There’s no other way to write this: Mike Bloomberg’s official presidential campaign tweeted a photo of his face superimposed over a meatball.
Yes, it was strange. And it wouldn’t be the last time the billionaire’s campaign would do something plainly odd online.
A short list of the weird things the campaign has done in recent weeks:
The stranger posts particularly well-received. The whole Weird Twitter thing for Bloomberg feels inauthentic and, somehow, less charming than the brands that years ago. But people liking the posts might not be the point.
“[The campaign] might do some dumb things, at first, that are clearly laughable, but they’re probably testing things out… trying to see which ones get engagement, which ones get traction,” said Anthony Nadler, associate professor of media studies at Ursinus College.
The Bloomberg campaign did not respond to Mashable’s request for comment.
The social strategy from Bloomberg is just a small part of a massive push from the billionaire candidate. Stocked with effectively unlimited cash, he’s bought ads at an incredible clip, flooding the airwaves and the internet with Bloomberg content.
In a — but still wildly crowded — Democratic field, attention is invaluable. But while the ads are obviously helpful, the weird posts from Bloomberg have fallen flat on Twitter. It’s easy to understand why: A 77-year-old, vanilla billionaire who’s running for president is dabbling in the absurd stuff regular people do online to pass the time.
“I don’t know, I like meatballs,” Bloomberg appearance on The View, attempting to explain the most infamous tweet from his team. “Young people that run the social media part of the campaign [were] having some fun.”
That’s part of the reason the Bloomberg tweets have failed. The candidate himself is decidedly not in on the joke. Even brands that adopted a Weird Twitter voice — think: Denny’s posting about being Egg Daddy — felt less craven because it was sustained ploy. You could also imagine the person behind the account, collecting a check to shill waffles versus a candidate trying anything to get votes.
“It’s really hard for Bloomberg to come off like an everyday meme-creator shooting things out,” Nadler said.
The meatball tweet, for instance, was posted during a Democratic debate for which Bloomberg didn’t qualify. It was effectively the campaign being strange just to get something — anything — out there to feed the ever-churning, political-content beast. Bloomberg even ended the night by tweeting, “Now that my team @mike2020 has your attention, I think it’s important that you see what @RealDonaldTrump said to voters in Wisconsin tonight… This is not a joke.”
Where exactly would you say you are headed with this feed?
— pourmecoffee (@pourmecoffee) January 15, 2020
And again, the weird posts are hardly all Bloomberg’s put out there. He’s spending like money is no object because, well, money is no object. He dished out — $140 million of which was thrown at digital and TV advertising — in just the first month of his campaign. Bloomberg’s funneled tens of millions into Hawkfish, a digital firm that’s working with the campaign, and influencers to shill for his candidacy.
Basically: If it can be bought, Bloomberg’s writing checks. It all serves to see what, if anything, sticks. Nadler, the media professor, described the idea of running countless targeted digital ads as using “tens of millions of people as a Bloomberg focus group.”
Some of these efforts from the former NYC mayor must be working. Bloomberg a longshot and 2020 Democrats in RealClearPolitics’ average of national polls. It still remains to be seen if the weird posts will become a mainstay of the campaign or something it abandons with time.
“It may be hard to tell which things are getting laughed at or laughed with,” Nadler said.
But it might not matter why people are laughing — as long as they’re paying attention.