Michael Bloomberg continues to flaunt his billionaire status, this time by taking over your social media feed. His presidential campaign team is hiring over 500 “deputy digital organizers” to text their friends and post about him on their personal social media accounts. These organizers are being paid to share not only issues pertinent to his campaign but memes that make him look “cool.” Bloomberg’s team is willing to pay these hundreds of people more than $2,000 a month, according to documents reviewed by The Wall Street Journal. The social media marketing strategy is currently recruiting California residents to build support ahead of the state’s March 3 primary, but may later expand nationwide. Past presidential campaigns have encouraged supporters to post on social media but Bloomberg is taking it to the next level by paying people, experts said.
A staffer told the Journal Bloomberg’s social media strategy hopes to influence potential voters through people they know instead of through strangers, a strategy also adopted by the Trump campaign. While campaigners will traditionally call potential voters in their community, the digital organizers Bloomberg is employing will instead text friends and family and create daily posts on social media encouraging support for his presidency.
But the effort isn’t driven only by social media influencers. Bloomberg is working with a new company, Meme 2020, to generate memes related to his campaign as well, according to The New York Times. The campaign is also leveraging other technologies including Outvote, a political campaigning app. Outvote creates prewritten copy for texts and social media posts, with data being sent back to campaigns that will allow users to search friends’ voting records and send them content accordingly. A spokeswoman for Bloomberg’s campaign told the Journal that this was the future of political organizing, and that “one of the most effective ways of reaching voters is by activating their friends and network.”
Bloomberg’s campaign is tapping into any and every type of social media it can reach. Ads are appearing not only on news feeds through sponsored content and posts but through the stories option of popular apps like Snapchat and Instagram. Influencers are even sharing fake DM thread screenshots to promote the candidate. “While a meme strategy may be new to presidential politics, we’re betting it will be an effective component to reach people where they are and compete with President Trump’s powerful digital operation,” Sabrina Singh, a senior national spokeswoman for the Bloomberg campaign, told the Times.
Facebook and Instagram rules stipulate that sponsored or paid posts must have a disclaimer noting the sponsorship. These rules are in place to ensure the content’s authenticity, but branded content is not the same as advertising, a Facebook official told The Hill. The social media platform believes it’s important to make users aware when they are seeing paid content, but stressed the difference between the two. "After hearing from multiple campaigns, we agree that there’s a place for branded content in political discussion on our platforms. We’re allowing US-based political candidates to work with creators to run this content, provided the political candidates are authorized and the creators disclose any paid partnerships through our branded content tools," the Facebook representative said.
But while Facebook and Instagram require sponsored content to be disclosed as such, the Journal found that several social media posts from people being paid by Bloomberg’s campaign failed to label content as sponsored. According to the U.S. Federal Trade Commission, even tagging a brand or business is a form of endorsement that must be disclosed to audiences as paid content. Bloomberg’s campaign is paying individuals to post content on social media as personal when it is actually brand-driven, with Bloomberg being the brand.
“We’re trying to be innovative with how we’re translating the campaign message on social, trying to do it how the internet actually works,” an aide to the Bloomberg campaign told the Times. “Tweeting from @mikebloomberg is a very 2008 strategy.” Several people who did not previously think about supporting Bloomberg have expressed interest in posting for him, as well as created content in support of his campaign due to the paycheck associated with doing so. “We want to work with creators and we’ve never been shy about paying people for creative work,” the aide said.
Bloomberg has already spent $50 million on digital ads, according to The Washington Post. In addition, he is expected to spend more than $400 million on his campaign overall. Food and travel blogger Alycia Chrosniak told Reuters she received communication from the Bloomberg campaign offering to pay her to create content about her support for him, despite him not being her top choice. While Chrosniak said she did not take the offer, many other social media influencers, including meme pages, have.
Bloomberg is using his wealth to buy support online, but whether it’s genuine or not remains a question. An even bigger question is: Will this online support continue when the polls open?