Will the Power of Influencers Impact the 2024 Campaign Trail?

Influencer marketing has exploded across industries in recent years as brands partner with popular social media creators to promote products. Now we’re seeing this trend increasingly make its way into US politics. Presidential campaigns have leveraged influencers for organic outreach and credibility with key voter demographics.

Collaborations in 2016 and 2020 set the stage for expanded usage in future election cycles. To dig deeper into this evolving tactic, I’m summarizing insights from a recent conversation we had with our influencer marketing team discussing the potential impacts influencers could have on the 2024 race and beyond.

Watch the 7-minute video below, or read along below if you’d prefer. A more direct recap of this conversation first appeared on Carusele.com.

Why Campaigns Want Access to Influencer Audiences 

A major driver of political influencer marketing is influencers’ sway among younger voters – a hugely coveted demographic. As we know, Gen Z and Millennials heavily value social media voices and often trust influencers’ opinions over traditional advertising. These groups already comprise 37% of the electorate, although historically voter turnout lags for younger groups.

Rather than relying solely on conventional political ads, partnering with creators allows candidates to connect with younger targets in authentic ways. The messaging feels less like a sales pitch and more like commentary from a friend. Influencers can discuss key issues, give insider access to the trail, or conduct lighthearted interviews with the candidates themselves. 

We saw similar digital native engagement strategies in 2020 with Biden recruiting pop stars like Ariana Grande to boost youth turnout. Trump also collaborated with conservative influencers like Tomi Lahren to energize Gen Z and millennial supporters.

The Trust and Credibility Factor

In the video discussion, Susan Flower highlighted another key reason campaigns covet influencers – their perceived trust and credibility. Survey data reveals Americans’ confidence in government and media remains low. So a politician making big promises in a commercial may face skepticism from voters. 

However, if an influencer endorses a candidate or speaks positively about their policies, that stamp of approval carries more weight. Audiences see social media creators as authentic experts and tastemakers rather than partisan establishment players. Their opinions feel more genuine compared to stump speeches or promotional posts directly from candidates.

This phenomenon ties back to why brands have flocked to influencer marketing, too. Consumers increasingly tune out conventional advertisements. But relatable recommendations from YouTubers, Instagrammers or TikTokers can often drive consideration and even conversion.

Hyperlocal Micro-Influencer Potential

Presidential races grab national attention. But as Courtney D’Aiuto noted in the discussion, influencers could also potentially impact down-ballot local or state elections. These smaller scale but still critical races struggle to cut through broader partisan noise.

Here we see opportunity to deploy hyper-targeted micro and nano-influencers on specific platforms. Politicians can activate region-specific networks, tailoring community-focused messaging to cities, counties or voting districts. 

Obama’s 2008 social media-savvy campaign first pioneered grassroots influencer tactics in battleground states. We’ve since seen both GOP and Democratic initiatives double down on localized influencer collaborations to persuade voters in key precincts and drive turnout.

The Compliance Considerations at Play

Amidst the momentum, ethical questions around political influencer marketing linger – namely sponsorship transparency. As context, the FTC requires proper disclosure any time a creator receives payment for an endorsement.

However, FTC oversight doesn’t seem to apply to elections, as that is the purview of the Federal Elections Commission. Campaign finance laws mandate reporting influencer marketing expenditures generally, but there is no FEC requirement to disclose anything on a given post.

We haven’t seen examples of influencers getting directly paid for their posts beyond media access or travel perks. People receiving information and then politicking with it likely falls under free speech. Of course, with such a divided electorate, influencers who are strongly political run the risk of alienating a meaningful chunk of the population. They just may not care.

As digital grassroots activism expands, clear sponsorship labels could help avoid deception allegations. But mandatory disclosures also risk encroaching on First Amendment rights if no financial motive exists. Navigating these nuances around ethical best practices looms large as 2024 nears.

The Future Trajectory 

Controversies aside, industry observers widely expect amplified usage of influencers in future election cycles. Presidential nominees will lean further into cultivating digital creator networks for persuasion and turnout efforts. Like commercial brands, their motivation ties to recognizing social media as the best channel for reaching key demographics.

Additionally, we may see more politicians emerge who first built national fanbases as influencers themselves, as we already see some politicians blurring the lines between governing and campaigning on social media pretty much daily.

While we don’t currently know if influencers are contributing specific electoral impacts, the pattern mirrors the now indispensable role influencers play in brand marketing and culture more broadly. Once niche figures, social media creators have grown into mainstream voices of influence. Expect their prominence – along with debates around oversight – to keep rising in federal, state and perhaps even local political races for years to come.


Image Credit: ChatGPT4

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