DNC wants TikTok influencers to make their midterm message go viral

With less than 100 days until the midterm elections, the Democrats are equipping influencers and TikTok creators with digital tools to reach voters across the internet with party-sponsored content.

In the run-up to election season, the Democratic National Committee (DNC) built an online organizing hub to drive the party’s messaging beyond its own social channels. The hub creates a central online destination for influencers, surrogates, and supporters to receive party-sponsored talking points, messaging, and a wide variety of digital content to post on their own social media feeds.

“Our goal is to equip grassroots supporters and volunteers with the tools to share our message with their own networks and to be trusted messengers,” Shelby Cole, deputy chief marketing officer for digital content and creative for the DNC, told The Verge on Monday. “Wherever you want to be met, we’ll meet you.”

The coronavirus pandemic dramatically shifted the ways in which political groups and politicians interacted with voters. With in-person events out of the question early on in 2020, candidates in both parties began focusing messaging toward the online platforms voters were using at home. Biden’s campaign experimented with Fortnite maps, Animal Crossing: New Horizons islands, and the celebrity shoutout app Cameo to reach voters across demographics.

Since implementing the online organizing program in February, the DNC has generated over 83 million impressions, including a 16.7 million bump in the second quarter of this year alone. Officials have also recruited and trained nearly 1,000 supporters on how to use the hub so far this year.

Greenfly, a content distribution platform, serves as the hub’s primary platform for hosting content. The DNC’s digital and coalition-building teams seek out potential influencers from across the party’s spectrum of support, including young voters and members of the Black and LGBTQ-plus communities. After a supporter is contacted, they are asked to attend an online training seminar before they’re later onboarded into the Greenfly platform and the DNC’s Slack community for party ambassadors.

While Democratic party officials continue to connect with TikTok creators and influencers over Slack and in private message groups, the DNC’s partnership with Greenfly has dramatically increased the scale at which the party has been able to instantly push content to volunteer messengers, a Democratic official told The Verge on Monday.

Once a supporter downloads the Greenfly app, they’re able to access a number of DNC galleries featuring content for them to download and repost on their own feeds. The types of content range in topic, from pressing policy explainers on issues like abortion rights to imagery touting Biden administration success stories like the Senate’s recent passage of the Inflation Reduction Act, an official said Monday. Greenfly also allows for the DNC to send users push notifications to make more urgent share requests for specific content, which could aid in the party’s rapid response messaging program leading into the midterms and the 2024 presidential election cycle, an official said.

Several Democratic campaigns and political groups have made moves to share official content with online supporters over the last few years. But unlike shareable Google Docs with messaging examples and links to positive news coverage, Greenfly provides Democratic officials with more insight into what content is being shared the most and receives the most engagement across platforms like Facebook, Instagram, and TikTok.

That information has led Democratic digital operatives to build content more suitable for the platforms their supporters are using. For example, TikTok creators were using square images more suitable for Instagram grid posts in videos. After Democratic officials noticed the trend, they started designing background graphics in dimensions specific to TikTok, an official told The Verge on Monday.

The DNC has previously experimented with Greenfly in the past, using it as a means of connecting with supporters during important party events like the 2020 national convention. President Joe Biden’s presidential campaign also used Greenfly to share campaign-specific content with supporters in real time. Greenfly’s website says that more than 80 percent of Biden “surrogates shared digital content on social media.”

Over the last few years, political groups have made strides to leverage the growth of online influencer marketing. In April, a pro-Biden super PAC launched a six-figure paid advertising program to amplify the content it created with TikTok and Instagram creators. Conservative groups like Turning Point USA and PragerU are continuing to build online ambassador programs, encouraging affiliated creators to post conservative-friendly content across their social media accounts.

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