Elections, and election coverage, appeal heavily to those in the know. Reporters and politicians seemingly speak their own language, as the rest of us are left to wade through the endless news coverage and analysis, reading what appeals to our political viewpoints and making gibes at those we oppose.
For a first time voter, this is intimidating.
But not intimidating to a first-time voter is Snapchat.
For those of you who don’t “snap,” no, Snapchat is not a sexting app. It’s a communication app. It’s photo and video sharing, it’s direct messaging, and it’s digital content from the likes of CNN, Vice and National Geographic.
And it’s a big deal.
According to Snapchat News Director Peter Hamby, “60% of US smartphone users between 18–34 use snapchat.”
More people tuned into Snapchat’s coverage of the VMAs (12 million viewers) than the actual award show (5 million viewers). And according to Politico, “About twice as many 18–24 year olds watched the [first GOP] debate on Snapchat [via the Live Story] as on TV.”
These users, call them millennials, call them Gen Z’ers, call them an integral part of our democratic process, are engaging with media in totally different ways than their predecessors. We read the articles that catch our eyes, we rarely tune into cable news shows, and we also don’t know who Jim Webb is. But most importantly, we’re not tied down by a 24-hour news cycle.
“What Snapchat is doing is further democratizing the role of the media in terms of not having to wait for the 24-hour news cycle,” said the director of Harvard’s Institute of Politics, John Della Volpe. “It could be the Snapchat election.”
In a recent interview on The Ticket, Hamby agrees.
“You have this huge audience of first-time voters who are coming to this for the first time. So instead of narrowing the focus of the election and it just being an ecosystem of reporters and insiders talking to each other about ‘insidery’ things, we get to educate and explain and hopefully invite people into the process and I think that’s actually very powerful.”
The 2016 Election Snapchat Story gives users an inside look into election events, a right usually only reserved for residents of New Hampshire or Iowa. Any user within the geofence of the election filter can upload their photos and videos to the Story. Anyone in attendance can report. Anyone with a Snapchat can view.
The result? Election content with a human touch. Compared to the immense amount of daily content and reporting, Snapchat content is a breath of fresh air. And the content disappears within 24 hours, making the Story (and the story) less focused on who captured it and more on the content itself.
Each presidential candidate can use their own Snapchat Story as a glimpse into their daily life on the campaign trail. For those candidates with a weaker following, this will play a huge role in getting their name and face in the minds of first-time voters. And with a 10 second limit for videos and pictures, it’s more entertaining than Rand Paul periscoping his entire day driving through New Hampshire.
Speaking of Rand Paul…
While I tend to not always #StandWithRand’s positions, we share a similar opinion on Snapchat’s impactful role in the election.
“They’ve got me getting on Snapchat, and we reach thousands of kids that we might not ever have reached before,“ Paul said. “In fact, we’re probably reaching some kids who aren’t yet 18, that will be 18 when the elections roll around the next time. If you can get into the different platforms … these are audiences you never would have reached otherwise.”
Rand is onto something here. And I’m not just saying that because we share a head.
Snapchat is a platform built to inform. This is me hungover on a couch. This is my dog dressed up as a pumpkin. This is what I’m eating for brunch. This is Martin O’Malley’s economic policy.
“With Snapchat, we’re putting our content into the pockets of 100 million millennials,” says Viacom sales chief Jeff Lucas. “Snapchat is targeted television on mobile.”
Snapchat layers easily digestible and informative graphics on top of photos and videos covering the election. For example, “Clinton says raising middle class wages and incomes is ‘the defining economic challenge of our time.” For a young voter, these quick tidbits of information resonate more than a tedious recap of Hillary’s latest town hall.
It gets young eyes on the candidates, in a format that is already heavily integrated into their daily lives. While a teenager may have spent the majority of the Republican debate trying to get Ben Carson to vomit the rainbow or Carly Fiorina to balance a monocle on her eye, at least they were watching the debate.
“I think that Snapchat has a unique ability to take you to a place because its video. Because it has a sort of authentic look and feel to it,” said Hamby. And it does feel authentic. Juxtaposed with the hoopla and grandiose of the CNN debate, it’s refreshing to see a Snapchat of Don Lemon dancing backstage.
Users get a taste for the behind the scenes action on the campaign trail and a glimpse of the unfiltered moments. This could prove critical to candidates deemed inauthentic or robotic.
As FastCompany reports, “The TV business…is desperate enough to reach millennials that it is racing to work with Snapchat.” Candidates should be racing to do the same.
Hillary Clinton has stated that she’s “too old for snapchat.” Maybe so. But her volunteers and interns are not. Let them show us an authentic and candid candidate. People behave differently in front of an iPhone camera than in front of a news camera.
Hamby describes John Kasich as one of the best candidates on Snapchat. Kasich, who has two teenager daughters, has taken advantage of Snapchat ads, using their filter feature as a promotional tool.
With this advertising, users are not forced to watch an ad during a commercial break or before a YouTube video. They are engaging with it and choosing to filter their photo or video with Kasich’s ad. As silly as the photos and videos may be, each Snap with the filter is a promotion for Kasich, whether or not they actually endorse him.
For the third GOP debate, Snapchat named their Story the ‘Republican Rumble.’ While it’s safe to say that CNBC’s debate was anything but a Rumble, the debate was competing with a World Series game for viewers, as was Snapchat. The Republican Rumble Story gave movement and narrative to a lifeless debate.
Snapchat has the power to mobilize people to vote. According to Twitter, @LilHale25 only knew it was Election Day on Tuesday because of Snapchat. If Snapchat can get millions of people who wouldn’t otherwise watch a debate, to watch a debate, then it can easily inform millions of young voters that they should vote on Election day.
And Snapchat has the ability to make Election Day look like a super fun holiday. Imagine a first time voter watching Election Day unfold on Snapchat: “Wow, look how cute everyone’s Election Day outfit is! Did the 4th of July come early this year!? OMG, look at the awesome sticker you get! Wow, I’m taking advantage of my constitutional right to take part in one of our country’s founding principles! I heard Peter Kadzis voted, so I will too!”
As we move further into the election cycle and into the primaries, Snapchat will prove to be an important tool to educate our country’s young voters. Candidates who refuse to partake in new ways to engage with these voters will disappear just as quickly as a Snap does.
And what better way to cover Trump or Carson’s absurd comments than with a video that disappears just as quickly as it’s played? Snapchat’s onto something here. Watch it, replay it once if you have to, laugh, and then move on. There will always be another.