Colorful garden signs litter the bright green grass on Trousdale’s median, marking the start of undergraduate student government election season. Still, that’s just one of the many ways the candidates have taken to campaigning, with many using digital platforms such as Instagram, shouting through megaphones and laying down booths to answer questions from passers-by.
Aidan Feighery, one of this year’s senatorial candidates, said accommodating the online presence of the student population would be key to a successful campaign.
“I think the pandemic encouraged us to engage online, and I think the vestiges of that are still there,” Feighery said. “There’s still a degree of ‘stay indoors and reduce outdoor interactions’ that I think has really resonated across campus.”
From social media to in-person campaigns, candidates used a variety of methods to reach different parts of the student body. Senatorial candidates Devin Ayala and Navya Singh said they contacted about 20 student organizations on campus.
“We certainly hit a variety of them, from sororities to underrepresented assemblies,” Singh said.
Despite the popularity of online platforms, Ayala and Singh said they spent a lot of time campaigning in person, handing out campaign pins, flowers and other giveaways on Trousdale, Leavey Library and McCarthy Quad with the help of volunteers. The couple also listened to student concerns outside Leavey’s library and said they handed out around 60 donuts in one day.
According to Ayala, one of the main reasons for going the in-person route was to reach an entirely new audience and escape the echo chambers of social media.
“[On] Instagram, people [who] go follow you’re your friends, whereas people from Trousdale or Leavey Library or McCarthy Quad are random people you haven’t met,” Ayala said.
Despite efforts to campaign in person, interviews conducted by the Daily Trojan confirmed that many candidates chose to use social media to reach students.
“The common thread between everyone’s campaigns has really been the focus on Instagram, which I think is a lot of it because it’s easy to post messages there,” Feighery said. . “There is a strong culture of using Instagram at USC.”
The contestants used Instagram in a variety of ways, from live streams to Q&A sessions and student voice segments, where students can voice their support or concerns. Feighery said knowing how to use the app’s features to best reach his audience was important for his campaign, and said he used graphic design apps, such as Canva, to boost his appearance on the networks. social.
Ayala and Singh said one of their Instagram strategies is to turn their account over to students to highlight multiple perspectives.
“We really wanted to give students a voice, so we asked a lot of people, ‘Hey, what’s the reason you would vote for Devin and Navya?'” Ayala said. “We gave them our platform. We gave them our suggestion box and they sent us videos… We call it a “Why Us” segment. »
Rishi Malay, a freshman majoring in economics and global studies, said he got information about the elections mainly from social media.
“Most of the time it’s just following requests from Instagram accounts and then sometimes people repost stories,” Malay said. “[Instagram is] the primary method of engagement.
The USG has tried to tackle low voter turnout — a prevalent problem for the past few years — by increasing the ease of online voting and even offering voters a free In-N-Out in 2020.
For his own campaign, Feighery used new media to reach underrepresented groups in an effort to address low voter turnout.
“I got involved with [Chinese Students and Scholars Association] in order to disseminate information on WeChat, which is a platform that affects the Chinese and international student community, but does not affect many of the most overrepresented groups at USC,” Feighery said. “Platforms like WeChat really represent where USC populations as voters have been ignored.”
Undergraduate students can vote online at usg.usc.edu/elections/ or in person until Friday midnight.