As Fetterman recovers from stroke, his campaign relies on Facebook

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Lt. Gov. John Fetterman, the Democratic candidate for U.S. Senate in Pennsylvania, speaks at the UFCW Local 1776 headquarters in Plymouth on April 16. (Tyger Williams/Philadelphia Inquirer/TNS)

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It was as easy as dusting off a Steve Buscemi meme.

The facebook post, which hit John Fetterman’s feed on the evening of the second Monday in June, slightly redirected a familiar joke that regularly bounces around the internet.

“How are you, the other children?” is from an old episode of “30 Rock” in which a visibly older Buscemi ridiculously attempts to impersonate a high school student.

Fetterman’s Senate campaign team, led by Sophie Ota, tapped into this popular meme and changed the text about Buscemi to read, “How are you, fellow PA residents?” The slogan of Fetterman account: “Dr. Oz basically.

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Although he was left out of face-to-face events, Fetterman got more Facebook interactions between late May and June than any other U.S. Senate candidate in the country.

The post, which hit Mehmet Oz’s relatively new residence in the state, ended up becoming Fetterman’s top-performing Facebook campaign content during the month of June and his third-highest-performing post of all time. . To date, Buscemi’s dig has garnered nearly 10,000 reactions and more than 900 shares.

As Fetterman left the campaign trail this summer to recover from a life-threatening stroke, his campaign relied on slapstick social media accounts to fill the void.

Although he was left out of face-to-face events, Fetterman got more Facebook interactions between late May and June than any other U.S. Senate candidate in the country.

During this period, Fetterman accumulated 225,000 total interactions. Meanwhile, incumbent Democratic senators Raphael Warnock of Georgia and Mark Kelly of Arizona each attracted between 45,000 and 50,000 interactions during the same period.

What users see in their Facebook feeds is determined by an opaque algorithm that often amplifies sensational content and so-called “clickbait,” according to Kyle Tharp, CEO of FWIW Media, a media company that tracks digital trends in politics. that detail Fetterman’s success.

Traditionally, conservatives are much better at cracking the code and achieving virality than their Democratic counterparts.

“Among the candidates for the U.S. Senate, however, Pennsylvania Lt. Governor John Fetterman is the exception — his campaign was a masterclass in how political operations should use Facebook in 2022,” Tharp said.

During Fetterman’s Buscemi meme week, Oz was the Senate candidate with the second highest number of engagements on Facebook, according to FWIW. Oz actually passed Fetterman in interactions between June 19 and June 25, powered by a simple message which was based on former President Trump’s phraseology: “Make American Energy Independent Again!”

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Oz actually topped Fetterman in interactions between June 19 and June 25, propelled by a simple message that relied on former President Trump’s phraseology: “Make American energy independent again!”

But while Fetterman poured dozens of thousands dollars on Facebook advertising since winning the Democratic nomination in May, Oz hasn’t spent anything on the platform since becoming the Republican flag bearer.

Oz’s absence from paid digital media — as well as TV airwaves — since May has baffled some agents.

“That’s extremely weird – have you checked he’s not spending it in his home state of New Jersey?” swept away Teddy Goff, who led digital operations for the US re-election campaign. former President Obama.

Joking aside, Goff said it’s possible the Oz campaign is still finalizing its messaging for the general election or saving money so it can buy a heavier advertising blitz in the coming weeks. It could be a combination of both.

But Fetterman’s campaign has not slowed down, even as the candidate continues to rest and recuperate.

June 27 was Fetterman’s biggest day of digital advertising on Facebook since elementary school, in a play for end-of-term donations.

The campaign has continued to run ads for the donations on Facebook and YouTube since Fetterman launched his candidacy. In the last quarter, the campaign alone spent more than $2 million acquiring email and text numbers to bolster its fundraising lists.

And yet, very often, it is the simple organic post that catches fire.

The Fetterman campaign posts on Facebook an average of four times a day, mixing memes, with family photos of his wife and children and text messages sharing frustrations on political issues.

“While some other campaigns feature sleek, branded graphics or polished videos, Fetterman’s team seems to know that quick and dirty content often works much better,” Tharp said.

The campaign takes its social media so seriously that it runs weekly trainings for supporters that teach them best practices. After primary, between 40 and 50 people attended each training session, according to the Fetterman campaign.

And the campaign takes the work of its supporters seriously.

For instance, the graphic that the campaign posted after winning the primary was designed by a volunteer. So was the campaign “Dr. Oz for New Jersey” bumper sticker, which is sold on his site for $6.

And many of the memes that end up circulating on Facebook are from Fetterman himself.

“Everything we do on social media is an extension of John’s unique authenticity and brand. Our videos are rarely highly produced or edited, as John prefers simple direct-to-camera videos where he can address directly to supporters and voters,” said Sophia Ota, digital director of the Fetterman campaign. “Our team engages at a very granular level with supporters online. We have staff who will respond to comments on John’s Facebook and Instagram posts individually. The key is to maintain engagement with real people.

Tharp said Fetterman will have to maintain that kind of high-level engagement, especially when Oz chooses to re-engage with a full-fledged digital effort. Oz, a famous doctor who hosted a self-help TV show, has more than 13 million Facebook followers that stretch far beyond Pennsylvania and even New Jersey.

David Catanese is McClatchy’s national political correspondent in Washington. He has covered campaigns for over a decade, previously working for US News & World Report and Politico. Previously, he was a television reporter for NBC affiliates in Missouri and North Dakota. You can send tips, smart plugs and reviews to [email protected]

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