Jul 6, 2020 - Politics & Policy

Biden campaign using Instagram to mobilize celebrity supporters

Actor Misha Collins speaks into a microphone
Collins appears on the BUILD live interview series in November 2019. Photo: Gary Gershoff/Getty Images

The Biden campaign is launching a new initiative today that will draft Hollywood celebrities for Instagram Live chats with campaign officials and other Biden supporters.

Why it matters: The campaign, called #TeamJoeTalks, is an attempt to open up a new front on social media, drawing on celebrities’ Instagram followers to help find and motivate voters while large parts of the country remain locked down.

  • "They all have audiences that we are tapping into," said Adrienne Elrod, who joined the Biden campaign last month to manage outreach initiatives with high-profile supporters. "People are still at home, living on their phones."

Driving the news: You may not know TV actor Misha Collins, but his 4.2 million Instagram followers certainly do. He'll interview Biden senior adviser Karine Jean-Pierre this afternoon.

  • Remember Bradley Whitford, who played the brainy Josh Lyman as deputy chief of staff on "The West Wing?" He’ll chat with potential VP pick Stacey Abrams about voting rights.
  • Other names lined up: Actor Debra Messing, celebrity chef Tom Colicchio, and former presidential candidate Andrew Yang.

Between the lines: Campaigns have always tried to leverage a celebrity's popularity to drive support for a candidate, but they typically did so in traditional campaign venues: pre-rally concerts, big-dollar fundraisers or local events.

  • But trying to corral a celebrity's Instagram followers — and meet them where they are — is another example of how technology is altering campaigns.
  • The goal is to do one a day for the rest of the month and beyond.
  • Conversations are short — only 20 minutes — and both the celebrities and the campaign will promote the chats beforehand.

The big picture: The Trump campaign is proud of its digital presence and all but chuckles at any attempt to take on @realDonaldTrump in the asymmetrical warfare of social media.

  • "The Trump campaign is speaking to their base," said Elrod. "We are expanding our reach, tapping into our supporters' networks and growing support for the Vice President's message.”

Be smart: In the modern era, we’ve never had two candidates who aren’t just diametrically opposed on most policy issues, but are running totally different campaigns.

  • It's also rare to have this many celebrities working to get the incumbent out of office, with so many ways to reach their fans.
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