President Biden and White House post to millions of followers on social media, discussing the economy on Facebook, sharing Christmas decorations on YouTube, featuring pardoned turkeys on Instagram, and talking about infrastructure on the X platform. They aren’t, however, directly engaging with the 150 million Americans on TikTok. In fact, there is no official @POTUS, White House or Biden-Harris 2024 account on the platform. Only one of the Republican presidential candidates, along with just 37 sitting Congress members, have a presence on TikTok.
Some political commentators have labeled the upcoming election as the “TikTok election” due to the app’s growing power and influence. While TikTok was previously known for viral dances, it has now become a significant news source for millennials and Gen Z-ers.
Evidently, most politicians are keeping their distance from the platform due to concerns about its Chinese ownership. This wariness has led to a significant void in reaching young voters through TikTok, with many campaigns using short videos on other platforms in an attempt to go viral.
The absence of politicians on TikTok is seen as a risky move by some political consultants, highlighting the fact that politicians who don’t use the platform are still subject to its influence. Meanwhile, politicians who are hesitant to join the platform risk being overshadowed by candidates who have a strong presence on TikTok.
Despite the dearth of politicians on TikTok, the White House has utilized the platform to engage with social media influencers and promote its agenda through collaborations. While TikTok prohibits paid political ads and endorsements, influencers and creators on the platform have played a role in spreading political messaging.
The use of TikTok for political purposes extends beyond the scope of official politicians, as evidenced by individuals who have amassed a large following on the platform. While Democrats have effectively used TikTok to support their campaigns, there is less of a culture of TikTok influencers on the conservative side.
Ultimately, the growing influence of TikTok is a significant consideration for politicians, who may need to reconsider their approach to the platform in order to effectively reach young voters and engage with a key demographic ahead of the upcoming election.