Is Instagram Live Changing The Way Candidates Communicate with Voters?

Candidates need to be on Facebook or Instagram Live

The 2020 Presidential election is already in full swing. Maybe you’ve noticed hopefuls like Beto O’Rourke and Elizabeth Warren turn to Instagram Live to start casual conversations with voters as they go about their day. Some politicians also took to live streams to give their instant reactions to the President’s recent State of the Union address. Whether it’s on Facebook Live, Instagram Live, or other popular live streaming options, it’s clear that candidates see live chats as a useful social media tool. But how is it changing the way candidates connect with voters?

It is actually a part of a long tradition.

Although the technology is more advanced, politicians have been looking for unique ways to connect with voters for centuries. Starting in 1933, thanks to the new popularity of the radio, President Franklin Delano Roosevelt hopped on the airwaves to keep Americans informed about his New Deal efforts and World War II. Two centuries before that, politician and Founding Father Benjamin Franklin published his opinions in the newly-founded Pennsylvania Gazette. These examples provide important context and prove that — while technology may change — the need for easy communication with voters precedes even the founding of the United States.

What does social media offer that is new?

Social media live streaming is a game-changing communication method because it offers immediacy and flexibility. Looking to respond to a major news story or discuss comments made by an opponent? With Instagram Live, you can be online in seconds, giving your take. You can also connect anywhere. You don’t have to be sitting at home to log on and start a live stream. You can be right on the campaign trail, which gives online users a front row seat to the exciting things you and your team are up to on the ground.

Social media live streams can be a two-way street.

Unlike Franklin’s op-eds in the Pennsylvania Gazette or FDR’s fireside chats, an Instagram live stream can be a two-way street that forms a dialogue between you and voters. Viewers can ask questions in the comments section which you can then answer directly. This enables you to respond to voters’ concerns in your own words and clear up any misconceptions they may have.

Embrace your inner documentarian.

Live video can be powerful. The examples of Facebook Live and Instagram Live chronicling major events and driving social change are numerous. As someone with a large platform and credibility, you can use Instagram Live to highlight causes that are important to you. For instance, say you represent a town or a state that is voting on an environmental protection bill. To engage voters and give them a deeper look into this issue, you can live stream a walk through the forest that may be compromised depending on the outcome of this vote. These moments can raise awareness – and may be even more impactful than your average political ad.

Best practices

  • Although followers often get a notification when you go live, you will want to make sure you publicize when you’re going online with a live stream, especially if you’re going to be making a big announcement or discussing an important issue.
  • Sure, talking to the camera gets your point across. But using filters and any of the many visual bells and whistles on Instagram video will make your video more entertaining to watch.
  • Know what you want to talk about but don’t appear too rehearsed. Go into the live stream knowing what you’re going to talk about so that things don’t feel aimless. Because if you have to improvise too much, you might end up saying something you regret.
  • Users have 24 hours to playback your live stream. So don’t be afraid to publicize your live stream after the fact for up to 24 hours — especially if you feel it was a particularly engaging live session.

Using social media creatively can set your campaign apart. Instagram Live — and other live video platforms — are just one of many tools modern campaigns can use to build bridges between candidates and potential voters.