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Rooster Reacts: Influencer Marketing in the US Election 2020

Rooster Reacts: Influencer Marketing in the US Election 2020
6 November 2020 James Brooke

The results are in and the winner is… inconclusive. At the time of writing, it looks like Joe Biden might just edge out President Trump in the race to become the 46th POTUS, and, if we’re being honest, this razor-edge finale is probably the most fitting end to one of the tightest run elections in modern memory.

Throughout the campaign, both candidates have used every weapon in their colossal arsenal to grapple for the top spot, but the politicians’ use of social media is what’s got the Rooster team talking this week.

From the ethics of influencer marketing in politics, to political memes, here’s what the Rooster team think:

Hannah Carlisle, Senior Account Executive

“Well thank God election week is nearly over! Having kept up with the campaigns and their adventures in social media since the primaries, it’s not a huge surprise to me that the race was so nail-bitingly tight.

After four years of a Trump presidency, and with the help of Bloomberg’s billions, I thought it would be an easy thing for the Democrats to come up with a slick social media strategy that clearly pointed out Trump’s shortfalls, while highlighting Biden as an obvious choice. But Biden’s campaign just seemed…bland? Lacklustre?

The Democrats knew Trump would go in, klaxons blaring and all guns blazing with emotionally charged Facebook ads portraying him as the USA’s ‘saviour’. But Biden had no counterattack; he hedged his bets on safe options, enticing upper-working class, white males and promoting voter turnout, rather than generating the same emotional fervour.

Now, while I absolutely agree that Biden’s measured and professional approach to social media is certainly more presidential in style, and maybe even what bought him the all-important centrist vote that Hillary lost in 2016, it certainly didn’t do enough to quell the heat generated by Trump’s own campaign. You need only look at the current protests at polling centres to see who has generated the most heated support.”

Zac van Manen, Senior Social Manager

“Bloomberg, of all people, got pretty savvy on social by embracing meme culture on Twitter and Instagram to drive awareness of the candidate’s run for the top job, while also parodying the nature of a billionaire running for office with memes in the first place.

By broadening the definition of ‘influencer’ out from just single individuals to accounts/channels/platforms that have significant reach — like big meme accounts — Bloomberg was able to go hard, fast, and public with a native, social-first strategy aimed squarely at the young voters who historically haven’t turned out.

The most interesting hook of the Bloomberg campaign was screenshots of hip but still on-brand DMs from the former New York mayor to potential voters.

It was an expensive campaign, the kind that only a fintech ex-NYC chief can pay for, but it went over pretty well across the board on Instagram and Twitter and, for a brief moment, made the election seem like one that could be between two Manhattan billionaires.

When it became clear Bloomberg wasn’t going to get the party behind him as the candidate, he lent his significant financial support behind future nominee — and nearly President-elect — Joe Biden. With Biden having now received the most votes in American history, and with only one state between him and the White House, it might be the splashiest influencer campaign of all time.”

Emma Arthurs, Account Director

“My first and foremost belief is that I support anything that inspires people, and especially young people, to exercise their democratic right. Whether that’s encouragement via dinner table discussions, classroom debates, TV ads or social media posts. However, looking into it further sparks concern for me about the ethical implications of money being funnelled into political influencer marketing and what it might lead to.

At the end of the day, the candidates have themselves to promote and a mark in the ballot box is a sale for the biggest political ‘company’ in the world, the United States of America. I think the biggest concern comes when predominately millennials or Gen Z followers are not aware of what is happening on their news feeds.

The social giants have made moves to clamp down on political content the week before the election, as well as fake news, but I’m not sure if is this enough to combat the blurred lines that are being fed to the impressionable by influencers that are hired because they look and talk like them? Yes, influencers have to declare they are being paid, but apart from that is there any regulation on the specifics of this new form of digital propaganda? Can influencers make the stories so dramatic and emotive that you forget the political meal you’re being fed? Or is it all fair game? It’s just authentic content, right?”

Jo Kendall, Account Director

“Celebrity endorsement when it comes to politics makes me feel a bit icky, because how can a multimillionaire celeb relate to the issues of “normal” people? Celeb endorsement was a key component of Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaign, but this irked both voters and media critics. This was interesting because Donald Trump is a wealthy celebrity and TV star and still secured the Presidency. Double standards at play here.

That being said, there is no getting away from the fact that celebrities and influencers have influence and social media is one of the only ways to engage with young voters. It’s a fine line that politicians have to tread, but some politicians do get it right (see AOC on IG and Twitch) and use social media to great effect. And there is no denying the fact that celebrities can get more people registered to vote, even if they can’t sway the outcome of an election.”

Though we may still be waiting to see exactly how these varying strategies will affect the final outcome of the election, the tactics demonstrated to date will have already been watched by eagle-eyed politicians here in the UK, for use in future campaigns. We’ll be keeping our own Rooster eyes peeled too, to analyse exactly what we can learn from both sides of this heated election to adapt and finesse our use of social media for years to come.