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TikTok vs. television: How social media is shaping the federal election

WATCH: A viral TikTok from federal NDP leader Jagmeet Singh highlights how important social media has become in this year’s federal election.

Four years is a long time in the world of social media.

During the last federal election in 2015, Vine was still alive, Tumblr was still one of the most popular apps and everyone was using Periscope to showcase live events.

But now, with the rapidly changing landscape of social media, Canadian federal party leaders are also changing the way they communicate to their followers ahead of the 2019 election.

READ MORE: Winnipeg student group angles for young voters while politicians target youth with social media

“It seems like it’s playing more and more of a role in the election campaign,” said Darrell Bricker, the CEO of Ipsos Public Affairs, a polling, research, marketing, and analysis company.

That more prominent role was seen on TikTok, a fairly new lip-syncing app that’s surged in popularity, in a post by NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh that now has more than two million views.

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NDP leader takes federal election to TikTok
NDP leader takes federal election to TikTok

That post was followed by a second video — one that’s already amassed more than a million views.

“The assumption is that it’s really targeted for younger voters, but the truth is most of the growth we’ve seen more recently in social media platforms and usages tends to be among older voters,” said Bricker.
“What we’re seeing is less of a what I would say is a generational unanimity to who’s on social media and it’s becoming more diverse.”
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Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau’s social media following trumps that of the other candidates, with his Facebook page racking up more than 6.5 million followers, while his Instagram page has more than three million followers.
Conservative Leader Andrew Scheer, meanwhile, has about 300,000 followers on Facebook and only about 50,000 on Instagram.
Federal election day 38: TikTok, tax tussle and an apology
Federal election day 38: TikTok, tax tussle and an apology
Both party leaders have been constantly posting content on both platforms about their party’s policies and campaign promises leading up to the election.
Bricker said that the social media posts are likely just reinforcing the message to people who already support the party.
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“Basically, [it’s] a quick reminder to people that probably already support you,” Bricker said. “What they should do is take that support and put it into the ballot box.”
But Bricker adds those posts are still crucial in such a tight election, because it pushes those supporters out the door and to the polling stations.
“One thing we know is that turnout is going to be incredibly important,” said Bricker.
Activation of people who can be reached online, he explained, is “faster than knocking on doors and you can do it consistently at a larger level — that kind of activation to get people out can really make the difference in this campaign.”
Although social media seems to be the new way of campaigning in 2019’s election and is bound to play an even bigger role in future elections, Bricker believes that people will continue to tune into traditional forms of media to form their opinions on the candidates.

READ MORE: Canadians mostly seeing negative news, posts during federal campaign: Ipsos poll

“Brands like the major television networks and major newspaper networks tend to be a bit of a ‘truth screen’ in terms of what people see on social media,” he said.
“So those traditional methodologies for getting social media messages out, winning the campaign to get the best clip on television or to get a good endorsement from newspapers, still have an effect,” he added. “Much more than something that would just come out as a meme on social media.”
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