Does Politics Belong in Influencer Marketing?

Last week, my Twitter feed was taken over by everyone talking about Mike Bloomberg. Even though I live in America, I have taken no interest in the presidential election whatsoever as it seems the current President is very likely to be re-elected.

I’ve seen glimpses of articles here and there and know names like Elizabeth Warren, Mike Pence and Bernie Sanders to name a few. But what took over my Twitter feed really caught my attention as it seemed 78-year-old Mike Bloomberg was working with Instagram influencers to further his political agenda.

The weird thing was, this wasn’t what I would expect from a presidential candidate collaborating with Instagram stars. There was no wholesome picture of the influencer with the caption, ‘I’m voting for Mike Bloomberg #Ad’ which is what I would have expected. Yes, that’s boring and unimaginative but when it comes to politicians and Instagram, I’m not really expecting the most creative and out-of-the-box campaign. However, I was very pleasantly surprised.

Mike the meme generator

It would seem 78-year-old Michael Bloomberg is very much down with the kids and meme culture. A wide number of Instagram posts showing Mike DM-ing popular accounts circulated last week, in what seemed to be a social media campaign to make Mike into a viral meme.

For those not so down with the kids like Mike is, according to Google, a ‘meme’ is a “humorous image, video, piece of text, etc., that is copied (often with slight variations) and spread rapidly by Internet users.” Just Google ‘Kombucha Girl’ and you’ll see what I mean.

It would seem Mike was after something of the same kind and that the overall aim was to go viral. From working in and studying social media, I know that we cannot force something to go viral. It’s quite like pot luck. It has to be seen by the right people at the right time, otherwise, it won’t go anywhere.

Reaching a younger and wider audience

With these meme pages, you are targeting a large number of people as they often have follower numbers in the millions. It also isn’t a very niche demographic as you will have people with all kinds of interests following these pages. The accounts that generate these memes are usually some of the most followed accounts on Instagram and gain a lot of engagement – mostly in shares.

If Mike’s social media strategy was to target a wide number of people, then he will definitely achieve this through the use of meme accounts.

The campaign strategy apparently came from a company called Meme 2020 who were also behind promoting Fyre Festival and well, we all know how that turned out. One thing Mike isn’t short on is money, as he is said to have a net worth of just a small $62 billion, so those lucky influencers may have been very well paid for their screenshot of a conversation with good ol’ Mike.

Choosing the right influencers

When it comes to an influencer marketing strategy, selecting the right influencers is vital to the campaign. Where I think Mike has been very clever here is that he is not using an influencer that is a personality as such.

These meme accounts are quite top-line in that it is not a celebrity, personal figure or someone that has their face tied to the account. It can be quite harmful for influencers to be very vocal and outspoken about their political views, especially in America. Some influencers may not care and take the ‘don’t like it, unfollow’ method when it comes to shouting about who is getting their votes, but most keep schtum.

It’s hard in this day and age not to be vocal about politics since we have things like Brexit and Trump going on, but sometimes it’s best to be neutral when it comes to having a public platform. This of course is a personal choice because freedom of speech and why should you hide your political views? But this could also depend on the organization you work for etc. and their policy could be that you can’t showcase your political opinions on social media.

The press coverage

Because this was so out-of-the-box and quite bewildering to come from Mike Bloomberg, it earned a lot of press coverage in print and online media. It was all over my Twitter and Instagram feeds and had a lot of people talking.

If it was press coverage that Mike was after, then it was press coverage that he got. If Mike Bloomberg had gone down the traditional path of using well-known and well-respected influencers and celebrities to back him and post about him, it’s likely not many people would have cared.

But because the politician went down the very unexpected and comical route of targeting large meme accounts and publications, it caught everyone’s attention.

Everyone needs a good social media team

Even if you’re running for President. Especially if you’re running for President. We won’t get into it, but do you remember the Cambridge Analytica scandal? How they used Facebook to influence peoples votes in the 2016 Presidential election? If you don’t know, I would suggest watching The Great Hack on Netflix to catch up. (Other streaming services are available.)

It’s quite scary and will quickly have you thinking about how you may be being influenced on your own social channels in other ways. Ever see an ad and think your phone is listening to you? (Yep, it is.)

I had noticed in the most recent UK General Election how much Jeremy Corbyn’s social media was ahead of Boris Johnson’s and the Conservative Party’s. Their content was current, relevant and belonged on social media. Corbyn’s social media team understood the audience that Jeremy had and what that audience would engage with.

I remember some of Jeremy Corbyn’s tweets were quite similar to meme culture or very current to the trends at the time (including the one below aimed at the Rebekah Vardy/Colleen Rooney scandal). He also had great video content across social media that a lot of people were sharing and talking about.

Will it win Bloomberg the election?

As good as Corbyn’s social media strategy was, it didn’t work for him and it likely won’t work for Bloomberg either.

From what I can make of it, Mike Bloomberg has got a few reactions of laughter and brought some light-heartedness to the election campaign.

However, him writing to @sonny5ideup ‘hi, can you make a viral meme to let the younger demographic know I’m the cool candidate?’ wouldn’t really earn a vote from me. I would rather know his political agenda, what he’s going to do if he was President and how he could benefit me.

By the sounds of it, it seems like the race is already over and the winner declared.

Should politics mix with influencer marketing?

Maybe not and maybe yes. I mean, it’s all very dependent on situations and circumstances but I know that if someone I really admired as an influencer started suddenly promoting and backing a politician that I really didn’t like, I would start questioning their morals and values (according to my own).

An influencer could lose the trust of their following by being vocal about politics, but they could also gain from doing so. My thought is to always steer clear of political discussion as best you can – especially coming from where I do.

More than likely, you aren’t going to agree with everyone on their political views and that’s ok. There are many factors that influence who we vote for and why.

If I was an influencer, I don’t think I would mix the two. I would very much be all about promoting causes for climate change, saving the planet, fair wage, looking after the working and lower class and just being fair. If you believe the world should be a better place for everyone, then you can’t go too far wrong.



  1. Marcel
    February 27, 2020 / 5:52 am

    aren’t your causes the same as the promises made by politicians the world over? except I think you would deliver on them . great piece of writing.

    • Orlagh Shanks
      February 27, 2020 / 12:38 pm

      I will try to run for the next election in 2024 and see what happens.

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