TikTok Election

screenshots of TikToks from Scott Morrison, Labour party & Greens party

The 2022 federal election has been the first large-scale Australian showcase for the power of political social media campaigning, with parties and candidates learning from elections overseas, especially in the US.

With federal election campaigning reaching its frenetic peak, candidates from all parties have used a variety of social media tactics and platforms to get in front of key voters who could swing the election.

Social media has played a role in previous election campaigns, with the Liberals notably going viral with several Facebook memes in 2019. But in 2022, Facebook is stalling, especially amongst younger voters. Instead, other platforms are emerging as key vehicles to build political reputation.

Leading the charge is TikTok. Although it still has fewer users than Facebook or Instagram, it is used more heavily, with Australian users spending 23 hours per month on TikTok. TikTok has even created an official in-app election guide, to provide trustworthy information on the many political videos on the site. Politicians have jumped on the craze, with official accounts created for both major parties, the Greens, and many individual candidates.

However, the parties have been unable to emulate the 2019 Liberal success, with few videos breaking 10,000 views on TikTok. Instead, user-generated content is earning the lion’s share of views, with millions of views on hashtags like #auspol and #auselection2022.

For now, organisations need to be cautious. Viral posts in favour of a brand are a great boon — the Greens even comment on such videos, encouraging viewers to share them — but the same viral videos are a real reputational danger for opposing groups. Meanwhile, organisations will continue experimenting with content strategy, with rewards aplenty for any brand that develops a formula for going viral.

TikTok isn’t the only platform in use during this election campaign. Greens candidate Stephen Bates made headlines recently for a series of playful ads on Grindr, a social networking app for gay, bi, trans, and queer people.

For most parties, the ads would have posed a significant reputational risk, but the Greens’ have a history of support on LGBTQI issues and used the platform to reach a specific audience, where they could gain an advantage.

There are three key lessons we can take from the use of social media in this campaign:

1. Social media is a key part of branding and reputation. If you’re not developing your social media plan yet, you’ve fallen behind.

2. Social media campaigns can be highly targeted. Your strategy should identify specific, high-value audiences and focus on platforms and content which will resonate there.

3. Social media campaigns are difficult. Few organisations are able to consistently create successful content, but those that crack the code will be rewarded handsomely.

Written by Ian Cormick

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