Vertical Video & the 2020 Gen Z Vote

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For years now, democracies around the world have branded their youngest eligible voters apathetic to the political system — unlikely to show up on the day and therefore not worth betting the house on.

The 2018 Midterm Elections in the US turned this narrative on its head, where 18- to 29-year-old voter turnout went from 20 percent in 2014 to 36. This is a 79% increase and was the largest percentage point shift of any age group.

Some of the biggest gains within this demographic are happening on campuses around the country. According to Bloomberg’s Balance of Power:

  • African American women are the most active voters on campus;
  • LatinX women saw the largest gains in voter turnout of any demographic;
  • Women’s colleges had the highest rates of campus turnout.

This trend in political engagement wasn’t just a one off in 2018, since then GenZers and Millennials have been triggering ‘youthquakes’ in democracies around the world.

Just last month in the UK, the largest jump in registered voters happened on the exact same day that Snapchat reminded all of its users via direct message to register to vote.

Looking ahead to 2020 in the US, this trend does not appear to be slowing down, where a recent report indicated 80% college students intend to vote, up from 48.3% in 2016.

The youth vote see the world differently to older generations. They prefer to hear from a peer or online influencer than from a brand. They are also more likely to trust a younger Amazon or Apple to an older Bank of America or Coca-Cola.

When pressed on these preferences a key theme arises: they perceive influencers and younger entities to be more trustful. Two of the most common words used to describe trust were: transparent and authentic.

Taking a step back then, a 2020 Candidate should be strategically positioning themselves more like a Megan Rapinoe and less like a Morgan Stanley.

Positioning for authenticity and transparency means engaging young voters on their level and getting cozy where they’re spending a lot of their time. That means embracing the ephemeral storification of platforms like Snapchat & Instagram.

Young voters perceive stories as a truer representation of individuals than the ‘easier to fake’ Newsfeed. Stories are short, unscripted, and to the point, which is why young voters watch them everyday, many times a day.

Stories are not the only form of Vertical Video though, Instagram TV (IGTV) and Snapchat Discover both cater to higher quality and longer form content. For Public Figures, IGTV is particularly advantageous, as it houses videos directly on their Instagram account and allows for the sharing of the first minute of the video directly on to the Newsfeed.

The Storification of Social Media means constructing a strategy specific these platforms and optimizing all of their feature sets.

  • Yes, you need to be taking questions from your followers on Instagram Live;
  • No, your YouTube video or TV ad is not a Snapchat Story;
  • Definitely get more ‘sweat’ out of your high quality video content by repurposing some of it (and its b-roll) into properly produced video for IGTV segments;
  • Absolutely draw inspiration from daily news shows like NBC’s Stay Tuned on Snapchat, which averages +30 million viewers each month.

Vertical Video allows for more regular and ‘real’ engagement with your audience, stories speak with your audience rather than at them. They are, by design, lower production value and add authenticity to your narrative. Beyond organic Stories each channels Paid Advertising options are inexpensive and effective. You only need to look at the aforementioned UK voter registrations to see direct response in action with those under the age of 25.

Today, politicians are already winning with these strategies:

  • AOC regularly does Live Stories on Instagram, providing her +4M followers unfiltered background and updates — just for them.
  • Beto used features like chat to listen and respond to real questions from his youngest fans during both his campaigns.
  • Donald Trump shares own narratives directly to IGTV, each generally garnering +1m organic views.

If you’re a potential candidate planning for next year and don’t yet have a dedicated Strategy for Stories, you may not survive another “youthquake” in 2020.



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Will Stew

Will Stew


Economist & Advisor: I write things about the business of emerging media. | You can find me here: + | 🗽 via 🇳🇿 + 🇨🇦.