From Instagram to the ballot box: the case of Taliana Vargas in the campaign for mayor of Cali

5 minutes
From Instagram to the ballot box: the case of Taliana Vargas in the campaign for mayor of Cali
Taliana Vargas and Alejandro Eder celebrate their victory in the Cali mayoral elections (Facebook;Canva;Dall-E).

In the regional elections held in Colombia last Sunday, several content creators managed to exchange likes and followers for votes at the polls. In Bogota, four influencers won a seat on the city council, while in Cali, Alejandro Eder, who was elected mayor, counted at the core of his campaign with the strength of the social media channels of his wife: actress and former beauty queen Taliana Vargas.

This last case is an exceptional example of social media influence for political purposes. In parallel to her husband's political campaign, Vargas supported his candidacy with viral content about her marital relationship, her family life and tourism in the city. In addition, based on her experience as director of Casa en el Arbol, a foundation that works with children, adolescents and women from vulnerable sectors, she presented herself as a social manager for Cali - an increasingly common figure among first ladies - in case Eder won the elections.

Taliana Vargas' Instagram account, with more than 3.5 million followers, became the main showcase of her husband's candidacy. She spoke in first person about the development of the campaign and, in the final stretch, when aggressions began to appear and disinformation intensified, she was the one who asked her followers to verify the news they received (and suggested that they do so in her and her husband's accounts in social networks). "You know that we are honest people, what moves us is the truth, we are moved by values, faith, reviving Cali," she said on that occasion.

The strategy was based on presenting marriage as a formula. One month before the voting, the actress told her audience: "I know that if you make the right choice, Alejandro and I will embrace you, show you results and take you to your full potential (...) We believe in you, Cali. Don't hesitate to believe in us".

This narrative was also promoted as advertising on social networks. On Facebook and Instagram, an advertisement was promoted in which both appear embracing and which presents them as a 2-for-1 for the city: "With our experience and social work, we are going to revive Cali". In another, political advertising takes the form of a declaration of love: an image of the two, in which Eder identifies himself as "Taliana Vargas' husband", is accompanied by a single phrase: "I love you @Taliana Vargas Carrillo".

Publication published by Alejandro Eder's official Facebook page.

In the last eight weeks, the actress posted 23 reels directly related to the campaign. Some of them surpassed two million views; the least viewed had more than 300,000. Often, the videos were posted on both of their accounts through the platform's collaboration feature.

In the novel modality of a marriage, this case is added to the influencer marketing that political campaigns have been implementing for some years; a form of promotion that the authorities have not yet addressed, and whose lack of regulation and oversight may violate electoral rules on points such as spending limits or the time allowed for electoral propaganda.

In a race that seemed lost, Alejandro Eder ended up winning by more than ten points over Roberto Ortiz, who was leading the polls. Undoubtedly, many factors influenced his triumph, starting with the support of the third in the race, Diana Rojas, who resigned a month before the elections. However, he also had a powerful megaphone in his wife, whom some voters even missed - halfjokingly, half seriously - on the ballot.

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