Rock the Vote recruits Instagram influencers to bring young people to the polls

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For Rock the Vote, the coronavirus pandemic has created a major new challenge in its quest to get young people to vote. The organization had to switch from organizing live events to visiting university campuses.

So Rock the Vote tried a new way to meet young people where they are: they teamed up with social media influencers best known for their peddling. Nike Jordans and the latest MAC makeup lines on Facebook, Instagram and TikTok.

“When Rock the Vote began [in 1990], you could put a PSA on MTV or VH1 and reach 90% of young people, ”said Carolyn DeWitt, President of Rock the Vote. “But over the past 30 years, the media landscape has changed dramatically. So those who have the capacity to reach young people have completely changed.

In the spring, Rock the Vote teamed up with a company called Influential, which connects brands with influencers. Initially, Rock the Vote planned to work with Influential’s influencer network to help promote some of its live events. But after the pandemic made this unfeasible, Influential’s role became even more important, helping Rock the Vote share voting information through influencers such as Kendall Kyndall, Knox Frost, Shelly Scholten and Quentin Quarantino. , who together have more than 3 million subscribers via their respective Instagram. accounts.

Celebrities are increasingly talking about politics and broader global issues on their social media platforms, with people like Kylie Jenner asking her 166 million Instagram followers to stay home after the US Surgeon General calls her fact. Meanwhile, Taylor Swift has become a regular political activist to vote on her Instagram page.

But for social media influencers who lack fame outside of their digital platforms, the risk is much more calculated: can they become political without losing their brand sponsorship? For some, it’s worth it, and for others, the opportunity is the online personality they’ve created for themselves.

Influencers helped Rock the Vote more than double its Instagram follower count to 125,000, from 62,000 in June. The influencers were also able to help Rock the Vote attract 1.5 million viewers to a virtual event hosted with a coalition of advocacy organizations. The event was co-hosted by actresses Rosario Dawson and Logan Browning, and featured appearances from politicians, activists and musical artists, including Katy Perry and the Black Eyed Peas.

“The influencer network was key to getting the crowd out,” DeWitt said. “This year in particular… Because organizations like ours had to pivot, we had to be particularly targeted. Influencers are able to do this because they have very loyal following. “

The shift in strategy comes as young people increasingly receive their political news and information on social media. It also comes amid a deluge of misinformation on different platforms, with politicians, including the president, trying to discredit postal voting. Meanwhile, advocacy groups and local government agencies are desperate to educate people about where and where how they can vote in their states at a time when the coronavirus has made it difficult to vote in person.

Influential makes its money by charging businesses for access to its network of over 3 million influencers and help with social campaigns. But this year, he chose to do something different by partnering with Rock the Vote, for free, and with the World Health Organization, linked to the pandemic.

“We want to use our abilities to do good in the world,” said Ryan Detert, CEO of Influential. “In an election year full of injustice and social unrest, it is more important than ever that we use our technology and our network of influencers to help spread the word about the importance of voting among Gen Z and of the millennium. “

And for two of the social media influencers who helped Rock the Vote, getting involved this year without a pay seemed like the right thing to do. Their posts have received thousands of likes and hundreds of comments.

“I was more than happy to do something for the greater good,” said Tommy Marcus, a New York influencer whose Instagram account, Quentin Quarantino, has 366,000 followers who typically see a stream of memes related to. quarantine. “I really think doing something like Rock the Vote is a step in the right direction to use that influence for good.

Marcus originally created the Quentin Quarantino Instagram account to bring comedic relief to the new reality of quarantine. But after being approached by Influential, he chose to help WHO and Rock the Vote reach their followers. He promoted the Rock the Vote virtual event by posting a flyer with full details of the event and encouraged fans to get more information about the vote.

Shep Ogden, Christopher Travers and their team who help run Knox Frost helped promote Rock the Vote through the Instagram account of Knox Frost, a digital character with 991,000 followers. Part of the mission of Knox Frost, who portrays a 20-year-old, half-human, half-robot from Atlanta, is to promote well-being and social responsibility. So when Influential offered the creators of Frost the opportunity to promote WHO coronavirus health information and Rock the Vote voting information, the two seized the opportunity.

“We like to think he can have a positive impact,” Ogden said. “We can talk about voting through memes.

Knox Frost has posted a series of Instagram Stories, Instagram posts, and even texted fans to promote Rock the Vote. In one article, Knox Frost sported a Rock the Vote t-shirt. In another post, the account released an image of the list of stars who would appear at the virtual Rock the Vote event.

While much of the initial influencing work for Rock the Vote was done to promote its virtual event, the organization still hopes that celebrities online will help it spread the word about the vote until the election. Detert said Influential’s job is not done.

Part of that includes getting some of the brands he works with to promote Rock the Vote messages. Rock the Vote has already partnered with HBO, Difference, DoorDash, Hulu and Footaction. But Detert is hopeful that Influential can help even more brands join.

“We’re here for the long haul,” he said.

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