If you want the Snapchat username @hillaryclinton, you’re out of luck. All of Hillary’s possible Snapchat names are held on reserve for deployment in her 2016 campaign.
Hillary’s campaign and the campaigns of her opponents in both parties are part of a growing movement in American politics. Candidates wish to be recognized by everyone, and they want to do it fast and efficiently, which is where Snapchat and social media comes in. Social media allows the masses to get up close and personal with their potential elected officials while saving the candidate the dry mouth from kissing too many babies. Political pundits have called 2008 the Huffington Post and Politico election, where they nudged their way onto the front line of news, and in 2012 it was BuzzFeed’s turn. Will 2016 be Snapchat’s election? The candidates and even the app itself think so.
“There is no harder riddle to solve in politics than reaching young Americans who are very interested in the future of their country but don’t engage with traditional news,” said Dan Pfeiffer, a former senior adviser to President Obama. Similar to how BuzzFeed communicated candidate platforms and other news through kitten gifs, Snapchat will also allow users a new in-depth look at their candidates. Because most of the users are young adults, all of the candidates hope that increasing their social media presence will appeal to the elusive young adult voters that repeatedly sit out of Election Day in large numbers. In the 2014 midterm elections, for example, voter turnout for the 18-29 age group was 13% according to early exit polls conducted by the Center for Information and Research on Civic Learning and Engagement.
The New York Times is already calling that Snapchat will “shake up” 2016, and the app’s growing influence can already be felt as candidates from both parties announce their bids. Maryland governor and candidate for the Democratic nomination Martin O’Malley shared a picture on Snapchat of him holding a conference call with donors and supporters on May 27th, announcing to all of his followers to “stay tuned for May 30th.” May 30th turned out to be the day he would announce that he is running for president. On the other side of the political spectrum, Marco Rubio also formally launched a Snapchat account and announced his candidacy on the same day.
The app is also trying to become more news-friendly. Users may remember the new slew of updates that launched in early 2015 with publicly shared accounts of music festivals, sporting events, and even France’s reaction to the Charlie Hebdo affair. Recently, Snapchat announced their Head of Original Content as Sean Mills, who previously worked for NowThis and The Onion. Additionally, they’ve hired Peter Hanby, a well-respected CNN reporter, to head its fledgling news team. Yet only time will tell if having backstage access to campaigns will attract as much interest as watching Nicki Minaj gyrate on the Coachella stage.
The Fair Elections Committee so far has no idea how to regulate Snapchat, or any app for that matter. As the evidence disappears within seconds, solidifying claims will be difficult. However, one thing is certain: Snapchat will change elections.