audience to have a topical conversation." 

Earlier this year Michael Bloomberg sought the youth vote by attempting to capitalise on influencer-generated content and meme accounts. The move pushed Facebook into hastily drawing up guidelines for influencers who create sponsored content for politicians and political campaigns.

"Where influencer marketing gets flak is this idea that you pay influencers, and they say something that they don't believe in," Segar told Business Insider.

Segar believes Biden’s influencer marketing approach differs starkly from that of Bloomberg’s: "We allowed people who are completely undecided to get on the phone with Biden. When we compare it to the Bloomberg campaign where influencers were paid, and they had a very scripted approach, we were doing completely unpaid, unscripted conversations with real people."

Influencer marketing is now recognised as a legitimate comms channel enabling, politicians, governments & NGOs to tap into sectors not reached by traditional media.

Scott Guthrie is a professional adviser within the influencer marketing industry. He is an event speaker, university guest lecturer, media commentator on influencer marketing and active blogger. He works with brands, agencies and platforms to achieve meaningful results from influencer marketing. That tells you something about him but it's not giving you a lot of detail, is it? So, read more here.

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