It’s unclear whether the stunt managed to convince anyone, but a scan of Instagram and TikTok shows that a popular reaction among users was either criticism or pointed mockery. The array of clever memes in response to the sponsored ones suggest that paying for the impression of support might not be the best strategy to generate real support, especially when it comes to young voters.
Authenticity is an increasingly important currency on platforms like Instagram, and transparent efforts to feign that authenticity are risky.
The Bloomberg campaign’s strategy of simulating support has encountered problems elsewhere as well. It’s been paying campaign workers to send texts to their contacts trying to convince them to vote for Bloomberg. The Los Angeles Times reported that those workers couldn’t even persuade themselves to back the former mayor of New York. Some would caveat the texts they initiated on behalf of Bloomberg with personal pleas to disregard those messages and vote for Bernie Sanders.
“Some organizers were so robotic in their tweeting, Twitter suspended their accounts Friday evening after The Times inquired about whether their behavior complied with the platform’s rules on spam and manipulation,” the LAT writes.
The meme campaign also threw a wrench into the discussion of political ad disclosures on social media. Influencers who posted their pro-Bloomberg memes on Instagram are required both by federal regulation and Facebook to say that they’d been paid to do so, but the many memes are not designated as political ads. This allows the creators to skirt the platform’s requirements. (TikTok does not allow political advertising, but political content, including misinformation, has been making its way to the platform).
Here are some other gems, some pointing to the similarities between Bloomberg and president Donald Trump:
Others comment that Bloomberg is out-of-touch, with a play on “OK Boomer.”
While most of the Bloomberg-mocking posts come from accounts that appear progressive, some Republicans have weighed in as well, especially in response to Bloomberg’s recently resurfaced 2016 comments about how he could teach “anybody” to be a farmer.