TikTok, the popular social media platform used by more than 150 million Americans, has been the subject of significant scrutiny and many politicians support an effort to ban the China-based app due to security concerns. The policy debate is ongoing, but campaigners must confront the reality that voters are active users and getting political information from the platform.
According to data from the Center for Campaign Innovation, 18% of Republican voters aged 18-49 reported using TikTok daily and there’s no indication that this trend will reverse any time soon. So what should Republicans do to get started reaching voters on TikTok while also mitigating concerns about security or hypocrisy?
As with any software or application – especially those used on campaigns – it’s essential to follow basic cybersecurity best practices like using a unique password generated by a password manager like LastPass and employing multi-factor authentication. These two steps make it more difficult for hackers to gain access.
For an additional precaution with TikTok, you can use a separate, dedicated phone (such as an older model you no longer use) and do not connect to your office WiFi or other devices.
If you still prefer to keep TikTok at arm’s length from your campaign for policy reasons, syndicating the distribution of your vertical video content from other platforms like Instagram Reels, YouTube Shorts or Snapchat is a compromise that ensures voters see your message without fully embracing the platform.
All you have to do is upload existing content to TikTok to reach more voters.
Setting Up Your Account
When setting up your campaign’s TikTok account, follow our recommended best practices of ensuring all of your profile information is completed to help other users discover you in the app.
What To Post
TikTok is a mobile video platform and the top performing videos are vertical in order to take up as much of a smart phone screen as possible. The ability to post still photos and text is limited. Spend some time on the app to learn the style of videos that are most popular.
Most videos have captions or other text overlaid to provide context about the video for those users who do not have sound turned on for the app. TikTok also has an always changing roster of meme templates, in-jokes, and trending sounds that dominate the app.
Political candidates will be most at home posting briefing explainer videos or updates from the campaign trail.
How To Grow Your Audience
On TikTok, the recommendation algorithm – called the For You page or FYP – is how most users interact with videos and discover new creators. To increase the likelihood of your video being boosted by the algorithm, include a transcript of the video, tag your location, include keywords in the description, and use relevant hashtags.
Political Restrictions On TikTok
LIke most social media platforms, TikTok places specific restrictions on political users and content. Political advertisers may not use TikTok’s paid advertising features. Additionally, political candidates in the US are required to be verified by the platform. Finally, campaign fundraising and other monetization options are not allowed on TikTok.
While candidates and their campaign teams may have legitimate concerns about TikTok, the data is clear that voters – across the political spectrum – are using the platform in large numbers and getting political news there. With a few basic security precautions, campaigners can safely and effectively use TikTok to ensure voters are getting our side of the story.