Mike Bloomberg’s stockpile of cash, swarm of employees and paid social media influencers are testing the abilities of online platforms -- and his Democratic challengers -- to keep up with an expensive internet campaign.
Despite the billionaire and former New York City mayor’s late entry into the presidential race, he has far outspent his rivals on nearly every platform in a matter of weeks.
His unconventional online strategy is heavy on memes and the paid support of prominent social media users, blurring the lines between political advertising, satire and misinformation.
That has not only boosted the platforms’ bottom lines, but has also revealed how easily their policies can be bent.
“We're in the position where tech companies can't even apply their own policies to what we're seeing,” said Mark Jablonowski, chief technology officer at DSPolitical, a digital advertising firm that has worked with several Democratic campaigns this year. “It's a different paradigm, and this mix is likely to be effective.”
Bloomberg's self-funded campaign allows him to try out new online tactics and quickly buy an online community that other candidates have spent years building out.
Bloomberg has so far spent $55 million on Facebook and Instagram ads, $9 million of that in the past week. That compares to $33 million spent so far by Republican President Donald Trump, and $10 million overall spent by Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders, a Democratic rival.
Bloomberg even leads on Snapchat, an app popular for sharing photos and short videos, where political ad spending is negligible. All the presidential campaigns combined have spent roughly $788,000 -- with Bloomberg's campaign spending almost all of it: $686,000.