TikTok creators are launching a voter registration campaign on Friday that is geared at reaching potential new voters through viral videos on the short form video app.
According to the organizers, the campaign, “Tok the Vote,” is the first nationwide voter registration campaign on TikTok. Organizers hope their videos reach potential eligible voters until voter registration deadlines close.
Starting Friday, participants are encouraged to change the link in their TikTok bio to www.tokthevote.com, make their profile picture a “Tok the Vote” image that the organization will send to participants, and post a video on their own page with the #TokTheVote hashtag.
So far, the Tok the Vote coalition has convened more than 300 creators from across the country with a combined audience of over 20 million viewers, according to Colton Hess, 25-year-old founder of Tok the Vote.
Despite President Donald Trump’s potential ban of TikTok — the company has sued the administration over Trump’s order –organizers continue to mobilize on the video app. If young people are on TikTok, organizers believe they need to be there, too.
“Gen Z will be a pivotal group in the 2020 election, and TikTok is their entertainment and information platform of choice,” Hess said. “Covid-19 has presented a huge barrier to voter registration, with in-person events canceled, and the youth vote is hit the hardest by proms, graduations, and other registration opportunities being called off. We need to meet these potential voters where they are – on TikTok — and encourage creators who they feel like they know and trust to connect them with the information and resources they need.”
Tok the Vote is using Vote.org’s voter registration tool on their website. According to Tok the Vote, they will be able to track voter registrations from their campaign using individualized Vote.org links.
Vote.org makes its digital tools accessible to a wide array of voter engagement initiatives. Tok the Vote is one such effort leveraging Vote.org technology to reach voters this year.
So far, participants signed up for the Tok the Vote campaign include TikTokers with millions of followers, as well as TikTokers with smaller profiles.
Security analysts have voiced concerns over the app’s safety, given that TikTok is owned by a Chinese company and reportedly collects users’ location and metadata. For its part, TikTok has pushed back against security concerns, calling them “unfounded.” The app, which is especially popular among members of Gen Z, has soared in downloads in recent months.
Hess says he is no more concerned about the security threats on TikTok than on any other social media platform.
“With any social media empire, there are going to be some concerns, but TikTok is a platform and voting is more of a movement,” he said. “And so we’re focused on just reaching these people where they are.”
Hess previously worked in tech. He left his job as a product manager at Amazon in July to focus full time on the election, he said, channeling his energy into Tok the Vote.
A TikTok creator and a self-described “TikTok expert,” Hess noticed that while individual accounts have been getting the word out about politics and the 2020 election, there wasn’t previously a concerted effort on the app aimed at voter registration.
Aware of the number of young people on the app who are eligible to vote in November, as well as the way that trends surge on TikTok in part because of its For You Page algorithm, Hess recognized an opportunity to register voters using the app.
TikTok attracts young audiences and not all TikTokers are of voting age, but TikTokers do not have to be of voting age to participate in the campaign.
“I think the youth vote is so critically important this year. And it’s a major risk if we don’t reach out to them,” Hess said of the TikTok community.
As Hess noted, TikTok has proven to be a tool for political organizers and advocates this summer. In June, TikTokers trolled Trump’s Tulsa rally by reserving tickets to the rally with no intention of attending the event in an effort to dampen the campaign’s turnout numbers.
And throughout the summer, TikTok users of colour and allies have used the #blacklivesmatter hashtag on the app for social advocacy, providing tips on how to protest safely, sharing educational resources and speaking out on racial injustice.