Can a social media platform built around disappearing messages and digital ephemera make a difference in the 2016 presidential race?
It’s possible, posits a recent New York Times report, in the way that bloggers (2004), Twitter users and upstart websites (2008) and BuzzFeed and Politico have changed the way we cover and view the last three races. This time around, it could be SnapChat’s turn.
And a Rand Paul shall lead them.
If you haven’t used it or don’t live with a young person who does, SnapChat is a visual messaging platform based around self-destructing messages — photos, videos and, now, brand messages and advertisements — which disappear about 10 seconds after being viewed. It caught on like wildfire among teens and young adults eager for a more private-feeling way to communicate after endless warnings from grownups about the importance of keeping a straight face on the “public” Internet.
Only a few years old, SnapChat now has 100 million-plus users and tens of millions of “Snaps” sent and received each day, most among millennial-age and younger people. And it’s those people that Paul, the U.S. senator from Kentucky and one of an ever-enlarging field of Republican candidates, is after. You might call Paul an early adopter, as he joined the service in early 2014 and has been snapping ever since.
And he’s not the only one: Maryland Gov. Martin O’Malley, a competitor for Hillary Clinton’s claim to the Democratic nomination, is on SnapChat.
It seems doubtful that the rest of the GOP field will follow suit, seeing as how nothing ruins a social media platform more quickly for young people than when their parents and grandparents start using it.
Besides, I predict by the end of the primary season, the mainstream will leave SnapChat to the kids and all eyes will be focused on the brave new world of Periscope, which like a similar app, Meerkat, allows users to broadcast live, unfiltered video in real time through their Twitter feeds.