One day after the Iowa caucuses were effectively botched by the disastrous rollout of a new vote-counting app, billionaire Mike Bloomberg announced that he intended to capitalize on chaos from the Hawkeye State by doubling the advertising budget of his presidential campaign.
But in addition to a flood of traditional advertising on television, radio, and online outlets targeting Super Tuesday voters, the campaign’s advertising budget includes a strategy familiar to every other startup with a ton of cash and a questionable business model: paying influencers to make it seem cool.
The Bloomberg campaign has quietly begun a campaign on Tribe, a “branded content marketplace” that connects social-media influencers with the brands that want to advertise to their followers, to pitch influencers on creating content highlighting why they love the former New York City mayor—for a price.
For a fixed $150 fee, the Bloomberg campaign is pitching micro-influencers—someone who has from 1,000 to 100,000 followers, in industry parlance—to create original content “that tells us why Mike Bloomberg is the electable candidate who can rise above the fray, work across the aisle so ALL Americans feel heard & respected.”
“Are you sick of the chaos & infighting overshadowing the issues that matter most to us? Please express your thoughts verbally or for still image posts please overlay text about why you support Mike,” the campaign copy tells would-be Bloomberg stans under the heading “Content We’d Love From You,” asking influencers to “Show+Tell why Mike is the candidate who can change our country for the better, state why YOU think he’s a great candidate.”
Tribe, which works with nearly 70,000 aspiring influencers, offers brands—and, in this case, presidential campaigns—the ability to solicit custom-made content from aspiring influencers, who create custom social within the brand’s parameters for submission. If the brand accepts the content, the influencer is paid in exchange for the ability of the brand to license the content and place it on their own social channels—or, if the campaign prefers, the influencers post the #sponcon to their own feeds, targeting followers that the brand might not otherwise reach.
The campaign post, reviewed by The Daily Beast, encourages submissions to be well lit, mention why the influencer thinks “we need a change in Government,” and for the creator to “be honest, passionate and be yourself!”
Influencers are asked not to use profanity, nudity, or “overtly negative content,” as well as be U.S. residents to participate.
“Mike Bloomberg is a middle class kid who worked his way through college,” the posting states under an “About Us” section, describing Bloomberg as “a self-made businessman, proven supporter of progressive values & can get things done.” The post also highlights his work on gun violence, creating a clean-energy economy, and “flipping 21 of 24 down-ballot House races he supported in 2018.”
The Bloomberg campaign declined to comment on the Tribe post, and an email to Tribe about whether it had worked with other political campaigns was not immediately returned.
The Bloomberg content campaign appears geared toward collecting content that can later be shared by the campaign, essentially creating a stock-image library of well-crafted, “organic”-seeming still images and videos custom-made for the campaign. The relatively low $150 cost per post also makes the investment comparatively cheap—some influencers can command fees in the five or even six figures for a brand campaign, and that’s not even including celebrity accounts, who can earn enough money per post to make even billionaire Bloomberg blush.
The approach is novel. No other high-polling candidates reached by The Daily Beast said that their campaigns have ever paid influencers to create content for the campaign, or for influencers to post such content on their own channels in exchange for money.
But the notion that one of the richest people on the planet is paying micro-influencers in exchange for authentic-seeming endorsements from Instagrammers risks giving off what might be described as a Monty Burns-entering-a-film-festival vibe.
Bloomberg’s posting also sidesteps some of the more un-millennial aspects of his three-term mayoralty, from his years-long endorsement of the New York Police Department’s “stop-and-frisk” policy that disproportionately targeted black and Latino men to his unsuccessful war on large soft drinks.