Introducing: the ‘influencer army’
As the distinction between influencer and political organiser becomes increasingly blurred, the White House is enlisting an “influencer army” to encourage young people to get vaccinated.
As reported by The New York Times, the Biden administration has signed up 50 Twitch, YouTube, and TikTok users to reach their massive follower counts, which largely consist of young people under the age of 30.
Selected influencers were allegedly sent inquiries from the White House through a marketing organisation, asking them to address “a massive need to grow awareness within the 12-18 range”.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, many in that age group haven’t been fully or halfway vaccinated against COVID-19 yet.
The New York Times also reported that state and local governments are also hiring the help of regional influencers, with some dishing out $1,000 per month incentives to encourage their followers to get vaccinated.
“I am beyond honored and humbled to be here today to help spread the message about the importance of new vaccination. I am in awe of the work President Biden and Dr. Fauci have done and was happy to help lend my support to this important initiative,” Rodrigo said in a press briefing. “It’s important to have conversations with friends and family members, encouraging all communities to get vaccinated.”
The campaign comes as the Delta variant continues to send infection rates soaring. It also highlights how the US government is acknowledging the cultural sway of digital platforms and the influencers ruling them.
Earlier this year, internet theorist Joshua Citarella commented on the power of online personalities shaping offline organisations, writing: “As online media encroach further into real-world politics, there is a mounting competitive pressure for content producers to get more politically involved.”
While we’re yet to see the exact reprecussions of online competition in driving these channels to become politically active, here’s hoping that the fervour can be harnessed effectively into the social fabric.