Bernie Sanders, the 73-year-old independent Vermont senator and 2016 presidential candidate, has taken the Internet by storm, earning the title “king of social media” and "Facebook royalty."
The online success of Sen. Sanders can be summed up in one, simple word: Authenticity.
Authenticity: noun, the quality of being authentic; genuineness.
His posts do not follow what the so-called “experts” have pronounced as the equation for success and he breaks almost every rule provided by Facebook Bests Practices.
His posts are long and wordy, void of trending keywords or Internet memes. Unlike most campaign social media accounts, he is producing the language and the vision.
“Usually, it’s in the shower where something pops into my head,” Sanders said in a New York Times interview. “I play a very, very active role in writing, literally writing, what goes up there on Facebook,” he adds.
His official campaign page has accumulated over 745,000 likes. That doesn’t even begin to capture his online reach, which includes his Politician Page (with over 1.3 million likes) and the dozens of community pages created by enthusiastic voters, eager to mobilize voters in their state (think: California for Bernie Sanders).
What’s more telling of his online success is the number of people who are actually engaging with him on Facebook, a number measured by Facebook’s “Talking About” number.
On his campaign page, for instance, there are over 325,000 people interacting with his posts on Facebook. By contrast, Hillary Clinton’s Facebook Page only has around 175,000 engaged and active followers.Statistics measured on July 6, 2015, provided by Facebook.
The moral of the story? Our generation responds to authenticity, not catch phrases or buzzwords.
“He can post a quote graphic or a long text-only Facebook status, and it doesn’t really matter what the algorithm favors,” Laura Olin, head social media strategist for President Obama’s 2012 campaign explains. “If it sounds like him,” she said, “his people will find it and spread it.”
His authenticity has far reaching implications that extend far beyond the limitless bounds of cyberspace.
The Vermont senator used his authenticity to raise over $15 million in just three months. While he still lags behinds Clinton, who set the record for the largest primary haul for a candidate’s first three months with $45 million, he now has a chance at a real campaign.
"I don't represent large corporations and I don't want their money. We have the people. And when the people stand together we can win,” reads a Facebook Post from July 2.
So far, he has been a man of his word, with 99 percent of the almost 400,000 contributions by some 250,000 individuals amounting to $250 or less. This means that he has a large pool of willing and enthusiastic donors to turn to come 2016.
His focus on the individual donor and his approach to social media has set him up to give Hillary a run for her money, literally and figuratively.
Will this be enough to take on the Clinton Legacy?