Snapchat is the latest social network to roll out a voter registration initiative in the run up to the 2018 midterm elections. But with its engaged and youthful user base, and the registration tool’s deeply integrated design, it may actually have the power to reach (and register) new voters.
Beginning Tuesday, all Snapchat users over the age of 18 will receive a new “Register to vote” link directly in their profile page, that takes them to an in-app TurboVote portal. They’ll also get a notification alerting them of the new feature, and one of those cutesy video messages Snap usually reserves for national holidays.
Snapchat is also releasing a voter registration filter, and it will have a curated Our Story about issues that Snapchat users are passionate about; swiping up on the story will take users to the registration portal. It is also including a swipe up to register to vote option on the Discover pages of some media partners like the Washington Post and Good Luck America.
Last election cycle, Snapchat also ran a voter registration campaign. Video ads with links to register appeared between stories; this is similar to what Instagram is doing this year. But Snap’s 2018 initiative is more robust than its past efforts.
Its placement in the profile section also differentiates it from Facebook and Twitter. Both other social networks have included a prompt to register in the news feeds. Snapchat doesn’t exactly have a newsfeed (the closest would be the story feed), so that wasn’t a 1:1 option. Snapchat says that placing the button in the profile was strategic: the profile section is highly trafficked, according to Snap, because its where users view their stories.
But including register to vote in the profile section also makes a strong statement: it says that being a registered voter and an active participant in democracy is an important part of one’s identity. Maybe that’s being a tad corny, but considering that our social media profiles are something we so carefully groom to reflect the person we want to be to the outside world, Snap asserting voter registration as a facet of that identity is significant — and perhaps something that will resonate with Snapchat’s politically active Gen-Z and young millennial user base.
Snap is also confident that it can reach a high amount of new voters: 80 percent of its users are over 18, so this campaign won’t just fall on well-meaning (but still too young) thumbs. It also claims that marketers using Snapchat can reach a comparable number of 18-24 year old users to Instagram. Snapchat says it reaches 28.5 to 30 million 18-24 year old users in the U.S. According to a recent survey of Instagram users, approximately 32 percent of its 1 billion-strong user base is 18-24.
But Snapchat also claims its users are highly engaged. According to Snapchat, the average user logs in 20 times a day, sends 20 snaps, and spends an average of 30 minutes on the app per day. Geez, don’t these kids have classes to attend?
This won’t be the first time that teens use Snapchat as a portal for political action. The Snap Maps feature reflected, and perhaps even helped spread, the tide of walkouts that teenagers engaged in to demand gun control in the wake of the Parkland, Florida high school shooting.
Still, registering to vote and enabling teens to share issues they’re passionate about is just a first — and rather neutrally feel-good — step to using the Snapchat platform for progressive good. And whether social media platforms should leverage their power in politics at all is not a clear cut issue, either; Facebook users inadvertently participated in a social experiment when Facebook studied how placing a voting encouragement button affected the 2010 elections.
But in the past year alone, teens have demonstrated that they have the power to change the national conversation and mood. So empowering this rather inspiring group through simple, easy-to-use design, might just remind us of the much-touted, though less frequently demonstrated, ability of social media to do actual good.
Now all we have to do is actually get to the polls. See you on November 6!
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