Guerilla Talks TikTok Election Strategy in ITV Interview


ITV Production Journalist Amy Sutton contacted us to arrange an interview, which was recorded at Guerilla HQ and later aired on TV in mid-June. As part of ITV’s UK election coverage, Amy was interested in how important it is for political parties to target voters with the right messages and in the right style to reach the right people. With the upcoming election dubbed the ‘TikTok election,’ she was keen to hear our views on how politicians are using TikTok by adapting their profiles and content online to specifically reach the fingertips of young voters.

Our Managing Director James explained that traditional election campaigns involved pushing out less targeted and more broad-brush campaigns to a wider audience. The reality for the 2024 campaigns is that 77% of 16- to 24-year-olds receive their news through social media platforms. This is significant because it is no longer what the political parties say through traditional media that counts. It is the perceptions and space that each of the political parties occupies in the younger voter’s mind that matters, and it is now a two-way conversation.

James expanded the conversation to confirm that it is incredibly important for the right messages to reach the right people in any marketing campaign, and this is especially true in political campaigns. Targeting ensures that the content is relevant to the audience, which increases engagement and the likelihood of the message resonating. In the context of social media, platforms like TikTok use sophisticated algorithms to tailor content to users’ preferences, behaviours, and demographics. This allows political campaigns to tailor their messages to specific groups, such as young voters, making the content more appealing and effective. Without proper targeting, campaigns risk their messages being overlooked or ignored by those they most need to reach.

Amy was keen to understand how the TikTok algorithm worked, and James explained this using a party analogy. When you first walk into the party (open the app), the host (the algorithm) doesn’t know you well. They start by introducing you to a variety of people (videos and content) to see who you click with. TikTok initially shows you a mix of popular and trending videos to gauge your preferences. This helps the algorithm gather initial data on what type of content you might enjoy. As you mingle, the host watches your interactions closely. If you spend a lot of time chatting with someone (watching a video fully), laugh at their jokes (like the video), or introduce them to others (share the video), the host takes note. The algorithm tracks how users interact with videos through likes, shares, comments, and completion rates. Each of these interactions serves as a signal to the algorithm about the user’s preferences. Based on these interactions, the host begins to introduce you to more people who are like the ones you liked (videos related to your preferences). If you enjoyed talking about sports, you’ll meet more sports stars and enthusiasts.

The algorithm then curates your For You Page (FYP) with content that aligns with your demonstrated interests, enhancing the likelihood that you’ll engage with more videos and stay on the platform longer. Every time you come back to the party, the host remembers your preferences and refines their introductions. If your interests change and you start talking more about sports, the host will introduce you to more sports stars and enthusiasts. The more you interact with the app, the better it gets at predicting your preferences and suggesting relevant content. Then, to keep things interesting, the host occasionally introduces you to new and trending people (videos) that you might not have met yet, ensuring you get a mix of familiar and new experiences. The algorithm also keeps introducing new and popular trends into your feed to ensure that you have a diverse and dynamic experience.

Amy also asked about content creators and recent studies showing that younger voters have been targeted with misinformation concerning the political parties. James explained that recent studies had evidence that misleading content was being created using false claims from a range of sources. This content was often believable and cleverly created using AI. It was also important to note that a new breed of Spinfluencers (political influencers) were sharing content that was very effective and credible in persuading voters to side with a particular political party.

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