Ossoff campaign turns to TikTok and Snapchat ahead of special election

On Tuesday, the Democratic Senate campaign for Jon Ossoff plans to launch new accounts on TikTok and Snapchat as part of a new effort to reach young voters in the last few weeks before the Georgia runoff election on January 5th.

The Ossoff campaign TikTok (@jon) account will use video and music trends on the popular platform to highlight the candidate’s policy positions and share voting information for voters in Georgia, according to the campaign. The Snapchat account will be used to share Ossoff’s life on the campaign trail as the special election season progresses.

On November 6th, after days of counting, a runoff election was called between Ossoff and incumbent Sen. David Perdue (R). Perdue received 49.8 percent of the vote to Ossoff’s 47.8, triggering the special election, since Georgia requires candidates to reach a 50 percent voting threshold to be declared winner. A special runoff election is also being held between between Sen. Kelly Loeffler (R-GA) and Raphael Warnock (D-GA), putting the Republican Senate majority in jeopardy if both Democrats prevail.

The coronavirus pandemic upended traditional campaign strategy in 2020 forcing candidates to invest heavily in digital outreach programs. The Ossoff campaign told The Verge that it has made large investments in digital advertising on Snapchat, a platform broadly used by younger people. It will also kick off an influencer program equipping young, non-white influencers based in Georgia with tools to inform their followers about how they can register and participate in the state’s January special election.

The Ossoff campaign also said that it would start a “digital doorknocking” program where volunteers will use social media DMs to reach voters, providing them with voting information and recruiting them as campaign volunteers. Other campaigns, including Pete Buttigieg’s presidential campaign, used DMs to reach voters this year.

The Ossoff campaign says that it has a group of organizers dedicated to registering some of the 23,000 newly eligible voters for the upcoming special election. In the coming weeks, the campaign plans to continue with real-world outreach, making several trips to college campuses for socially-distanced events before the holiday breaks.

Snapchat has proved an effective tool for Democrats looking to register young voters throughout the 2020 election cycle. In September, Snapchat rolled out a host of voting tools for users, including a feature allowing them to register to vote directly in the app. As of October 26th, Snapchat said that it helped more than 1.24 million users with voter registration. Snap said at the time that it reaches more 13-24-year-olds than Facebook, Instagram, and Messenger combined and that 80 percent of US Snapchat users were of voting age.

Throughout the 2020 election cycle, few candidates decided to launch campaign TikTok accounts. Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) and Sen. Ed Markey (D-MA) were two of the only candidates to start accounts on TikToks for their presidential and Senate campaigns respectively. The Sanders campaign was first with his staff using the account to republish original content from supporters onto their feed. The Markey TikTok account relied heavily on reposted content, but the longtime senator was also featured on his feed, participating in timely platform trends with popular audios.

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