The presidential election is less than one month away, and hundreds of grassroots organizations are encouraging young voters to get to the polls. Rock the Vote is a nonpartisan group that focuses on engaging 18- to 29-year-olds with voter drives on college campus and at rock concerts. The organization represents the intersection of young people, politics and popular culture, and works with artists to grab the attention of young people and engage them in the political process. The organization’s mission is to “engage and build the political power of young people in order to achieve progressive change in our country.”
Rock the Vote has successfully registered more than 2.3 million young people on its Web site. Although the organization still uses traditional tactics to register new voters, such as door-to-door canvassing and phone banking, it has also leveraged new media tactics to bring young people to the polls. The organization recognized that 18 million 18- to- 29-year-olds have a Facebook account. Therefore, Rock the Vote has used four features of Facebook to reach its target audiences: fan pages, events, groups, and advertising. The organization’s fan page has over 48,500 fans and includes videos, photos, blog posts, and a link to register to vote.
The organization also has a MySpace page with music, videos, event updates, and links to register to vote. Rock the Vote’s YouTube site has more than 100 videos of celebrities encouraging viewers to become engaged politically.
Rock the Vote has also partnered with AT&T to reach young voters using text messaging. The organization conducted a poll in February that showed 85% of 18- to 29-year-olds own a cell phone, while only 75% own a landline phone. By collecting cell phone numbers on its Web site, at its events, in its e-mail newsletter, and through voter registration, Rock the Vote will send text messages (to supporters that opt-in to do so) on the day before voter registration deadlines as well as the day before the election.
Rock the Vote’s campaign success shows how important it is to use new and traditional tactics to reach younger demographics. Organizations need to use both to effectively expand their reach.