how TikTok is changing the election campaign

Both big parties lean into the platform, using popular sounds and trends to create videos in a way they’ve never had before.

On the Labor Party’s account, a video after the first leaders’ debate marked Opposition Leader Anthony Albanese as “Alpha Albo” in a clip with him walking away from the camera in slow motion. This is one of the trending “motivational” type videos that have been making the rounds on the platform.

On the Liberal Party’s official page, they joined in on the how-to videos, with a youthful voice recounting the recipe for an ‘Albanian smoothie’, telling viewers they’ll need ‘three cups of lies, a pinch of politics “.

Meanwhile, on the Greens Party page, a “sexy” Shrek filter is edited to dance to Parliament.

Daniel Angus, professor of digital communication at Queensland University of Technology, says there is always interest in new platforms in election campaigns, especially the first election after the platform went mainstream. .

“I certainly remember the first elections where Instagram was a novelty, or even the early days of Facebook and Twitter,” Professor Angus told The Feed.

“Generally, the general trend is that those who embrace these new forms of media earlier tend to have a slight advantage with them.”

Although more information may come after the election cycle ends, TikTok is already playing a role.

A sounding board for campaign ideas

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With such a young audience, Professor Angus predicts that most parties would use TikTok as a sounding board to see what messages resonate with young voters.

“On the platform, they’ll ask, ‘What’s the general mood? What themes are they reacting to?’ With this information they will develop their campaign and messaging for young Australians,” Prof Angus said.

Screenshots of Liberal Party Tiktok videos.  An edited image superimposes the face of opposition leader Anthony Albanese on the film poster

“When you look at this demographic shift, in terms of who votes in this election, I think that youth vote is going to be incredibly important this time around.”

Last week, 214,000 people registered to vote through the Australian Electoral Commission (AEC) – the largest one-day registration in Australian history. The AEC also reported an influx of young new voters.

Remunerate influencers and micro-influencers

Unlike Facebook, TikTok doesn’t allow paid political advertising on its platform – but that doesn’t mean it doesn’t happen.

Last November, Crikey and TikToker reporter Cam Wilson said he was approached by a US-based marketing agency to create “anti-Scott Morrison” videos on behalf of the Labor Party. It is not known if others were approached and accepted the offer.

Earlier this month, the ABC also reported that a union had paid at least one influencer to produce anti-liberal content for the platform. While paying influencers for political content is more recent in Australia, influencers were reimbursed during the 2020 US presidential election.

Screenshots of the Labor Party's TikTok account.  Prime Minister Scott Morrison is edited for looking confused in front of a filter.  Another image shows Mr Morrison playing a game where all the options are

Screenshots of the Labor Party’s TikTok account.

Unlike other platforms where you mainly receive content from people you follow, on TikTok you mainly receive content from those you don’t follow, based on how you interact with other videos.

One of the unique features of TikTok is that it can help the “micro-influencer” (someone with a small number of followers who gets sponsored) and those with no followers at all to “go viral”. said Dr Francesco Bailo, an expert on the use of digital and social media in politics at the University of Technology Sydney.

Dr Bailo said this widened the possibilities of contacting pressure groups or politicians.

“That means parties don’t necessarily reach out to big names, but rather reach out to an army of smaller ones in hopes that one will go viral,” he said.

He said that from a platform perspective, it’s harder to control because you’re no longer monitoring a few “big names.”

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While political adverts must disclose who authorized them, Professor Angus told The Feed that the middle person in the “influencer” transaction is clouding the waters.

“It gets murky if you have a political party that has paid a creative agency to hire influencers to create political content, it gets really hard to trace that,” Professor Angus said.

“I worry about the ability of platforms like this to ‘wash’ money in three hands.

“It’s still an advertisement.”

Separately, the algorithm that can make a video go viral in hours also acts as a low-cost way to campaign with young voters, Dr. Bailo said.

“[Politicians] can basically go from an unknown candidate to someone who is known simply because of a trending video.”

TikTok and the AEC have collaborated, but there’s still ‘minimal transparency’

In March, Tiktok announced that it had collaborated with the AEC to launch an in-app federal election guide. The guide said he will emphasize the importance of registering to vote,

“Of course, TikTok isn’t the go-to app for breaking news or politics, and

on our app,” the platform wrote in a statement with the announcement.

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“Yet we know that TikTok is a home where Australians speak out – and with that in mind, we are focused on supporting our users with authoritative education and information on important public issues.”

Overall, Professor Angus told The Feed, TikTok is not a very “observable” platform when it comes to following accounts, especially those of politicians.

While official pages on Facebook can be followed in separate apps to see what’s being posted by candidates – which can help with transparency and easily quash misinformation – it’s not as easy to monitor politicians on Facebook. Tik Tok.

“It’s a huge problem because we fundamentally lack observability tools.”

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