Indonesian presidential hopefuls on TikTok to attract Gen Z, millennials

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Indonesia’s presidential election is scheduled for February 14, and candidates are doing all they can to win over voters in this country of 274 million. 56.5% of voter outreach is done on social media, with millennials and Gen Z voters. One platform in particular has emerged as key, TikTok.

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JAKARTA – Indonesia’s presidential hopefuls are pulling out all the stops to win over voters on social media ahead of the February 14 election.

In a country of 274 million, millennials and Gen Z make up the electorate 56.5% of voters – and the campaign is heating up on social media.

One platform in particular has emerged as a key battleground: TikTok.

“In 2019, it was the Instagram election. This time it’s the TikTok election,” said Aryo Seno Bagaskoro, a youth spokesman for former Central Java governor Ganjar Pranovo’s presidential campaign.

With 125 million monthly active users, Indonesia is TikTok’s second largest market, making the platform key for Indonesians trying to get news and updates about the election.

All three candidates have taken notice and are churning out youth-oriented content on TikTok along with Defense Minister Prabowo Subianto. Dance for the crowdFormer Jakarta governor Anis Baswedan is embracing K-pop fans, and former Central Java governor Ganjar Pranowo is promoting penguin-related posts.

For Prabowo, a clear front-runner polling in his mid-40s, the messaging on TikTok fits with the larger “gemoy,” or pretty, image of his presidential campaign.

The approach is a marked departure from the macho image adopted by the 72-year-old during his previous runs for the presidency in 2014 and 2019.

Than the video of getting to it Rallies on the backs of stallions And stirring up crowds with nationalistic speeches, the most popular content on TikTok has shown him as a sensitive – even sensitive – side.

One of the most popular campaign posts on TikTok, with 49 million views, was shown On the verge of tears After tough questioning in the second presidential debate. Many of Prabowo’s supporters, often young women, post videos of themselves Crying in unison And Prabowo alleging that was a victim of prejudice.

Anies’ signing has been live streamed on TikTok Locally dubbed as “Desak Anis”. or “Interrogate Ennis.”

Polling in the mid-twenties, he is running neck-and-neck with Ganjar, and is cultivating followers who send him direct questions. Topics vary from their political program to advice on first dates.

From K-Pop to ‘Top Gun’

Rejecting her past associations with orthodox Islam, Anis has found unexpected popularity among K-pop fans, mainly young women.

One of her supporters is a 22-year-old female student who posts on social media platform X about Anies and her campaign using Korean hangul captions. Most of the footage posted is taken from TikTok.

“It’s a perfect fit for K-popification,” the account owner told CNBC, asking not to be named for fear of backlash.

“When he did TikTok live, the background was used by K-pop idols, maybe it was a curtain.”

Anies campaign and her official supporter groups have taken note, occasionally sending her photos or videos that they want her to promote.

Ganjar campaigns also have their own tactics, such as “Top Gun”-style jackets And Penguin Symbols. But, according to his campaign team, he is most interested in videos of him naturally interacting with voters on the ground to show his humble roots.

“TikTok has unique characteristics. The algorithm values ​​the authenticity and originality of videos,” says Karnia Dharmasaputra, deputy of media channels on the Ganjar campaign team. “On TikTok we prefer an unpolished type of video. Instagram, I think, values ​​polished content more.”

Older politicians have had to embark on a crash course for TikTok campaigns.

This photo taken on Jan. 10, 2024 shows a man recording a campaign video for social media used by Indonesian Democratic Party of Struggle (PDI-P) legislative candidate, Yukon Furkon Sukanda, in Tangerang, Banten province.

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Ganjar’s running mate, Mahfud MDA has played the lead role Here, replicating Anies’ signature live broadcast. But getting the 66-year-old minister and former chief justice of the Constitutional Court on the platform was difficult at first.

“When we were first encouraged to livestream Pak Mahfud, it was a bit awkward to be quite honest,” Karnia said. “But he adapted very quickly.”

Fear of fake news

As TikTok’s power becomes apparent, concerns about its potential for abuse have also grown.

Misinformation on social media has been a major issue in past Indonesian elections, with lies spread widely by bots and “buzzers” employed by one group or another to churn and campaign.

TikTok is now trying to limit not just that Spreading false informationBut also its role as a platform for political messaging.

Paid political advertising or fundraising by politicians and political parties is not allowed on social media platforms. The company also has A fictitious partnership With government institutions, local NGOs and the newswire agency Agence France-Presse to combat disinformation.

“The short video format used on TikTok means that much of the misinformation we broadcast on the platform consists of edited clips or footage shared out of context with misleading or incorrect captions,” said a representative for AFP.

Some examples include clips made to look like crowds at a Prabowo rally – who were in fact his supporters – were pleasing their opponentsOne claims so Ennis converted to ChristianityAnd another prominent journalist Endorsement of ancestors.

According to Mafindo, one of the NGOs working with TikTok, between January and November last year, only 7.4% of those they recorded and helped to remove were on TikTok.

“It’s on YouTube and Facebook that we get the most misinformation, but I think TikTok is catching on. It means there’s a lot of fraud happening on TikTok now,” said Septiaji Nugroho, chairperson of Mafindo.

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