By Aubrey Lawrence, OR-18

I can’t even begin to tell you how many times I’ve heard the argument that Gen Z—or more often “Millennials,” because everyone over 40 seems inexplicably unable to tell the difference—are impossible to engage; that you shouldn’t bother trying to campaign to them because they won’t pay attention anyways. 

This is, in fact, untrue. Most campaigns simply haven’t been trying to connect on our level.

You see, most Millennials (23-38) and Gen Zs (7-22) connect online infinitely more than they do anywhere else. This is not inherently bad or a barrier to connection. It just means you have to approach us a bit differently. Here are some tips from a Gen Z on How To Social Media For A Political Campaign.

YouTube (any demographic)

  • Most effective overall, but does still have some drawbacks. For starters, unlike most of the rest of this list, it costs money.
  • I would recommend running a skippable video ad: the way YouTube’s ad structure is set up makes this option particularly good for low-ish budgets. It’s relatively cheap (abt 10 to 20 cents per view) and while views only count toward payment if more than 30 seconds of the ad is watched, the viewer must still watch at least 5 seconds before skipping, which can be very effective for getting some name recognition and your catchphrase, if nothing else.
  • This means the first 5 seconds of your ad are CRUCIAL
  • Make sure your ad is LONGER than 30 seconds, or else it just throws everything here off.
  • YouTube ads are targetable in a wide variety of ways, so you can play to just about any demographic you want. Just make sure to do some research into your target demographics and adjust the ad accordingly.
  • Targeted ads tend to cost slightly more (abt 15-25 cents per view), but it’s well worth the cost to make sure your ad gets to the right people.

Tumblr (18-25 demographic)

  • Tumblr can be absolutely excellent exposure, especially long-term, but it is also one of the most volatile and tricky of the social media platforms to navigate correctly, and definitely one of the hardest to rectify a mistake on.
  • My main advice for Tumblr is simple: DON’T. ADVERTISE. Tumblr as a platform is notorious for being impossible to make money off of, and there’s a simple reason for that. More than any other platform out there, Tumblr is built and maintained on the concept of anonymous or semi-anonymous transparency and human connection. Don’t take out an ad here—start a blog.
  • Some Tips for Your Blog:
    • If you’re not going to run the blog personally, say so in the blog description. Although it wouldn’t be a terrible idea to get personally involved, at least occasionally. Again, human connections.
      • It’s best to have one person running the blog. If you have multiple people (or you pop in occasionally yourself), sign or note which posts are from who in some way (the tags are really excellent for this). And no, I don’t care how similar the writing styles are; Tumblr will either know within days or completely ignore the discrepancies, and there is no way to predict which. Err on the side of caution.
  • Don’t focus it solely on your campaign. Reblog a nice photo every once in a while. Post a cat video. Humanize yourself.
  • PHRASING. IS. EVERYTHING. Be very, very certain that anything campaign-related you post says exactly what you mean, because the way Tumblr deals with post edits means that any slip-up is going to result in hours and hours of attempted damage control.
    • And then be prepared for people to misread it (possibly intentionally) and have to do a little damage control anyways—but as long as you’re careful in the first place, usually the sane side of the website will do some of that damage control for you.
  • Also, keep in mind that Tumblr is innately, inextricably, incredibly weird. Not in a negative way, just staggeringly bizarre. If you can somehow master the art of “shitposting,” you’re good to go. If you don’t, you will inevitably come off as that one teacher who tries to look cool by using “teenage” slang and fails miserably. Attempt at your own risk.
    • “Shitposting:” An incredibly popular style of Tumblr-posting that consists of seemingly random statements that are somehow relatable. You kinda have to see it to get the gist.

Twitter (varying age ranges, tends to end up in random groupings outside your control)

  • This is the easiest site to run a more “standard” social media PR campaign on, though it forces you to be concise (280 characters) or create a multi-tweet thread. Make an account for your campaign, tweet things relevant to your campaign, occasionally tweet something witty and funny, and you’re good to go. I would recommend using Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez’s Twitter as an example of how to do this right; she seems to have it figured out.

Reddit (mostly 12-17, some older)

  • I’m going to be totally honest—I have absolutely no idea how one would go about running a social media campaign on this platform. The site just doesn’t seem to be built for it. If someone else does figure it out, by all means please share that information.

Instagram (12-25)

  • I don’t actually have an Instagram account, so I can’t speak to any tips or tricks for advertising your campaign here. But I know the site is optimally designed for “Influencers” and advertisers, so I would recommend finding someone with platform experience to help here.

4Chan (varying age ranges)

  • Don’t.
  • Seriously, don’t.
  • This is infamously the most right-wing, conservative, frat-boy, toxic space in all of social media. Do not take that as a challenge.
  • There is no way this will end well, and it will destroy your credibility with any other social media.
  • Just walk away.

Now, in general, social media campaigns will be more effective the broader the office you’re running for. A social media campaign for a presidential or congressional candidate will always reach more relevant people than, say, a city council candidate, simply by the law of averages. The whole point of social media is that it isn’t targeted by area; it’s designed to help people connect. 

But if you have a way to announce your social media presence to your potential voters, chances are they’ll come, even just out of curiosity. To see if you’re genuinely trying to connect with them the way so many other candidates don’t.

Another general tip to keep in mind is that each social media site has its own “accent” of sorts, and it can change over time. This blog post, for instance, is written almost entirely in a 2015 base Tumblr Academic style, modded (modified) for offsite use, because that’s the “accent” I’ve developed over the years of using the site:

  • 2015 was when I joined
  • I write a lot of Fandom analyses
  • I’ve been an active user for several years. 

And anyone on Tumblr will be able to pick out those facts by reading just a few of my posts. If you can learn the “accent” of whatever site you’re trying to campaign on, you will automatically seem more approachable and less “out of place” than if you tried to format your posts like a college writing course or scripted PR campaign.

Again, it all boils down to connecting to the voters on their level.

Also, be prepared for a lot of memes*. Possibly with you as the subject. It’s pretty much unavoidable. Just go with it, have fun, maybe even make some of your own.
*Memes: Popular quotesimages, real people, etc. which are copied, imitated, and spread all over the internet (ie, GrumpyCat, RickRollling, facepalming GIFs)

One does not simply Explain memes to someone - One Does Not Simply ...