TikTokers Have Some Advice For Joe Biden’s New Account

So: Is it working? We reached out to popular TikTokers across industries — politics, news, even comedy — to ask how they feel about the president’s first post. Here’s the advice they have for Biden as he tries to resonate with TikTok’s massive audience of young voters.

The following has been edited for length and clarity.

‘Just hand him the phone and let the man cook’

V Spehar runs
Under The Desk News, a TikTok account with 3 million followers that breaks down news of the day in short form videos.

It’s unfortunate that in the past Biden has said he would support a ban on TikTok — I hope his joining the platform is a long-term change in attitude, and that he and other politicians will consider engaging not just as creators and distributors of content, but as listening and engaging community members.

Everyone’s first video has the same vibe of showing up to a friend of a friend’s party and hoping to see friendly faces or be welcomed. My tip is, make the TikTok fit TikTok culture. Don’t just post highly polished content the way you may on Instagram. Be a community member who comments on others’ videos as well. Be consistent with your posts. Maybe show us more behind the scenes at the White House — “Get Ready With Me” to run for president? It’s never been done, so it’ll be interesting to see how this administration breaks the ice for POTUS on TikTok — and interesting to see if Republicans join the platform as well now.

He should be genuine and show us the off-book, behind-the-scenes of Biden. We get plenty of speeches written by other people and spin directed by the comms team on the other platforms. I don’t need him to stump on TikTok or do a bunch of skits with celebrities. Just hand him the phone and let the man cook. Maybe show up in other TikTokers videos. I’d love to see him playing cards by the pool with
The Old Gays —
“grandfluencer” stuff talking about Medicare or social security.

‘They need to break through to the apolitical and apathetic’

Annie Wu Henry is a Democratic digital strategist who famously ran Sen. John Fetterman’s TikTok account in 2022.

I would say that they need to make sure whatever they are doing doesn’t feel forced, because young people especially can see right through that. And also that there is a fine line when trying to be relatable, [which can] can feel like pandering. It needs to be creative, but it also needs to feel real, and a platform like TikTok, if used effectively, can highlight just that. It’s not just about the number of views or who sees it — because he is the president of the United States, people will see it. He’s not fighting for name recognition or some of the things that people starting out on that platform usually need to overcome. But the question is, will it resonate?

They can’t have only the people who love and hate him in the comments, they need to break through to the apolitical and apathetic, and in a way that doesn’t immediately turn them off. They’re going to need to make content that everyday voters, and Americans, and people widespread on the app would be engaging with and would still find compelling if it wasn’t coming from an account that’s associated with the president of the United States.

‘Lose the traditional media polish’

Olivia Julianna is a Democratic activist, strategist and social media creator with 648.5K followers on TikTok.

The Biden campaign should lose the traditional media polish. Social media, especially TikTok, thrives on parasocial interaction and relatability. People are more likely to engage with content that feels like a FaceTime call instead of a newscast. If I want to be mentally engaged in politics in a polished way, I’ll turn on C-SPAN.

The account has already done a good job with the content they have posted. It shows President Biden in a more casual and relaxed setting, which is something we don’t see frequently. It’s not only a nice change of pace, but I think it’s nice to humanize our elected officials so we don’t just see them as robots. It reminds folks that at the end of the day they’re normal people who work for their constituents and that we all have a say in civics if we’re willing to speak on it and get engaged.

‘Memes and digs at Trump just won’t get him very far in terms of swaying votes’

Claire Simon is
Gen Z for Change’s communications coordinator and election projects chair. Gen Z for Change was previously called TikTok for Biden in 2020, though the group has grown more critical of the president since he took office and was one of many to
pen a letter to the president warning not to take young people’s votes for granted amid concern over Gaza.

I would be the first person to tell you about the power of TikTok as a campaign tool, so I would say this is not an unexpected move for the Biden campaign. Since 2020, TikTok has been proven again and again to be very powerful when it comes to politicians connecting with young people, so as someone who has worked in this intersection of politics and social media for a while now, I’m not at all surprised they hopped on.

That being said, when it comes to the president of the United States of America using TikTok, this is really a substance over style issue. Yes, TikTok is where young people are right now, but it’s where a lot of young people who are pretty unhappy with Biden are, and so what that means is, just posting memes isn’t really going to fix that issue for him. Political memes have their place, TikTok has its place, but, and especially when you’re one of the most powerful people in the country, you have to use discretion and intentionality for them to be their best.

While Joe Biden’s team was posting content about Taylor Swift and the Super Bowl, the Israeli military was launching airstrikes into Rafah, and a lot of people I know read this as incredibly tone deaf. You can see it on the page, too — many of the top comments are about Palestine and Rafah.

Even what they posted [Monday] — a dig at Trump about
Roe v. Wade — I think is another misstep. Ultimately, this is a campaign account. Biden wants to convince the young people that don’t feel comfortable voting for him right now to change their minds, and there isn’t a way around that besides listening to what is being asked of him: action on Palestine, more climate initiatives, etc.

Once he makes actual policy moves on those issues, TikTok will serve him as a great tool to authentically promote and share this work once it begins, but memes and digs at Trump just won’t get him very far in terms of swaying votes. There’s so much content I can think of as being a great move for him, but it’s all dependent on actual actions he needs to make outside of everyone’s phone screens and in the real world — international, D.C. and local communities across the country.

‘People want to see the president being relatable’

Matt Rein is a political creator who formerly ran the ‘Democrat Hype House’ on TikTok. He has 105.4K followers on the platform.

It’s about time. Of course, in 2020, the campaign — and really any other Democrat — didn’t want to touch TikTok with a 10-foot pole. Or a 100-foot pole. But you know, I think what we’re seeing is the realization about how powerful TikTok can be as a messaging platform, and really meeting people where they are. It’s amazing to me how many people get their news from TikTok, or how many people even tell me they get their news or hear about something from my account or other people’s accounts on TikTok. So I think it’s a recognition of how powerful the platform is and what potentially it can do for 2024.

One of the challenges for 2024, considering President Biden is 81, is still being able to connect with him with folks my age. I thought it was a very relaxed, casual video, and the more that the Biden campaign can do that, and just show, ‘Hey, President Biden’s a normal guy, and he watches football and he is in-the-know with things that are happening in the world,’ the better off the campaign will be personally.

I wouldn’t advise or expect him to make a 10-minute speech on the intricacies of foreign policy. But even a 20-second clip about abortion rights or health care, something like that type of policy focus, could be helpful. And then mixing that in with the kind of video that we saw that was first posted. I think people really crave that kind of content. The fact that it received 6 million views, or it has received 6 million views already — people want to see the president being relatable or just being casual, and his team did a great job with that. But I still think there is an area for some policy talk, especially if it’s in the style of the video that we saw in the first video. The last couple of videos have been clips, which is great, and those do help and they do reach people, but the more personal that they can make it the better — but I trust that digital team, they’re really great.

‘Don’t come two years later and be like, “Oh, we need to ban this”’

Malik Davis is a sophomore at Norfolk State University best known for his “
POV of an HBCU Student” account on TikTok, which has 17.4K followers.

I see that they’re trying to keep up with us, they’re trying to keep up with Gen Z and all of that. But there are bigger issues y’all could be using your platform for, like the war in Gaza and the different things that’s going on around the world. Their platform is big. It’s the president of the United States; they have so much reach that they can use. Why use it for the Super Bowl when there’s people dying and people homeless?

I’m a creator on TikTok, I understand the aspects of that, and TikTok is reaching a whole other audience. But I’ve been on the “For You” page, and a lot of users on here are not with Biden at the moment because of his take on the war. So it’s going to be very hard for him to control the campaign, and have it his way, when there are a lot of people not agreeing with him.

Another thing is, it’s OK if he uses [TikTok] for his campaign, but don’t come two years later and be like, ‘Oh, we need to ban this.’ If he’s going to use it, he needs to be behind it and don’t just drop the ball.

If I was on Joe Biden’s campaign team, I would tell them to address the issues first and leave the leisure for last. Address the main topics that are going on on the app. Respond to the comments. Let Joe Biden have a one-on-one talk with different commenters who want to ask questions or who have an opinion. I know they’re trying to be with the times, but you have to be also privy to what’s going on on the app. If his team has been on the app for some time now, it would know that a lot of people aren’t really messing with him right now. But I guess this is him trying to regain those voters, because he knows a lot of his voters are on TikTok.

‘Don’t try to be younger or cooler or different than you are’

Talia Lichtstein is an internet personality and podcast host. She has 1.3 million followers on TikTok.

It was cute! But (and I think many politicians should take this advice) he needs to move away from trying to be “relatable.” I’m sure they’ve got a whole spreadsheet of trending sound and template videos to make for him with the goal of seeming in touch with Gen Z, but that approach will turn into a giant, months-long, Steve Buscemi
“hello, fellow kids” meme. He is the president — and also an 80-year-old guy. It’s not a secret that he isn’t relatable. So pretending he really cares about Taylor and Travis is funny and cool, but also transparent and will sway no one.

Take a hint from Democratic Rep. Jeff Jackson of North Carolina, who has found so much success on TikTok. Get him in front of the camera in a casual setting. No bells and whistles. He needs to look at the camera and firmly explain his position on hot-button issues in plain English. Lay out how he will approach [insert issue here] compared to how the opposition will handle it. Needs to be under 3 minutes.

He needs to address areas of concern very concisely and clearly so young voters can easily look up his position on everything and understand it in a few minutes. That is the advantage of TikTok — quick accessible information. Don’t complicate it and don’t try to be younger or cooler or different than you are. Just use it as a tool to make your politics easy to understand.

The elephant in the room as far as his TikTok account right now is of course Israel/Palestine. I think a great place to start would be to break down his position on the conflict versus Trump’s. Explain the results of a Biden presidency versus a Trump presidency over the next four years in Gaza and Israel. Tell me in three minutes why it is better for the Middle East if you are president versus Trump.

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