Top Stories
Top Stories
Politics

Joe Biden is getting advice from social media executives on how best to appeal to young voters

Key Points
  • Former Vice President Joe Biden has been receiving regular briefings from executives at digital and social media companies, including viral video distributor NowThis, in order to learn ways to appeal to young voters if he were to run for president.
  • Biden has gotten advice from an executive at Twitter, according to a person with direct knowledge of the matter who would not disclose the executive's name.
  • People familiar with the matter also say that Biden's team is prepared to hire at least 20 social media experts who would advise him if he were to jump into the 2020 race.
Former VP Joe Biden.
Bastiaan Slabbers | NurPhoto | Getty Images

Former Vice President Joe Biden has been receiving regular briefings from executives at digital and social media companies in order to learn strategies for appealing to young voters if he were to run for president again.

Biden has gotten advice from an executive at Twitter, according to a person with direct knowledge of the matter who would not disclose the executive's name.

"We work with elected officials, candidates and former politicians regularly when it comes to them getting the most out of Twitter," a spokesman for the company told CNBC. This person would not directly comment on Biden.

Critics of a potential Biden run have suggested that Democratic voters — and the electorate in general — may prefer a fresh face to take on President Donald Trump, who is 72, in 2020. Biden is 76 and has been a staple of the national political scene since the early 1970s. If he were to run, Biden would have to cultivate a digital operation to keep pace with rivals who have had a head start in developing a vast reach on social media.

People familiar with the matter also said that Biden's team is prepared to hire at least 20 social media experts who would advise him if he were to jump into the 2020 race.

The former vice president has also talked with Athan Stephanopoulos, president of NowThis News, an online outlet that specializes in creating and distributing viral short-form videos — and helped raise the national profile of potential 2020 Democratic candidate Beto O'Rourke.

VIDEO5:3005:30
Former US Rep. Barney Frank weighs in on the 2020 Democratic field

In an interview Wednesday, Stephanopoulos confirmed that he had been in touch with Biden, his team and a variety of 2020 candidates about how his company can help present their policies while connecting with young voters.

"We are trying to reinforce that news outlets like NowThis are an important place to spend time and reach these audiences," he told CNBC, describing key issues for young voters such as immigration and criminal justice reform, as well as climate change. "Candidates will have to take a stand on these issues as it relates to talking to this whole new generation of voters."

Stephanopoulos said NowThis reaches 70 percent of Americans in their 20s on a monthly basis, a data point that has caught the attention of Democratic 2020 campaigns. Sen. Bernie Sanders' campaign, for instance, hired a NowThis employee to become a senior media producer.

People close to Biden said the former vice president has appeared to absorb extensive knowledge about online messaging through these meetings.

Biden touched on the subject Tuesday at a University of Delaware event.

The veteran politician reflected on how the social media landscape had changed since President Barack Obama's re-election campaign in 2012. Biden also acknowledged he's getting counsel from some of the industry's top executives as he tries to comprehend the evolution of social media and its impact on campaigns.

"From the last time Barack and I ran … the whole issue of social media and the use of social media has fundamentally changed," he said. "And so we've been getting briefings from the most advanced people in the country who run these major platforms."

Biden said he was in the "final stages" of deciding whether he will run in 2020 and said his family will support him if he chooses to enter the arena.

Biden, a former longtime U.S. senator from Delaware, has also heard from a variety of top Democratic donors about a third potential run for president, CNBC first reported.

A spokesman for Biden declined to comment.

The impact of Beto O'Rourke

Biden's efforts to better understand the social media landscape come as entities like NowThis made an impact on the 2018 midterms.

One of the biggest beneficiaries from NowThis' reach was Democratic rising star O'Rourke, who is considering whether to run for president, as well. Video of his remarks defending NFL players taking a knee during the national anthem to protest police brutality was distributed by NowThis. The clip racked up over 44 million views across Twitter, Snapchat, Instagram, Facebook and YouTube.

The moment also captured the attention of celebrities such as TV host and comedian Ellen DeGeneres, who said in a follow-up tweet that she wanted to meet O'Rourke. He appeared on her show in September.

While O'Rourke ultimately lost his bid to unseat Texas Republican Sen. Ted Cruz, he came within 2 percentage points of pulling an upset in the deep-red state. Texas hasn't had a Democratic senator since 1993.

O'Rourke's social media savvy became a hallmark of his campaign, as he attracted young voters and donors in droves. He posted on his Twitter account videos of him jogging with supporters and showed off his air-drumming skills during a 45-minute livestream on Facebook.

His ability to connect with voters over social media may well have triggered a boost in early voting, according to data gathering firm Target Smart. The data reflects that in 2018, more than 670,000 Texans between the ages of 18 and 29 voted early in the midterms. In 2014, by comparison, 118,000 people either voted early or sent in an absentee ballot.

O'Rourke, according a poll conducted by AP VoteCast, received 69 percent of the votes from people who are between the ages of 18 and 29. He also dominated with voters who are between the ages of 30 and 44, capturing 53 percent of that age demographic.

Biden's political circle has some digital experience of its own to build on from the midterms. His political action committee, American Possibilities, spent $297,000 on web ads and just over $292,000 on administrative data technology, according to the nonpartisan Center for Responsive Politics.