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Political consultants, students talk political authenticity on social media

Maggie Rhodes | Staff Photographer
Moderator and School of Media & Public Affairs Director Peter Loge sits with panelists, from left to right, Director of Performance Marketing at Direct Persuasion Liz Ring, Senior Nicholas Anastácio, Alumna Madeline Twomey, and Sophomore Sonia Howell.

A panel of political consultants and GW students discussed political authenticity on social media at the School of Media & Public Affairs on Monday. 

Political consultants Madeline Twomey and Liz Ring along with political communication majors Sonia Howell, a sophomore, and Nicholas Anastácio, a senior and The Hatchet’s community relations director, discussed the authenticity of politicians on social media and President Joe Biden’s campaign’s use of TikTok to reach voters. SMPA Director Peter Loge moderated the event as the last part of the Campaigns and Elections event series for the academic year. 

Twomey said as a political consultant she works with politicians and although many politicians may appear to be speaking candidly on social media, their messages are honed and scripted by their staff. 

“A lot of what public officials and candidates do is they have scripts, they have talking points,” Twomey said. “And I think it is a little naive to think that doesn’t always follow through on social media.”

Twomey said she has worked with the Biden White House on some of their social media outreach and thinks it is “fantastic” that Biden’s campaign and the Democratic National Committee joined TikTok in 2022 after not using the app due to national security concerns. The Biden campaign began posting to TikTok in February and has since garnered over 300,000 followers. 

“It’s important that our public officials are where eyeballs are,” Twomey said. 

Anastácio said TikTok is “another new way” for the president to communicate with the country and that viewers of the Biden campaign’s account have enjoyed the nonpolitical nature of some of the videos, such as a video posted of the president talking about the Super Bowl. 

“I think for a lot of social media users, they might see Biden talk about the Super Bowl and it’s like, ‘Oh, it’s funny because he’s the president and he’s supposed to be serious,’” Anastácio said. 

Discussing the current congressional effort to ban TikTok, Anastácio said Biden’s stance on a ban of the social media platform brings into question whether the president should be on TikTok if he supports a ban.

“With President Biden saying that he would sign it if it came to his desk, I think that changes the conversation of the platform and whether communicating it was a good idea or not,” Anastácio said. 

Howell said she does not understand why politicians like Biden are using TikTok while considering a ban on the app. She said she does not see why Biden would want to take away this “tool” younger voters use to consume and distribute information, while using it for himself.

“You have to pick one side, this is black and white in this situation,” Howell said. 

Ring said when working with influencers to create political content, she encourages them to be authentic as authenticity is received well by viewers. 

“So if they want to film a video going through the drive-through because that’s what they do, go for it. I’d want it to be as authentic to them as possible, and try to prevent giving talking points that they’re just regurgitating,” Ring said. 

Ring said she tells influencers to “sound like themselves” and only gives them “vague” talking points for their posts to assure they come off as authentic.

“The influencers like that, they like being able to take their own lead with it,” Ring said. 

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