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Feb 19 Will Social Media Influencers Drive Voter Turnout in the 2024 Election?

Our recent conversation explored the growing role of influencers in presidential campaigns and whether their impact will expand in 2024. I had the chance to speak with Susan Flower and Courtney D’Aiuto, both senior production managers on the Carusele team who engage creators daily, to get their insights on this trend. You can watch the video below, but if you prefer to read instead, the summary follows the video.

A Look at Influencer Marketing in Recent Presidential Races

Kicking off the discussion, we referenced recent Axios reporting that Joe Biden’s potential 2024 reelection effort plans to utilize “hundreds of unpaid, independent content creators.” These influencers may even get their own media-style briefing room and dedicated staffers. However, this tactic isn’t just for Democrats – Donald Trump’s campaign finance filings show his team spent $1.8 million on an influencer marketing firm for his 2020 presidential run.

As Courtney highlighted, the concept of celebrities or public figures supporting political candidates isn’t new. What’s changed in the social media age is politicians recognizing the power of directly partnering with influencers to reach voters where they already spend time online. She noted high-profile 2020 endorsements for both Biden and Trump, ranging from Hollywood elites to sports stars.

politician influencerGiven some influencers’ celebrity-like status and engaged audiences, collaborating with prominent digital influencers allows White House hopefuls to organically interact with voters, especially younger demographics. These partnerships facilitate more authentic-feeling connections compared to traditional political ads.


Why Influencers Appeal for Voter Persuasion

Delving into why political influencer marketing is expanding, Susan raised an insightful point – Americans largely distrust legacy media, government, and traditional advertising channels. So a candidate making bold promises in a commercial may face skepticism. However, if an influencer endorses a politician because of specific policies or values, their perceived independence and trustworthiness may make that messaging more impactful.

We also discussed how politicians engage with influencers during campaigns. Unlike brand sponsorships, direct payments seem less common currently (though we can’t rule out that they may be occurring in some instances). The most common method is providing influencers special access to candidates, talking points, events, or inside info to organ organically work into their content. For example, Biden supporter Harry Sisson produced a TikTok video featuring Barack Obama. Meanwhile, Trump hosted various conservative creators such as Libs of TikTok at Mar-a-Lago.


Compliance Considerations and Regulations

An important related topic is compliance with Federal Trade Commission endorsement guidelines and platform policies around branded political content. As mentioned, if not disclosed properly, paid influencer posts could violate regulations. Additionally, platforms like TikTok explicitly prohibit politically focused sponsorships. However, it’s not clear the FTC has oversight on political advertising, as that is the purview of the Federal Election Commission which in December of 2023 declined to require disclosures on individual posts.

While mandated disclosures could help address this issue, unpaid influencer political activism generally falls under First Amendment protections. As Susan noted, if a creator gained access to a campaign and chose to enthusiastically share their opinions, that’s their right as free speech. Still, more transparency would be beneficial if financial transactions occur.


Predicting Influencer Impacts in 2024

Looking ahead to the 2024 election, political influencer marketing will likely grow even further. Discussing potential effectiveness, Courtney made a compelling analogy to brand marketing budgets. Companies pour billions into influencers because they see concrete impacts, suggesting political campaigns believe the partnerships can move metrics too.

In terms of specific platforms, Susan predicted expansive activity from TikTok to Reddit. However, quantifying conversion into changed votes or turnout may remain difficult, especially in such a polarized presidential race. But influencers’ networks could have more definitive sway further down ballots at the state or local levels where less partisan information exists.

While some may question allowing social media personalities such heavy influence in choosing elected officials, that train has likely already left the station. Presidential hopefuls in 2024 and beyond will continue embracing influencer marketing as a key strategy for voter persuasion and mobilization. The scale and strategies may still need refining to avoid potential ethical issues. But the power of collaborating with voices that citizens trust should not be underestimated on the campaign trail.


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Image Credit: Image above generated by ChatGPT4.