I discovered Bernie Sanders on Facebook when a friend shared a comparative analysis of Bernie and Hillary. I liked what I read about the 73-year-old senator, and after conducting some independent research, decided to support Bernie's candidacy.
A week later, I posted my own status about Bernie and shortly thereafter, received a message from an old friend: "Thanks for introducing me to Bernie Sanders," she said. "I think I'm going to vote for him too."
This social media domino effect is literally happening everywhere. It at least partially explains why Bernie is winning over millions of voters and now holds leads over Hillary in Iowa and New Hampshire. The New York Times recently called him, "a king of social media," because he's spending far less on advertisements than his competitors, but extending his outreach, nonetheless.
It's not uncommon to find posts about Bernie trending at the top of your Facebook newsfeed or on the front page of Reddit. His message resonates overwhelmingly with millennial voters and he's deliberately distributing that message through the channels on which millennials hang out.
Bernie may be 73 years old, but he's hip enough to understand that most voters don't spend their nights eating TV dinners and listening to radio programs. They live and breathe social media, and frankly, that's not a new development.
Still, Bernie's competitors are intent on dumping millions of dollars in advertising spend into radio and television. There's a palpable disconnect between their old-school media strategy and the audience with which it's designed to inspire.
The advertising industry knows all too well the shortcomings of TV and radio. Consumers aren't interested in a brand's pushy rhetoric anymore. They're interested in watching what they want to watch when they want to watch it. They're flocking to YouTube and Netflix for entertainment and Twitter and Snapchat for news. That's why so many brands are now becoming media companies, in an effort to stop pushing, and start pulling consumers with contextualized, authentic content.
If Hillary Clinton is going to win in 2016, she desperately needs to take to social media and revitalize her fan base. Bernie Sanders, whose Facebook page now has more likes than Clinton's, is already a step ahead of the competition.
People wonder why Bernie's rallies are attracting tens of thousands of people. It's because his Facebook posts are reaching hundreds of thousands. It's because he's live-tweeting the GOP debates. He's not some social media nerd with more virtual friends than real ones. He's a savvy politician with the mindset of an advertising executive. He knows that what Americans say online impacts which buttons they, and their friends, will press in the voting booths.