After U.S. Democratic presidential candidate Michael Bloomberg's campaign paid popular Instagram accounts to post memes, parent company Facebook changed its rules to allow politicians to use branded content.
If Donald Trump is the first Twitter president, Mike Bloomberg hopes to beat him with Instagram.
The Democratic presidential candidate, a late-comer to the race, added a new twist to traditional campaign advertising this week by paying popular Instagram accounts to make memes about him - a clear sign he’s looking to lure millennial voters.
Paid for by his campaign – and marked as such – this sudden flood of memes cracked open a small can of worms about what kind of political posts are permitted… especially as Instagram parent company Facebook continues to come under fire for allowing political ads on its site that have not been fact-checked.
Such sponsored content can look like genuine social media posts, but aren’t.
Like this one, in which Bloomberg appears to be texting with this Instagram influencer, writing – “Can you let everyone know I’m the cool candidate?” The meme is one of many spread across more than 15 influencer accounts, with names like @KaleSalad, @NeatDad and @TrashCanPaul, and with an audience of 60 million followers combined, according to The New York Times.
Their virtual blanketing of Instagram forced Facebook on Friday to weigh in on campaigns leveraging sponsored posts.
The verdict: Thumbs up, provided they’re clearly marked as paid content, the company said.
Facebook clarified that such posts will not be considered advertising, as the social media site does not make money from them.
The Bloomberg campaign – funded solely by the billionaire himself – told Reuters this week that the "meme strategy," which was new to presidential politics, would be effective.
A Facebook spokesman told Reuters that his wasn’t the only campaign interested in potentially using sponsored content… meaning you may see some official Bernie memes in the weeks to come.
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