Since last week, Biden has participated in several Instagram Live interviews with influencers and celebrities, including actress and talk show host Keke Palmer, Jerry Harris of Netflix’s docuseries “Cheer,” Youtuber Bethany Mota and dancer Allison Holker. And there are more to come, a Biden campaign adviser tells CNN. Prior to these interviews, Biden had only participated in one Instagram Live during his campaign, with soccer star Megan Rapinoe, in April.
As the national conversation revolves around racial justice and police brutality, this first round of digital partnerships were mostly targeted toward influencers with younger, black followings. The platform and specific partnerships will vary to accommodate different issues and audiences.
“It’s also contingent on when there’s a conversation to be had that reaches a demographic that we want to talk to,” said Meghan Hays, deputy communications director for the Biden campaign. “There were a lot of things that were timely in the news that made sense, when it comes to these Instagram Lives, to have an influencer conversation.”
The push exposes Biden to followers who may not otherwise have seen content put out by the campaign, whether on Twitter or on its own Instagram account. Palmer has 9.6 million followers compared to Biden’s 2.4 million, and shares over half of her followers with users like Beyoncé, Cardi B and Kevin Hart, while half of Mota’s 4.6 million followers are shared with pop star Ariana Grande, according to Instagram analytics. Combined, all five Instagram accounts reach over 20 million individual followers. A bite from Holker’s interview also posted on TikTok, where she has a reach of 2.3 million followers.
“We view it as incredibly important to get off of our own platform and to reach people in demographics that we need to reach in order to win the election,” Biden campaign digital director Rob Flaherty said. “Whether it’s a celebrity or an influencer or a platform like the Shade Room, we’re going to different places to be able to leverage that incremental reach.”
The idea behind these partnerships is to form “real, unscripted” dialogue between the candidate and the influencer. While Biden may be reaching new demographics through these mediums, his message remains unchanged. In his interview with Mota, who is 24, Biden, a student of history, recycled an oft-repeated Franklin Roosevelt quote, and he told Harris that his inspiration to run for office came from Robert F. Kennedy and Martin Luther King Jr.
During his interview with Harris, when asked what he would say to minorities who are not registered to vote because “they feel like it isn’t important and doesn’t matter,” Biden responded that the vote is the most “powerful nonviolent tool” available.
“I know I’m 100 years older than you, OK,” Biden joked. “But in the words of my friend John Lewis, he’s a real civil rights hero, is — the vote is the most powerful nonviolent tool we have.”
Vickie Segar, the founder of Village Marketing, an influencer marketing agency, has been engaged with the Biden campaign to help manage their partnerships with influencers.
“We chose the first group because they all had very topical questions that they wanted answered, and they had a varied audience,” Segar, who is consulting the campaign, told CNN.
Segar says the campaign chose Palmer because they thought she would ask real, unfiltered questions.
“She asked whatever she wanted, and that’s what we expected. And we got Biden’s real answers about things that he felt were addressing concerns that she has in the black community,” Segar said.
Palmer, for her part, made clear in the video’s caption that her interview with Biden was not an endorsement.
“I hesitated because I know people might be quick to judge this as a political endorsement, but then I thought about it and realized that I am a host. I interview people for a living and we millennials deserve to be heard someway somehow,” she wrote. “I did this to help myself and hopefully others get more engaged in the conversation before we cast our votes this November and I am willing to ask the same questions to anybody else trying to be in a position of power that cares to hear what we think.”
CNN’s Harry Enten contributed to this story.