The ephemeral app known as Snapchat, launched in 2011 with the promise of disappearing messages that left no social trail, has become a digital power broker as US mid-term elections fast approach.
Starting in September, on National Voter Registration Day, Snap began displaying a link to a voter registration page on the profile of every user over 18 years old, accompanied by a video message promoting voter participation along with filters for users to encourage their friends to register.
The Discover feature highlighted information about midterm elections and voter registration efforts happening across the nation.
By linking to TurboVote.org, the brand geared to millennials and younger hopes to reverse the abysmal voter turn-out in 2014 when fewer than one-fifth of 18- to 25 year-olds cast a vote.
Reportedly, 80% of US Snapchat users are 18 and older and on average access the app 20 times a day.
Snapchat’s voter registration initiative might actually reach new voters – via @realkrauswife @mashable https://t.co/CESyD3uH6x
— Russ Caditz-Peck (@RussCP) September 25, 2018
The company’s efforts to date have helped 418,000 users register to vote within a recent two-week period, many of whom live in contentious states including Florida, Georgia, Ohio, and Texas. In addition, 600,000 users signed up to receive election reminders from TurboVote,
Mike Ward, TurboVote program director, said the team estimated potential voters reached by tracking the number of people who clicked through from the TurboVote site to the homepage of their state’s voter registration site.
In states that allow online registration users could complete the process directly, while in states requiring in-person voting, Democracy Works mailed users the requisite forms. “They’ve already done the heavy lift when we hand them off to directly interact with their Secretary of State,” said Ward.
Other tech companies including Twitter, Instagram, Google and Facebook are also encouraging voters to register, sending out reminders and partnering with TurboVote.
Taylor Swift posted her support to two Democrats in Tennessee on Instagram earlier this month, and made an appeal for voter registration during the American Music Awards. More than 166,000 people signed up to vote as a result.
On National Voter Registration Day in September, Snapchat said that voting is “one of the most important forms of self-expression we have in America.”
A word of caution from Engadget, “This is registration, not the vote itself, so it’s uncertain how well this will translate to people casting ballots. It might have the most impact if there’s a matching effort for November 6th.”
In Snapchat’s first post in May 2012, CEO Evan Spiegel described the company’s mission: “Snapchat isn’t about capturing the traditional Kodak moment. It’s about communicating with the full range of human emotion—not just what appears to be pretty or perfect.”
He presented Snapchat as the antidote to the longevity of personal information on social media, evidenced by “emergency detagging of Facebook photos before job interviews and photoshopping blemishes out of candid shots before they hit the internet.”
Six years has seen Snap evolve into a significant social/digital player, iterating its brand to a platform where every voter registration will impact the 2018 mid-term elections in a contentious contest where voting has perhaps never been more important.