The age of Facebook as a campaign tool is drawing to a close. As Generation Z reaches college age, the means through which candidates campaign in student union elections is shifting too. As the student cohort gradually shifts to being made up of more and more 2000s babies, the social media they use changes too.
Instagram has become the forefront of campaigning among this year’s candidates. With a focus on sharing images and videos, candidates can promote their campaign messages and content quickly and easily. This, coupled with features such as question and answers, the stories function and the ability to go live to talk to your followers, allows candidates to make use of a variety of key tools to engage with their audience. Such functions have the ability to allow voters to get a sense of a candidate’s personality. Platforms like Instagram also provide candidates with the opportunity to go into greater detail regarding campaign points, something which can be challenging to demonstrate in a stressful hustings environment.
Ultimately, the decline of Facebook has allowed for the diversification of campaigning platforms and tools. By using such a vast array of social media sites, campaign teams have had to put together a variety of accounts across a number of platforms and ensure their campaign content gets shared in their online spaces. Last year, with the campaign period held completely online, challenges regarding the nature of an online campaigning space came to the forefront. Now, with a blended approach, a distinction between online and offline campaigning spaces has become solidified and candidates can reach prospective voters in a wide range of ways. Through making use of Twitter, Instagram, TikTok and engaging in some Facebook campaigning, candidates can reach a wide realm of potential voters.
Tiktok has firmly grasped that I am a Trinity student and will show me each and every video of the campus uploaded to the app. This includes the now-viral latex-clad Shrek dancing above the Campanile posted by Trinity’s own official TikTok account. Such is the strength of the TikTok algorithm that during the campaign period I, along with a number of Trinity students, am being shown TikToks from campaign teams alongside my usual daily consumption of “romanticising my day as a college student” videos. Indeed, perhaps the greatest strength of platforms such as TikTok is that, for candidates, they represent a way to engage with a cohort of students, irrespective of whether they or their friends are following the candidate on the platform or not.
The decline of Facebook has allowed for the diversification of campaigning platforms and tools
The decline of Facebook as a campaigning tool marks a distinct divergence from inviting all your Trinity Facebook friends to like campaign pages. Or the even greater horror of seeing swathes of students change their profile background to some iteration of “Jane for Education!”. Yet now, with Instagram, those campaigning can share multiple images and video clips to their stories in quick succession, all available in a way that’s arguably much more digestible than Facebook ever was. Indeed, there is a more casual element surrounding platforms such as Instagram and TikTok that allows candidates to connect seamlessly with their prospective voters.
What is clear is that it’s easier than ever for prospective voters to directly put questions to candidates. The increasingly online nature of campaigning has the potential to lead to candidates always feeling the need to be online, specifically during the allotted online campaigning time periods. In an already stressful environment, campaigning on social media needs tools or guidance to ensure candidates can mitigate the chances of being burnt out or experiencing poor mental health. Social media is more than colourful infographics, and while it can be a very powerful mechanism for spreading messages and engaging with the student body, it should also be used in a cautious way.
The impact of online campaigning will undoubtedly remain a key focal point of student union elections in the future. However, its transition away from Facebook marks a shift in campaign imagery. Bright photos alongside short, sharp quotes and election pledges, are now of vital importance when creating campaign material.
Yet, there are other ways in which you can decide who to vote for next week. If you want to extend beyond the realms of social media and prefer to choose your sabbatical officers solely on their music taste, some candidates have given you the opportunity to do just that through sharing their Spotify playlists. After all, it’s clear that the campaign period can have many students feeling like they’re living la vida loca.