Florida political candidate Ken Russell gained popularity with a TikTok video in which he urged viewers to register to vote.
During their campaigns, politicians are using social media sites like TikTok more and more.
Social media’s low entrance barrier may help democratize campaigns, according to experts.
Ken Russell refers to his plan as a “vote-trap,” sometimes known as a “thirst-trap” to get voters to the polls.
Artist Skylar Stecker squats and poses in front of the camera in a July video uploaded to Russell’s TikTok account while listening to a Megan Thee Stallion rap. She suddenly changes into a man on the ground dressed in a suit. Asking the audience if they are registered for Florida’s August 23 primary, Russell kneels in front of the camera.
He begs people to return as the video jerks and fades to black, aware that viewers are not there to watch a middle-aged congressional candidate urge them to vote.
Russell posted a comment under his video that described it as “typical political bait and switch.”
Together, Russell’s reply video and the original video received over 7 million views. It is currently one of the most popular videos seen on TikTok under the “political campaign” search results. More than 400,000 people have started following Russell.
TikTok is the future of political communications, according to Russell, a Democrat running for a Florida House seat in the US Congress. However, he said that the platform doesn’t necessitate a “deep political plan.”
Russell, who is currently a member of the Miami Board of Commissioners, claimed he does not have a timetable or a crew that supports him in creating his TikTok material.
He claimed that he frequently scrolls through the app to see which memes are popular right now. Like the typical TikTok user, he then tries to find ways to incorporate his political beliefs with current events and humor.
Getting Gen Z’s attention requires winning the TikTok vote.
A TikTok video Russell made in July parodying the Steve Buscemi “How do you do, fellow kids” meme may best sum up Russell’s videos. According to him, leveraging the platform eventually comes down to a politician attempting to engage younger voters through comedy.
Russell remarked, “It has to do with fun authenticity.” Entertainment comes first, followed by involvement and education.
According to research, younger generations value politicians who are personally relatable. Gen Z users connected with politicians like Reps. Alexandria-Ocasio Cortez and Madison Cawthorn on Instagram, according to a University of North Florida study, because they felt that they shared intimate details about their jobs and personal lives and engaged in two-way conversation.
John Parmlee, one of the study’s authors, revealed to Insider that he had showed Russell’s “vote-trap” video to his Gen-Z son, who said that it was successful because to its relatability and humor.
According to Parmlee, the director of UNF’s School of Communication, “Gen Z is politically engaged, therefore it does make sense for politicians to reach out to them since there are elections to be held.”
It’s obvious that younger people predominate on TikTok, an app with over 1 billion monthly active users, despite the fact that there isn’t much data on how much it influences political campaigns.
Republican strategist Eric Wilson told The New York Times that Republicans frequently try to appeal to older voters with different values, whereas Democrats may find it more profitable to utilize TikTok to win over younger viewers who are more likely to vote for them.
Given that some of the most popular and active politicians on TikTok are Democrats, Democratic politicians may have taken notice of this.
During his 2020 campaign, Massachusetts senator Ed Markey used TikTok. Vermont senator Bernie Sanders has 1.3 million followers on his Twitter. Rep. Tim Ryan of Ohio also utilizes the site to share campaign pledges and insider perspectives on Capitol Hill.
Social media “changed the game” and has led to a more democratic approach to campaigns.
Due to Rep. Nancy Pelosi’s endorsement of Annette Taddeo, the primary opponent Russell is up against, he refers to himself as the “underdog” in the race.
Taddeo campaigns on TikTok as well, and both Taddeo and Russell utilize the app to endorse their campaigns and disparage their rivals.
Whoever prevails in the primary will compete in a general election against freshman Republican Rep. Maria Elvira Salazar. Taddeo currently has a slight lead over Russell in the polls.
But Russell claims that TikTok has given him a sizable audience and he advises upcoming politicians to utilize the site. Nowhere else in the world can you communicate with your audience in such a direct and emotional way without spending money, according to Russell. In actuality, you cannot afford it.
A 2016 study indicated that social media has aided younger, less seasoned, and lesser-known candidates in increasing the quantity and value of donations they get for their campaigns.
According to the survey, donations increased for candidates who shared unique information, employed “anti-establishment” language, or appeared to be knowledgeable about popular issues.
While pre-social media campaigns mainly depended on sponsored commercials, Ananya Sen, an assistant professor at Carnegie Mellon University and one of the study’s authors, told Insider that social media has changed the game.
Sen explained, “Now you may have a viral event that makes you somewhat popular and it can lead to more funnels, getting you name recognition.
Despite TikTok’s enormous audience, it’s still unclear whether newer candidates who use the platform will be successful. According to Insider, candidates including Josh Collins in Washington, Democrat Matt Little in Minnesota, and Democrat Kelly Krout in Arkansas all used TikTok to promote their campaigns but were unsuccessful in 2020.
There have even been winners of elections, though it is unknown how much TikTok had an impact. Sen. Jon Ossoff, a rookie from Georgia who ran for office in 2020 and promoted himself on TikTok, won. Another TikTok user during her campaign, Rep. Christina Haswood, won the Kansas House of Representatives election in 2020.
Russell stated, “If I can win this as the underdog, I think it’s going to say something about the platform because I’ve put a lot of work into it.
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