How Influencers Could Swing the Presidential Election

  • by , Op-Ed Contributor, March 15, 2016

In the thick of a close presidential race, candidates are turning over every stone to attract as much support as possible. One big stone, however, seems to be left largely unturned. Most candidates are ignoring a sizeable and significant group: millennials.

This isn’t to say the candidates are not targeting them at all -- they are targeting them incorrectly.

This reality was brought up in a Mark Cuban blog post. He offered some free advice for this year’s candidates: Get more involved on social.

Cuban accurately pointed out that a majority of millennial voters now look to social media for the latest political information, and questioned why the candidates weren’t taking advantage of such an opportunity.

Cuban noted that a candidate could win the youth vote by leveraging social influencers, such as YouTube star Nash Grier. The idea is that candidates could connect to millennial voters through a very influential figure, in their eyes, to gain support, rather than run traditional ads that many might not even see.

This truth was recently backed up by a study covered by eMarketer. The study found that 35% of millennials deem social media ads “extremely to very” effective when it comes to political influence -- the second-most-effective ad format.

Taking this point further, not only are today’s candidates failing to leverage social influencers, they aren’t being effective on social media themselves.

In fact, if you look at the Twitter followers of influential figures like Bill Gates - who has 83 million followers – our presidential candidates are not even scratching the surface on social media.

This year’s top four candidates combine for 27.86 million followers. That is a staggering realization, especially considering that one of those candidates was formerly the First Lady (not to mention Secretary of State), and another was the star of a top-rated reality television show.

That is a staggering realization, but also leaves a big opening for one candidate. Social influencers have a tremendous reach and speak directly to the millennial audience that could swing the presidential vote.

We see many brands today successfully leveraging these social influencers to replace traditional ads. Take, for example, Nestlé. Last June, the brand hired a handful of millennial Periscope influencers to hail in the Summer Solstice with sponsored livestreams featuring their signature Drumstick ice cream.

If we agree that leveraging social influencers would be a strong strategy to employ, the next question would be how the candidates could implement it.

The key to any successful social influencer strategy is choosing the right influencer to tout your brand.

In the candidates’ case, campaign teams should review social influencers’ social networks, blogs, reach and engagement. Do they already talk about things that align with your political campaign?

While having a large reach is important, reach alone can be misleading. If the candidate’s goal is to touch a niche, specialized audience – like millennials – they should be sure the influencers’ followers are engaged so that messages are heard and acted upon.

An influencer campaign should be executed to build momentum and buzz that spreads outside of an influencer’s own social networks. Ultimately, candidates want that buzz to turn into votes at the booth.

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