Want to Reach Young Voters? Try Instagram Stories

The other day I was listening to a podcast about millennial dating culture. It’s so easy to know what the person you’re interested in is doing at all times, the hosts joked, that we’re just lucky other people can’t see how many times you viewed their Instagram story. Otherwise you risk looking like a total creep.

But everyone does it. In fact, over 400 million people use Instagram Stories — even more than SnapChat.

As I was listening to this podcast (because I’m cursed with a brain that can’t shut off and enjoy a little nonpolitical nonsense for an hour), I was thinking what a great platform Instagram Stories are to do campaign work.

People make a living off of marketing products on Instagram, so we already know the potential reach it has. Instagram has actually already launched a campaign to use its stories to get people registered to vote. The ads give information about your state’s voting rules and how to register, and on Election Day, they’ll release an “I Voted” sticker for your story.

One reason why this works, is because people want to portray themselves on social media in the best light possible. Voting gives you a lot of social capital, it says: I’m an engaged adult. And it’s much quicker than uploading a regular post, where people might spend more time thinking up a clever caption or editing a photo that lasts longer than 24 hours.

On your story, you can post the more mundane or silly stuff that you want people to see, but not scrutinize. One thing we learned at Three(i) Creative Communications managing the social media for a candidate in Prince George’s County is that peer pressure works to get people to the polls.

So you know your constituents are there. How can you harness the potential of Instagram Stories for your own campaign?

Use Instagram’s new question feature. It’s like holding a virtual townhall -- your supporters and potential supporters can ask you directly about issues they care about. If you make it a regular occurrence, voters will know they can look forward to a Q+A with you.

Take marketer and realtor David Gross for example, on what he’s dubbed “Market Monday” you can find him answering any number of questions about his expertise in the business. More than 13,000 followers tune in.

And you can ask them questions, too. Want to know if supporters would be more interested in a fundraising house party or a benefit concert? Poll them! It may not be statistically significant, but it will give people a hint that you’re about to throw a great party and makes it easier on you so you don’t have to play the guessing game. And if you have more than 10,000 followers, you have the option to add a “swipe-up” feature where people could be linked directly to your event or donate page.

Another thing you can do is share your platform in a way that’s accessible to a constituency that may be less educated on the issues. The small space forces you to keep your text in short sound bites or bulleted lists, making it easier for people to understand and then share your message. New York congressional candidate Suraj Patel did this especially well, using a series of bright graphics with one line of text to catch people’s attention and get right at the heart of his platform.

And hello free advertising. You can get more use out of videos you make for the campaign by re-posting them on your story. Live-stream your good deeds. Take videos of you interacting with constituents and tag them -- there’s no way they won’t share it with all of their soon-to-be-jealous friends. Remember what I said about peer pressure?

The thing about Instagram Stories is that they’re very user-friendly and especially useful for smaller campaigns that don’t have a budget for full-scale videography or advertising.

National Voter Registration Day is September 25. What better time to try some of these tricks out?


Domenica Ghanem, is the Content Manager founder of Three(i) Creative Communications, a firm supporting political and non-profit campaigns

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