5. Use surrogates to spread messaging
Let’s face it, as a 77-year old white male candidate with limited social media experience, Joe Biden lacks the internet presence and charisma of many of his colleagues, or even Trump himself. Rather than fight that truth, the Biden campaign should employ surrogates to promote his campaign messages to their respective audiences.
Surrogates could include more popular politicians like Sanders and AOC as well as prominent pop culture stars. For instance, Biden and his wife, Jill, recently joined US soccer star Megan Rapinoe on her Instagram Live channel, in part, to appeal to young female voters. Biden also has a major force in his camp in the form of former president Barack Obama; on Tuesday, the two former running mates hosted a virtual grassroots fundraiser that raised over $11 million dollars. Deploying supporters with bigger social media followings could be key to reaching voters who don’t watch CNN or consume more traditional forms of media. And depending on who Biden picks for his running mate, that person could also galvanize support for the campaign.
6. Engage and hire young campaign volunteers and employees
Winning the election is not just about getting people to turn in their ballots. As Alexandra Flores Quilty, former president of the youth advocacy organization, U.S. Student Association, told The Atlantic in an interview, Biden will “also need young folks knocking on doors, making calls, and doing the majority of the work on the ground that it takes to get people to vote.”
While Biden’s campaign had been slow to expand its staff for the general election, in late May it launched a new youth-targeted initiative called “League 46.” League 46 aims to organize students, young professionals, and elected officials into centralized teams to host virtual events such as Zoom happy hours and policy discussions. While launching this initiative is a crucial first step for Biden’s campaign, more needs to be done to reach a demographic that often felt ignored during the primaries.
Right now, more than anything, the campaign needs to show youth voters that their voices are valued, and hiring them as volunteers or paid employees is a step in the right direction. Biden has expressed empathy with hard-hit young voters, over two-thirds of whom have seen their incomes reduced by the pandemic-related recession. Employing young people directly in his campaign could be the first step in alleviating their economic woes. While not a solution that covers everyone, it’s the start of tangible action that could show that Biden is serious about helping the younger generation.
7. Use social media wisely: be authentic, not pandering
Many people have been pressuring Biden to assume a more active role on social media, particularly on newer, younger-skewed platforms, like TikTok. To longstanding Biden advisors, however, that may not be such a good idea. “For us to try and force it by having him go on TikTok and Hit The Woah or whatever, that just doesn’t compute with who the guy is,” said Rob Flaherty, Biden’s digital director, in an interview with The Daily Beast. Indeed, an avalanche of “forced memes” from someone who’s not known for that sort of content could come across as inauthentic and pandering and could actually alienate young voters.
Instead, Biden’s campaign should use social media to highlight his most popular qualities, like empathy, personal connection to voters, and extensive policy experience. In contrast to prevailing internet theories about short attention spans, Biden’s best digital bet seems to be airing longer policy-based videos, such as his conversations with policy veterans like Samantha Power and Eric Holder, as well as candid, campaign clips of one-on-one voter interactions. Rather than force Biden to be someone he’s not (which the target audience would see through immediately) Biden’s campaign should use social media to play up his strengths and promote his relatability and knowledge.
And in terms of the shorter, quippy clips that social media is known for, that’s where surrogates come in. In addition to producing its own content, Biden’s campaign should share organic content that supporters can use to create posts and videos, as well. As we’ve seen with other campaigns, like those of Sanders and Andrew Yang, promotional online content created by passionate and internet native followers can give a campaign a refreshing breath of authenticity and spread the word just as effectively as the candidate themselves.