How Instagram, Google, Facebook and Other Tech Notables Are Getting Out the Vote

With social calls for civic duty

Headshot of Christopher Heine

This afternoon, Instagram is sending many of its 100 million U.S. users a reminder to go vote. The mobile app announced today that it built the feature over the weekend, and it's reaching people who allow push notifications on their smartphones.

If you get push notifications, a message will pop up on your phone's home screen—tap it, and you'll be taken to Instagram's account, where there are links to help find your polling place. The Facebook-owned app has also installed a colorful, interactive mural at Flatiron Plaza on 23rd Street in New York that encourages folks to post photos with the election-themed hashtag #FromWhereIStand2016

Instagram's moves underscore how tech companies are implementing special features to get out the vote in 2016, a new twist in the electoral process.

For instance, Google's doodle today reminds people to vote, and viewers who click on the doodle are taken to a "Where to vote" page with polling information.

Zipcar is offering members free rides to the polls. In late September, Facebook began notifying users about state deadlines for registering to vote. And around the same time, Snapchat offered a feature that reportedly let users register to vote within one minute. 

Meanwhile, the Republicans and Democrats are buying up social ads to drive supporters to the polls. 

For example, today, pro-Hillary Clinton super PAC Priorities USA Action purchased the mobile app's first political-themed lens—colorful filter that decorates selfies—ahead of Tuesday. The lens dresses users up in Clinton's hair and three of her signature pantsuit tops: red, white and blue. The eight-second animation features a background image of the White House, and the Snapchat user "shimmies" while a voice recording in the background says, "Whew, OK," referencing a viral moment from the first presidential debate.

And, according to Snap Inc., Republican nominee Donald Trump has secured the app's national geofilter ad for Election Day. It's not clear if his team has also purchased a sponsored lens, which can cost upwards of $750,000 on days with major events or holidays. 

@Chris_Heine Christopher Heine is a New York-based editor and writer.