Biden uses TikTok influencers to connect with voters in Pennsylvania

Kenny Screven, a Lehigh Valley content creator who goes by the social media handle kscreven, spoke to the camera while putting on makeup to prepare for the White House Pride Day celebration Last Wednesday.

Before we get off topic Detailing her “gorgeous” blush and eyeshadow palette, Screven, 29, spoke about how “there’s so much at stake that people don’t realize” in this year’s election.

“I can’t honestly say Trump supports me,” said Screven, who is a gay, black man who presents as a woman. “I don’t think Trump really cares about people like me.”

Screven, who has 164,000 followers on Instagram and 26.4k followers on TIK Tokis one of several Pennsylvania influencers working with President Joe Biden’s re-election campaign. While Screven’s social media focus has been on beauty, he believes that embracing makeup as a gay black man and advocating for his community — and by extension, talking about politics — go hand in hand.

“Why not talk about politics while I’m doing my makeup? I think it makes more sense,” he said. “It almost feels more comforting because it’s like you’re talking to your friends on FaceTime.”

There’s no doubt the Biden campaign is trying to reach younger voters, and the most obvious places to do so are Instagram — and increasingly TikTok, where 32% of U.S. adults ages 18-29 get their news, according to Pew.

Young voters helped Biden win in 2020, but their support for him has fallen this year, particularly amid anger over Gaza. Their support is even more critical after a disappointing debate that shook Democrats’ faith in the president and spawned countless memes mocking the president — his grandson even suggested reaching out to influencers to assist drum up more support in the wake of the conflict, according to the New York Times.

But Biden is the underdog in the race when it comes to TikTok. Trump has 7.3 million followers on TikTok, while the Biden campaign has just 399.1k. While the gap is smaller on Instagram, Trump also has the most supporters there, with 24.8 million, while Joe Biden has 17.1 million.

And Pennsylvania, a key swing state, has been at the forefront of Biden’s efforts to get newborn people online. Just last month, the campaign hired Patrick Kelly, its first influencer manager dedicated to the battleground state — and he’s a Philadelphia native. Kelly, whose title is “content partnerships and influencer engagement manager,” is a self-made content creator who recently returned to the Keystone State from D.C. to take the job.

“We are committed to winning every vote and meeting young voters where they are — whether it’s knocking on doors or engaging with them online — to make clear the stakes of this election,” Kelly said, citing democracy, gun violence in schools and student debt relief as key issues.

Kelly has helped find more than 250 artists in the state, 130 of whom live in Philadelphia, and the campaign cooperates with several dozen of them, he added.

Several creators working with the Biden campaign have also collaborated with Gov. Josh Shapiro, who often teams up with influencers to talk about the administration’s work while raising his national profile.

As part of his efforts to connect with newborn people, Biden organized roundtables with influencers in the White House and was featured on influencer Daniel Mac’s TikTok account of the driver of the electric Cadillac. His campaign parodied Kendrick Lamar’s diss trackand last year the White House hosted a holiday party for influencers.

But connecting with influencers hasn’t always been polished. the president lost his patience One influencer asked about Gaza, and another was offered an interview with Biden but asked not to discuss the topic, according to New York TimesThe group of creators who campaigned for Biden in 2020 and called themselves TikTok for Biden, now called Gen-Z for Change, are instead of criticizing the president on the app this year on this topic and more.

Screven said that while he understands newborn people’s concerns about Biden, the consequences of the election could last a lifetime, citing Project 2025conservative proposal written by Trump allies This would have negative consequences for the LGBTQ community.

“I feel like the more people like me that inform the community, the more it will help bridge that divide,” he said. “… Literally, our very existence is under threat. I don’t even know how else to put it.”

How the Biden campaign is working with influencers

While time-honored brand partnerships often come with strict restrictions, the Biden campaign describes its partnerships in the state as loose and unpaid. Creators are invited to events and can choose what to post, or whether to post at all. They can also apply campaign staff as resources to learn more about election issues.

For example, Screven met Biden at a coffee shop in Lehigh County in January, where they became close after attending the same compact Catholic school in Delaware. The campaign also brought in a beauty influencer interview US Representative Jasmine Crockett (D, Texas) in Juneteenth Parade in Philadelphia, an offer that the Chester County creator Lisa Nicole, known as lisalovescurlslocs, also took care of it.

“There’s no pressure to film anything specific,” Screven said. “… It’s really important for my community to know and understand this election year, so I love that. It’s really me and no one’s putting words in my mouth.”

And exerting influence for free is not necessarily a bad thing. Bark AversaA Philadelphia-based public relations specialist and content creator who works with the Biden campaign said observers can perceive paid ads that must be disclosed as “inauthentic.”

Influencers’ creativity will be tested this election cycle as they balance talking about politics with staying true to their brand. Biden’s campaign has tried to mold events into creators’ niches, like giving away free cheesesteaks at Juneteenth in West Philly and inviting content creators who specialize in food.

And sometimes, being genuine means indirectly supporting Biden’s campaign, such as by emphasizing Democratic Party issues without explicitly telling supporters who to vote for.

“It’s one thing to be at the White House and talk about our president’s accomplishments on behalf of LGBT people, but it’s quite another to put out a message attacking another candidate or then discuss issues like the debate in a much more direct and confrontational way,” said Aversa, who also attended White House Pride.

Sophie Schiaroli, an influencer from Philadelphia, focused on the LGBTQ community, whose pseudonym is soso_swag and has 67.3k followers on TikTok and 16.6 followers on Instagram, leaning towards the popular TikTok soundbite (“Will anyone match my weirdo?”), while appointment about Trump’s allies blocking the contraceptive rights bill. Schiaroli wrote that Biden, for his part, is protecting access to contraception and working to expand free birth control.

“Please vote in November,” said Schiaroli, who works with the Biden campaign. he said at the end of the post. Bridget McFadden, another influential Philadelphian who posts under the name bswift_13 commented: “see you on November 5th!”

Tomika Bryant, a self-described “Philadelphia lifestyle expert” whose pseudonym is tomikatalksshe typically posts about lifestyle, health, and travel. She lives in King of Prussia and has 148k followers on Instagram, and she also works with the Biden campaign.

Bryant, a 51-year-old breast cancer survivor and activist, came to politics because of its connection to health care. Last month, she was invited to a Biden rally at Girard College aimed at reaching out to black voters like herself, another group the Biden campaign is trying to win back. after noticing delays in customer service.

Bryant likes to share news with his followers during his morning walks. Instagram Stories. She asks them, “What do you think about this? Do you know how this affects us?” she said. She said she would, for example, give her followers the gist of the modern bill, but also try to direct them to the source so they can read it for themselves.

Ultimately, she wants to inform her followers and assist them make “the best decision given all the facts,” she said.

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