Fast, Cheap, Personal, and Everywhere

In our recent piece on the challenges our current presidential selection system poses on traditional media, we highlighted the prohibitive cost of local TV advertising in the most coveted battlegrounds state in 2016.

Viral videos on social media offer a more democratic way of reaching voters because of their relatively low cost. In a national popular vote, this tool would effectively draw more voters to the polls nationwide.

As noted in the recent NY Times article, “Viral Videos Are Replacing Pricey Political Ads. They’re Cheaper, and They Work:”

For many of these Democrats who were running against better-financed rivals, the breakthrough moment came after they got personal in relatively low-cost videos that went viral, reaching millions of people. 

What’s unique about these videos versus the traditional 30 second traditional TV form is that they provide a more candid, personal interaction with candidates without the constraints of time or high cost of advertising. Also, in contrast to paid TV ads blasted to a large group of viewers at once, viral videos that do resonate with voters have the capacity to be the most widely shared while ones that do not resonate go unseen.

Based on Pew data on the widespread use of social media, one can expect viral videos to have an enormous role in a national popular vote, not only in reaching voters in all 50 states plus DC directly but also in generating earned media.

According to Pew, the leading reasons for registered voters not voting in 2016 were

1. "Did not like candidates or campaign issues"

2. "Felt my vote wouldn't make a difference." 

In a national popular vote, individual videos tailored specifically to voters in each state would have the potential to make candidates and campaign issues more appealing to individual voters’ local concerns. A video that is nationally relevant has the opportunity to convey what voters everywhere have in common. Since battleground states currently have greater participation than "safe states," we can also expect more voters everywhere to feel that their votes would matter in a national popular vote and that would boost turnout as well.