Bernie Sanders’ Tumblr Game is Fire

Explaining a social media sensation.

Photo Credit: Gage Skidmore

Photo Credit: Gage Skidmore
Photo Credit: Gage Skidmore
Reporters have been fascinated with the success of Bernie Sanders‘ social media campaign for similar reasons, we suspect, that reporters have been fascinated with the massive crowds at Sanders’ campaign appearances; both flout conventional expectations for what should have been a low-impact campaign. This, for all the collective experience, the seen-it-all suppositions of seasoned campaign reporters, is not how it’s supposed to be.

From Facebook to Reddit to now Tumblr, a common thread in seeking to account for Sanders’ popularity has been authenticity, highlighted here in the story behind the #FeelTheBern hashtag, as told to Mic writer Gregory Krieg by Winnie Wong.

“We were making light of the situation and coming up with catchphrases we thought would be effective and, you know, ‘feel the bern,’ it resonates almost immediately,” she told Mic on Wednesday. “So we said, ‘You know what, let’s try it with a tweet.’ It caught on pretty quickly.”

The need for a hashtag-come-slogan that really works is born out of the necessity that limited resources create.

The ubiquity of #FeelTheBern has become an emblem of Sanders’ immense social media popularity and an increasingly useful tool for people like Lenchner, Wong and the “core organizers” who lack access to more traditional and costly tools of engagement.

As for why it works:

The real value, Wong says, lies in its authenticity.

“You cannot pay for this,” she explains. “There’s nothing that you can do, no ad agency, no PAC, no super PAC — no billionaire can say, ‘You know, I really really want to spend a lot of money to make this work for Marco Rubio.’ If the people aren’t behind it, holding up that hashtag, it’s not going to work.”

Meanwhile, Sulagna Misra, writing in Vanity Fair, takes a look at why that genuine, grassroots excitement makes Bernie Sanders makes such a popular Tumblr subject.

According to [Tumblr director of social impact and public policy Liba] Rubenstein, and my Tumblr dash, Sanders is far and away the most beloved candidate on Tumblr right now, with little competition from either a Democratic or a Republican candidate. Rubenstein notes that this is the usual on Tumblr; there’s always “the one candidate that really gets it.”

And the candidate that “really get it” is the one that is now officially on it. The same day the article was written, the Bernie campaign made its Tumblr presence official.