Could Snapchat be the digital bridge to younger voters?
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They, along with many other politicians, are investing time and energy in using Snapchat, a mobile app that allows users to take videos and pictures that only last 24 hours. 

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Sen. Booker, for example, is very active on Snapchat and posts several times a day. He understands that snaps are meant to be informal and personal, not promotional. He often is joking around with his aides in his video snaps, and on some occasions, he randomly stops a constituent to ask them a question.

It’s like watching short bursts of reality TV, which gives the viewer a sense that they “know the person.”

Snapchat may seem mysterious to many politicos, but there are a select few who have made a calculation: They want support from younger voters, and Snapchat gives access to Millennials and Generation Z.

To define access, here are some key statistics to consider:

1. On any given day, 41 percent of all 18-34 year olds in the United States go on Snapchat.

2. Users are watching 10 billion videos a day on the application.

3. The fall 2015 Harvard survey found that 53 percent of college students said they had a Snapchat account. Keep in mind that college-educated adults are more likely to vote than non-educated ones

What’s also important to note is that Snapchat has been exponentially growing. Meaning, this is a platform on the rise and holds even greater potential for social power.

To understand why Snapchat is so popular, you have to understand what the app is at its core.

Snaps, what you would consider a post on the application, only last for 24 hours. The post can be a picture that stays on screen for 10 seconds or less, or a 10 second or less video. Snaps can also have words that overlay the video or image. Filters, which manipulate the image in creative ways, can be added, too. 

There’s a key aspect of Snapchat, though, that makes it different from most other social media platforms, and it becomes a challenge and opportunity for savvy users. Finding “friends” and obtaining “followers” is difficult. Snapchat does this intentionally.

Unlike Twitter or Facebook, who encourages you to allow certain people based on your preferences, Snapchat does not make recommendations. If you want to follow someone, for the most part, you need to know what their specific username or snapcode is. It’s very similar to email; you have to know someone’s specific address in order to contact them.

Essentially, it’s the anti-social network. It’s inclusive and very personal. This makes it hard to get followers, but once you do, you have direct communication with significantly less competition than when you post on Facebook or Twitter.

This makes Snapchat a platform of quality over quantity. This is something Booker has mastered.

What Booker is ultimately doing is building a relationship. And at the end of the day, isn’t that what politicians want? To have a trusting relationship with constituent and voters that they can leverage in times of need.

Snapchat is still in its infancy compared with other more established social media platforms. So there is no blueprint yet of how a politician has used the medium to yield results. At this point, it’s all still theoretical if Snapchat can be the gateway to young voters and have any impact at all.

However, we know what Facebook helped President Obama do in 2008. We know how Twitter helped Donald TrumpDonald TrumpWarren says Republican party 'eating itself and it is discovering that the meal is poisonous' More than 75 Asian, LGBTQ groups oppose anti-Asian crime bill McConnell says he's 'great admirer' of Liz Cheney but mum on her removal MORE in 2016. Will there be a name we attach to Snapchat in 2020. 

Adam Chiara is an Assistant Professor of Communication at the University of Hartford. He has worked as a legislative aide, journalist, and as a public relations practitioner. 


 

The views expressed by contributors are their own and not the views of The Hill.