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Turning Point is quietly building the next generation of conservative influencers

Turning Point is quietly building the next generation of conservative influencers
Written by Publishing Team

In late December, some of the biggest influencers of the conservative movement gathered at the Monarch Theater in downtown Phoenix for what was proclaimed “the biggest patriotic party ever.”

Inside, the DJ played a club remix of “Let’s go, Brandon!” A hymn, while a curly-haired kid in a matching button-down and shorts pants swayed from an air hoop over the stage. James O’Keefe, right-wing political activist and founder of Project Veritas, took selfies with enthusiastic young fans as the music boomed. Organizers said Matt Gaetz, a Florida lawmaker currently embroiled in a scandal amid allegations of child sex trafficking, appeared earlier in the night.

Partygoers were at AmericaFest City, Turning Point USA’s last active student conference of the year. But while the list of official speakers focused on regular Fox News personalities like Gates, the party was geared toward younger influencers, brought together by Turning Point’s ambassador program. Some were lifestyle influencers, while others managed contacts for Republican members of Congress in Washington such as Madison Cawthorne. Many already had podcasts and deals with brands. At the event, they wore special badges giving them access to the VIP lounge at the convention center just a few blocks from the hotel rooms Turning Point had reserved for them.

Photo by Spencer Platt/Getty Images

For nearly a decade, Turning Point USA has operated as a new kind of Republican college club, building a network of campus organizations through its chapter program. But in recent years, the organization has moved beyond on-campus organizing to something more ambitious, launching podcasts and online shows with the goal of promoting young Republican influencers online.

Increasingly, these influencers are focusing on Turning Point – finding ways to promote, disseminate and integrate them into the broader world of conservative media and politics. Instead of a campus, Turning Point is now focusing on the politics of Facebook, Instagram and YouTube and using them to reach a new generation of voters. With platforms increasingly ready to ban conservative votes that violate platform rules, it is a difficult and urgent task for conservatives who fear they are losing influence with younger voters.

The project comes with real money. Turning Point’s 2021 investor prospectus budgeted its media branch (which deals with influencer access) at more than $7.2 million. The organization has trained and trained more than 400 creators as brand ambassadors, their number has been verified on social media and in the Turning Point Quizlet account which was removed shortly after the edge Contact the organization for comment.

While Turning Point hires talent to host its in-house products, these unpaid “ambassadors” make up a much larger part of an organization’s brand media output. As described by TPUSA’s latest press group, ambassadors are “using their platforms to help share our message with their audiences.”

At the same time, Turning Point appears to have struggled to spread its message on social media through traditional channels. Indoor offer obtained the edge It found that as of October, only 15 percent of Turning Point’s audience on Instagram are students.

The report concludes, “The content being published now is completely missing a target audience.”

When reached for comment, Turning Point denied many of the numbers in the presentation. “The shows in question contain multiple errors and misstatements,” said one representative. “They are not official documents from TPUSA.”

However, additional details provided by the group confirmed the accuracy of the age statistics on Instagram. “Some user demographics are ingrained in the user base that exists on Instagram,” Andrew Colvett, a spokesperson for Turning Point, said on Wednesday. Presentations were removed shortly after the edge I have contacted Turning Point for comment.

In order to appeal to the target audience, the show called for a comprehensive revamp of Turning Point’s social media accounts. Specifically, it defines the “influencer first” and “conservative second” publishing model and for the organization to present itself more as Barstool Sports online.

At the national convention in December, Turning Point appeared to take her advice. For two days before the conference officially began, dozens of ambassadors were invited to an “influencers’ retreat” where Turning Point founder Charlie Kirk and prominent Republican innovators such as Benny Johnson taught them how to become effective posters in the right-wing culture war on the Internet with the left.

In a presentation slide explaining how to stay out of the news, Turning Point told ambassadors what not to post online. “No racism!” “No big!” “Provocative but major!” Read the slide.

In the conference room, Kirk pleaded with attendees to stop getting into public fights with each other on the schedule. “Let me say one thing that bothers us at Turning Point, and I try never to get involved. When I see some of you fight back and forth, it’s like cutting it off. You guys all think you’re tough,” he said in an Instagram story posted by user @tokenblackguyusa. “Nobody really cares.” Nobody wants to see it. If it’s a private message service, you guys can do it.”

Turning Point did not immediately provide additional slides or guidelines for publication when asked for comment on Tuesday.

Trump supporters in Phoenix hold event

Photo by Spencer Platt/Getty Images

Much of the conference itself was created for content creation. Dozens of ring lights were placed in front of backdrops marking the Turning Point around the exhibitor hall. Walking into the podium, I watched throngs of students and influencers nod their heads to TikTok’s trending sounds and host the live broadcast in front of them all throughout the conference.

Ambassadors do not get paid, but the organization rewards them in other ways. Some, like Laura Lee Spears, advertise their Turning Point store codes on Instagram where they can earn commissions from sales. Turning Point did not immediately confirm whether the ambassadors receive commissions from sales of their merchandise. Once the influencer is approved as an ambassador, he or she is allowed to apply for travel stipends to attend Turning Point conferences in states across the country. These trips are not only opportunities to create content, but networking opportunities for more young people hungry for politics as well.

Pressure on conservative influencers has also given rise to separate groups such as Today Is America, the influencer management organization that operates a booth at AmericaFest. Former tipping point ambassador Joe Basrawi, Today Is America is currently managed by more than 200 creators, including the now-banned Republican Hype House TikTok account and a few other shows and podcasts.

“The tipping point is student-focused,” Basraoui told me of Today Is America on Monday. “We’ve done everything we can to raise the bar for conservative young creators, give them a brand, and give them the tools they need to do what they want.”

Basrawi said that the turning point and today is whether the two Americas do not have a formal partnership, but they work in the same ecosystem and often end up promoting each other’s content. “We are in group conversations with other organizations, such as Turning Point USA,” the founder said in a 2020 interview.

Building a strong network to help the social media algorithms game is a long-standing approach for influencers. last year, vice A report on “influencer” groups, which are groups of influencers who enhance each other’s content. Turning Point and Today Is America built one of these capsules for conservatives, many of whom believe that platforms like Facebook and TikTok suppress their content due to their conservative nature.

“I have some really close friends who are also bigger on social media, and we’ve come to an agreement that we share each other’s content on [Instagram] Al-Basrawi told me. “So, this is a way to fight the shadows.”

Sometimes, these methods go too far. In September 2020, . was released Washington Post He unveiled a covert social media campaign from Turning Point to push teens to post content that casts doubt on the integrity of presidential elections in battlefield states like Arizona, where the organization is based. after Mail I reached out to Facebook and Twitter to comment on these accounts, the platforms have removed them. Facebook said the removed accounts were using fake names and that their “only activity on our platform was related to this scam campaign.”

The Ambassador’s structure also allows Turning Point to be avoided for most current detection requirements. Current FTC influencer rules only deal with paid posts, as when an influencer gets a product or free money to post about it. But even though Turning Point influencers receive a lot of in-kind assistance — including, in many cases, paid travel to AmericaFest — that support isn’t tied to a specific publication, so it doesn’t fall under the FTC’s rules.

“It is becoming more and more difficult to reveal relationships with Turning Point and other organizations that have a broader mandate around spreading conservative values ​​that are not limited to a single election or referendum,” said Brandi Jurkink, who wrote a report on conservative influencers for Mozilla. Foundation last year. “The fact that this might be promoted by algorithms to a person through their For You page, what kind of information do we want to disclose to people on the receiving end of this content?”

Some ambassadors disclose their status to the organization in their Instagram bios. However, Turning Point has not commented on whether these disclosures are a requirement for Associated Influencers.

The federal government has been slow to put in place new regulations around online political advertising, whether that is through digital advertising on platforms like Facebook or the use of influencer marketing as in the Turning Point case. Throughout the last presidential election cycle, Joe Biden’s campaign became the first to invest heavily in influencer marketing initiatives to persuade voters. These relationships have proven just as productive for Biden as they were for the tipping point, and experts expect to see the industry become more pervasive in politics over the next few years.

It’s hard to gauge the influence of the influencer’s Turning Point program on younger voters — but experts say it’s likely something that builds up over time.

“If we’re trying to judge effectiveness, it’s tough because online impressions are a dime a dozen,” Stephen Smith, former online engagement editor for the Pete Buttigieg campaign, said in an interview Tuesday. “But six seconds is enough that can accumulate over several months, and you see the same conservative YouTube ad appear in recommended videos. Suddenly, the scene is more and more common.”

with Fox News Broadcasting partnerships and relationships with prominent Republican lawmakers, Turning Point’s messaging efforts have penetrated at least to the mainstream conservative media. Now, the organization faces an even bigger task – getting this message out to non-ideologues.

“You shouldn’t care what they call you when you say something right,” Kirk said on the opening night of AmericaFest, warning the libs are canceling their cultural tactics. We live under the tyranny of their social harmony. We live under the tyranny of cards. Like OK, “I might not get invited to the cool kids club.”

“Look around,” Kirk said, pointing to the thousands of high school and college students from the audience. “Now you’re in the coolest kids’ club in America.”

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