What began as a questionable communication tool for young people has now become one of the biggest influences on young voters in the upcoming presidential election. Since young people are notorious for their political apathy and generally don’t take the time to inform themselves on candidates and their issues, Snapchat is bringing everything to its users through its popular app.
Candidates have created their own Snapchat accounts that users can follow to see their campaigns. Hillary Clinton, Marco Rubio, and Bernie Sanders are among those with their own accounts. This allows voters to get an “off camera” and “behind the scenes” look at candidates, and this authenticity has proven to be beneficial. In particular, Bernie Sanders really uses his Snapchat MyStory to emphasize campaign messaging. Sarah Audelo from Rock the Vote speaks more on Bernie Sander’s success with Snapchat in this clip from the C-SPAN archives. Snapchat also supports special filters, so candidates have paid to create their own filters that supporters can use when at rallies or other political events. My personal favorite is the filter Ted Cruz made to troll Donald Trump when he failed to attend a GOP debate.
The biggest contribution Snapchat has to shaping politics is its own content. This is extremely different from other social medias where everything is user-generated.
The Live Story feature of Snapchat was created during a 2013 update. It allows a geographic boundary to be placed around an event. Users within it can post still images and videos to the event’s Live Story, similar to an individual user’s MyStory. The kicker is that a Live Story is shown to everyone, even those who are not in the geographic boundary, for 24 hours. The Live Story has been used for celebrity parties and sporting events, but recently, it has featured political events.
Some candidates announced their candidacy through the app. Hillary and Jeb used Live Story to kick off their campaigns. Debates are also covered using Live Story. There is a live reaction from those in attendance that’s shown to users all around the globe, and in recent debates, viewers at home can also submit their snaps to the Live Story to truly capture the overall opinion. Users that are not watching the debates can get the takeaways solely by watching the debate’s Live Story.
In addition to having Live Stories for the caucuses and primaries, Snapchat released two filters with the Democratic and Republican standings that were updated as results came in. These filters were available in the entire U.S.
Why is Snapchat so effective for dealing with politics when it was designed as a way to send “disappearing” photos?
First, Snapchat has embodied bipartisanship. It gives no bias when it reports events, and gives each candidate the chance to be heard. Young people, regardless of their political ideology, are able to observe what is happening in politics. Personally, I don’t watch many Democratic debates because there are only two candidates and I’m 99% sure Hillary will get the nomination, but I have watched the Live Stories of the Democratic debates. I’ve gotten to see what a viable candidate Bernie Sanders truly is and understand why my generation is so taken with his policies, something I probably wouldn’t have seen without Snapchat.
Next, Snapchat offers instant gratification and simplification. As previously mentioned, a whole debate can be summarized in a Live Story that takes users just minutes to watch. It offers a “Politics for Dummies” for young people that aren’t that informed and won’t take the time to sit down with the Times and see who the editorial board endorsed.
Finally, by using Snapchat as young potential voters do, candidates are trying to seem “hip” and relatable. The app also allows the young people to feel like their voices are heard by candidates that they may feel don’t care about them. Users can create their own content with feedback for candidates during debates, speeches, and rallies without the permanence of other social medias.
Right now, both the South Carolina Republican Primary and the Nevada Democratic Caucuses are on Snapchat under the “Let’s Vote!” Live Story. Since Purdue plays IU tonight, I will naturally be focused on our impending victory, but I’ll be on my phone during commercial breaks. I’ll probably click on the brightly colored “Let’s Vote!” button and learn about the results. Other young people across the country will have a different Saturday night but end up clicking that same button out of boredom. That, my friends, is the beauty of using Snapchat to get my generation into politics.