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Ossoff is the latest politician to tap into TikTok

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Democrat Jon Ossoff, who is less than a month away from his runoff election against incumbent Republican Sen. David Perdue, is now using TikTok to reach young voters.

  • Over the past week, Ossoff gained more than 110,000 followers, posting videos that encouraged people in Georgia to register to vote by Monday’s deadline to vote in the runoff.
  • Despite its quickly growing popularity, only a few political candidates in 2020 took the plunge to TikTok this year and saw varying results.
  • US leaders, namely President Donald Trump, have expressed concerns over the app’s ownership by the Chinese company ByteDance, and Trump launched a so-far failed attempt to ban it in the country.
  • Visit Business Insider’s homepage for more stories.

Georgia teens want to flip the Senate in runoffs set to take place in less than one month.

So, it comes as little surprise that Democratic Senate candidate Jon Ossoff, who is embattled in the heated Senate runoff race against Republican Sen. David Perdue, has turned to TikTok as of early December.

In less than a week after he began posting videos as part of his campaign’s effort to woo young voters, Ossoff has gained thousands of TikTok followers. The 33-year-old candidate, posting as @jon, has amassed more than 110,700 followers as of Tuesday afternoon, the byproduct of just 10 videos that, in total, have brought in 1.4 million likes.

His most-viewed TikTok video was posted Friday and has earned over 1.5 million views and more than 379,000 likes.  In the video — a mashup of several clips from previous Ossoff events —the Senate hopeful asks “has anyone seen David Perdue,” painting his opponent as an out-of-touch and absent politicia

 

Democrats are hoping to further capitalize on Georgia’s unprecedented turnout of young voters, who were vital in helping Biden win the state. Voters aged 18-29 accounted for about 20% of the overall vote in Georgia, according to data analyzed by CIRCLE, the Center for Information and Research on Civic Learning and Engagement at the Tisch College of Civic Life at Tufts University. About 58% of the youth vote went to Biden, compared to the 39% that Trump received, according to the data.

An estimated 23,000 Georgia teens will be eligible to vote for the first time on January 5, as they turned 18 after the November election. In one TikTik video posted Sunday, Ossoff encouraged those who became eligible to vote between November and January to register to vote by Monday’s deadline.

“Georgia’s unprecedented youth turnout in the general election was a result of years of Georgia Democrats’ hard work and Jon’s relentless focus on turning out young voters. Our digital program’s strategy is intended to meet young voters where they are: online,” Miryam Lipper, a campaign spokesperson told Business Insider.

Although TikTok has not publicly released data about the demographics of its users, a report in October from Piper Sandler found it had become the second-most popular social media app for teenagers in the US, behind Snapchat but ahead of Instagram. Ossoff’s campaign has also made investments in Snapchat  — a platform broadly used by younger people — “to share Ossoff’s life on the campaign trail” ahead of the runoff election, as The Verge reported earlier in December.

“TikTok is one creative element we’re using to speak to young voters about the issues that impact their lives, like stopping the spread of coronavirus, protecting our environment, tackling student loan debt, and passing a New Civil Rights Act,” Lipper said.

@jon##duet with @stanzipotenza Thanks Stanzi for getting out the word — I had to duet. Today is the LAST day to register to vote for the January 5th runoff♬ original sound – Stanzi

Stanzi Potenza, a 25-year-old actor from Boston, made one of the videos Ossoff shared: an 80s-style infomercial that encouraged young Georgians to register to vote.

“I think it’s a great idea,” Potenza said about Ossoff’s pivot to TikTok, adding that “it’s a great way to communicate with younger generations.

“Making an effort to be engaging with younger people will encourage younger people to vote and register to vote and let them know their voice is valuable,” she said.

A popular TikTok presence hasn’t always netted success for candidates

But whether a large TikTok presence and eager following turn out voters so far remains a mystery, even as the app cements itself as a social-media powerhouse.

Experts who spoke to Insider earlier this year were split about whether candidates would regret ignoring the fast-growing social-media platform. Annie Levene, a partner at the DC-based digital marketing agency Rising Tide Interactive, told Insider in October that TikTok, more than other platforms, required a certain level of authenticity, potentially posing roadblocks to candidates and their social teams.

Candidates like Massachusetts Sen. Ed Markey, who embraced the platform, successfully won their contentious races for office. Other candidates who amassed TikTok popularity, however, failed to garner the same enthusiasm at the ballot box.

Self-described socialist Joshua Collins, who made headlines for his TikTok campaign earlier this year, lost his primary US House race in Washington in a landslide. And, Matt Little, a Democrat state senator in Minnesota known to his more than 166,000 TikTok followers as the “Little Senator,” lost his bid for re-election. Kelly Krout, who presently has a TikTok following of over 53,000, similarly lost her bid for the Arkansas State House.

Whether politicians themselves join the platform, teens and young adults have used TikTok to voice their political concerns and opinions. Videos using #jonossoff, made mostly by creators unaffiliated with his campaign, have amassed approximately 9.9 million views, according to TikTok

Throughout 2020, TikTok has been the subject of numerous bipartisan concerns and political controversy over its parent company, the China-based ByteDance. The concerns bubbled up this summer when President Donald Trump began an attempt to force a sale of TikTok to a US company, or otherwise force it to cease US operations.

Both presidential hopefuls this year steered clear of TikTok. Trump’s absence from the platform was unsurprising given his months-long, and so far fruitless attempt to ban the Chinese-owned app. But his rival, President-elect Joe Biden was also notably absent from the platform, asking campaign staff to delete the app from their phones, despite the legion of teens and young adults using the platform as unofficial surrogates for his campaign.

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