VVD party leader Mark Rutte who jokingly looks at whether his lace is loose and GroenLinks party leader Jesse Klaver who calls for more diversity in the House of Representatives. These videos were viewed more than 2 million times together, but not on Instagram or YouTube. The viewers are on TikTok.
For the first time, this app, like audio platform Clubhouse, plays a role in a national election campaign. TikTok is characterized by short films in which dances or other acts are central to the accompaniment of music; the algorithm is essential in this and determines what someone sees on his or her front page. Not only the VVD and GroenLinks are active there, but also the CDA, Forum for Democracy and newcomer JA21. How do they do that?
Making mistakes in time on TikTok
“If you understand how TikTok works, you can get a lot of reach with it,” says Mark Thiessen, former campaign strategist for the VVD. What makes the app interesting is that you don’t have to pay to reach a lot of people, unlike Facebook, for example. “And it is a target group that you would not otherwise find.”
But, he emphasizes, the strategy of how you use the platform is even more important than what you post. “If you want something with TikTok, you should have set it up last fall. Then you can play with it and make mistakes. Because that’s what you make.”
At the end of last year, questions were still raised about the way in which, for example, GroenLinks was active on the video app, but the presence now seems to be paying off.
These are the three TikTok videos of the VVD, JA21 and GroenLinks, which were viewed the most:
Most of the users on TikTok are young, with a significant proportion of them not voting. That begs the question why you, as a party, would invest time in it; does it yield anything?
Yes, says Sanne Kruikemeier, associate professor of political communication (UvA). “These are the voters of the future. Being active on TikTok is really good. Campaigns are not only meant to win votes, but also to get political involvement.”
Like other social media, the videos on TikTok are often a ‘bait’; a way to interest a potential voter in your political message. “In TikTok’s case with funny videos. That’s a way to attract young people to politics,” says Kruikemeier.
So it is an investment in the future electorate. Something that not all parties are working on yet. For example, the PvdA and the SP are missing. D66 has an account, but has not yet posted a video. The CDA has made a start, but the party, with 149 followers and 1640 viewers for the most viewed video, is not yet really successful.
(After) talking about politics at Clubhouse
The real new kid on the block is not TikTok, but Clubhouse. This is an audio app in which you can have conversations in so-called ‘rooms’, which disappear afterwards.
Although the target group is still limited – for the time being the app only works on iPhones – the platform already demands a (small) role. For example, the new party Code Oranje hosts a session almost every evening. Candidate MP Peter Plasman calls it a “great online alternative to the halls”.
Listeners could ask Sylvana Simons van Bij1 questions in the Chamber of Elections 2021, candidate MPs Nourdin el Ouali (Nida) and Rob Jetten (D66) joined Politico Amine el Morabit and D66 party leader Sigrid Kaag talked to Ernst-Jan Pfauth, of De Correspondent.
Thiessen is skeptical about Clubhouse’s role in this campaign. “We don’t really know the app yet. So the question is whether you should spend the scarce campaign time on it. I don’t think so.”
He does see that there are many substantive discussions about politics. “I sat in a session with Klaas Dijkhoff and Peter Kwint in which two hundred people listened in. That does provide qualitative interaction.”