NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh has taken social media by storm in the last days of the federal election campaign with a pair of suave TikTok video that have been shared far and wide.
Even if you don’t know what TikTok is, Singh’s video this week simplifying the NDP’s platform to a lip sync of the song “Choices” by E-40 gets the point across. The politician harnessed the social media app’s best features: trending music, filters, and a willingness to be a little self-deprecating.
The video amassed 1.3 million views within a day. Not bad for a party leader trying to tap into the ever-important millennial bloc of Canadian voters.
TikTok and its sister app Douyin, which is only available in China, have been downloaded over a billion times, according to digital marketing agency Konstruct. Around 66 per cent of TikTok’s users worldwide are under the age of 30. Sixty per cent of active monthly in the U.S. are between the ages of 16 and 24, reported marketing agency Mediakix; Canadian demographics of its usage are likely similar.
“I thought it was hilarious,” said Emma Nephtali, who studies cognitive science at McGill University. “I think it was a great idea, considering that … there are a lot of young people on the app. And it’s a really good way to put himself out there without being too forward.”
“That’s the buzz that it generated, is that people who can vote saw it and people who can’t vote saw it but talked to people who could,” she said.
Even political opponents like deputy Conservative Leader Lisa Raitt were impressed.
TikTok is “not deep political analysis,” said Jeffrey Dvorkin, the journalism director at the University of Toronto, but it creates social engagement among young people and pulls them into thinking about politics.
“[Singh has] injected a level of liveliness into the campaign that frankly, the Liberals and the Conservatives just haven’t been able to replicate in any way. He has more passionate, even youthful approaches,” he told HuffPost Canada in an interview.
Singh posted another catchy TikTok a couple days after the first one, increasing his followers on the app.
“I think it was just a powerful way to make the contrast really clear, who we’re in it for, who we’re fighting for, it’s people,” Singh said about his TikTok usage in a press conference on Friday. He added it was important for young people to feel like they matter and to reach them “wherever they are.”
None of the other major party leaders have a public account on TikTok, but their supporters are at least spitting musical barbs back and forth, using the #elxn43 tag.
While the TikTok videos may have boosted the social optics for the NDP, support for the party in polls have remained relatively stable since Singh’s positive performance in the official English language debate, said Nelson Wiseman, a University of Toronto political science professor.
The free app has merit for a party that trailed the Liberals and Conservatives in fundraising, he noted.
“The NDP couldn’t afford to charter a plane. The Liberals have two, Conservatives have one … They’ve got to do it on more of a shoestring,” he said. “[They] have nothing to lose by using things that don’t cost you anything.”
TikTok reminds Dvorkin of Twitter’s early days, when many dismissed the platform as trivializing serious issues with its character limit.
“Twitter, both for better and for worse, has become a significant media platform for politics and politicians. You see what Donald Trump has been able to do with it” he said.
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