Lake County Treasurer Holly Kim carving out a place for local politics on TikTok

Lake County Treasurer Holly Kim has ventured to an online frontier where few American politicians have dared to dip their toes: TikTok.

The social media platform has more than 100 million American users and has elicited the fear and ire of politicians in Congress, facing skeptics in Illinois, too. Unlike the detractors, many of them up in there in years and unaware of the fun they’re missing, Kim is all-in on TikTok.

A former social media manager, the 41-year-old Mundelein resident sees TikTok — where users create and share short videos garnished with a wide variety of sounds and imagery spliced from music, movies and even memes — as the best venue through which to engage the emerging crowd of voting young adults and teens that make up Generation Z.

Almost 40% of TikTok users are between the ages of 18 and 24 years old, a January Statista report found, and that’s plenty enough for Kim to know it’s where she needs to be to reach that group.

Kim deploys “multi-demographic” campaigning using traditional methods like door-knocking and sending mailers, but the ability of such methods to reach younger folks “drops off the face of the planet.”

“Even a text campaign, like, they’re not going to text you,” Kim said. “They’re texting their friends on Discord and Snapchat, they’re not text texting. Good luck with a robocall, and they’re not who the mailers are going to. And so it’s like, what avenues do you have for that demographic that is now voting? And they are an organized powerhouse.”

So, the self-described “nerdly” Democrat launched her TikTok channel as part of her detailed campaign social media strategy, where Kim regularly updates followers about the treasurer’s office, county politics and the ups and downs of daily life. Kim’s 5,000 Facebook followers dwarf her TikTok following of just over 600, but the audience is growing steadily thanks in part to consistent content, the ability to share videos across platforms and the app’s algorithm.

Help, Mom made a TikTok!

Kim’s oldest son, Cal Ning, wasn’t exactly over the moon he found out his mom had joined the platform.

“When she first told me, I was like, ‘What?!’” Cal told the News-Sun. “Usually, having your parents on TikTok is like this thing, like, ‘Oh my goodness, my mom is on TikTok.’”

But once Kim’s children started to digest the content and observe how she was taking her jokes and quips about local politics to a new audience, and how her channel was popping up on friends’ feeds, they saw the vision behind her leap onto the platform.

Cal, who’s been on and off TikTok as his interest swells and wanes, said friends started letting him know what he was missing on his mom’s channel.

“ (Friends) tell me about it,” Cal said. “If I haven’t seen it right away, if I haven’t seen my mom that day yet they’ll be like, ‘Oh my gosh I saw your mom on my For You page!’”

Sometimes, Kim taps her kids to help showcase the “behind-the-scenes” life of a local politician, like one video with more than 1,500 views showing Kim bursting into Cal’s room wearing different shirts for political groups, asking, ‘Hey, do you want to go to a rally?’”

Quirky interactions with her kids makes for interesting fodder, but Kim’s life as a local TikTok politico also includes editing Gary Glitter’s “Rock ‘n’ Roll” over videos of the governor and other area elected officials at groundbreaking ceremonies and recaps of other political events.

“It’s interesting to see how my mom incorporates it into what she does,” Cal said. “Honestly, I’ve learned a couple of the local shops and places like that because of my mom’s TikToks.”

Boom, roasted

Beware, Lake County political hopefuls, or you may be a blunder away from finding yourself as the subject of Kim’s meme-making abilities.

Take the example of a Mundelein trustee candidate who recently came under fire for his comments about Asian people being smarter than others in a joint interview with the Daily Herald.

Kim pasted the story’s lead and looped music from a once-viral YouTube public service announcement campaign promoting rail safety called “Dumb Ways To Die,” slapped a quick “tank your political aspirations” caption over the loop and warned followers with a #dontdothis hashtag.

All is fair in love, war and local politics.

That applies to self-deprecation, too, a practice Kim honed in real life before taking it to her social media pages.

“TikTok fiction,” Kim wrote in a recent video, “Everyone knows I’m on time. #running late #events.”

The video shows Kim lying in bed before receiving a text about an event she was supposed to be in attendance at, then dashing in a sped-up, cartoonish fashion to get dressed for work and make the photo op.

Another recently uploaded municipal election-themed video touts the start date for early voting this spring with a “choose your character” sound bite from the popular Super Smash Bros video game franchise as Kim depicts characters vying to serve on school, library, park and city or village boards.

It’s a given that Lake County politicians are constantly working on bringing more residents — voters — into their online folds through regular content on mediums like Facebook, and even Instagram and Twitter. It’s not rare to hear, as Kim echoed, that politicians have to be where people are.

“Social-wise,” Kim said, “I encourage others, too, you’ve got to be where the people are.”

Other area politicians, including at least one Republican, and newly elected state representative Nabeela Syed, D-Inverness have dabbled on TikTok, but Kim is the standard-bearer. Her approach boils down to a hypothesis that voters, especially younger people, are sick of traditional campaigning methods from politicians.

Being on TikTok, where users sometimes go viral for sharing personal and embarrassing stories, or just for doing fun dance routines, provides “a lot of relatability to younger people” and a chance to differentiate yourself as a candidate and political voice, Kim said.

“‘Oh, vote for me and here’s why,’ blah, blah, nobody wants to hear that,” Kim said. “They want to know everything you stand for, but not like that. If there are digestible snacks in ways they can understand and hear it, then people are really receptive.”

“I think a lot of (politicians) are still kind of afraid, but I’ve toed into it,” Kim added. “I actually really enjoy the madness because I grew up on the internet. I love memes, I make memes and so this is like a step up.”

She closed by playfully leveling a challenge at political rivals and allies.

“I’m a little lonely,” she said, “so if all of the other elected officials could get on TikTok, I’d really appreciate it.”

Cal cracked a laugh when asked about his mom’s observation about being herself TikTok without ruining her political career.

“My mom is already goofy and shows how she is in real life on other social media platforms,” Cal said. “And on TikTok, it’s just added to that a little bit.”

Ino Saves New

via rk2’s favorite articles on Inoreader

March 7, 2023 at 12:39PM

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