As part of its gargantuan spending to raise Mr Bloomberg’s profile, the campaign has been working with the firm Meme 2020 to generate and spread screenshots depicting direct message exchanges between him and various Instagram accounts.
In recent weeks, the Bloomberg campaign also posted an invitation on influencer marketplace Tribe, offering Bloomberg supporters a fixed fee of $150 to provide videos or images to the campaign.
The new, self-deprecating Instagram memes show fake messages between Mr Bloomberg and the meme accounts, poking fun at the idea of him paying social influencers to ingratiate himself with young voters.
The Instagram posts included disclaimers, but their satirical nature left some Twitter users wondering if the partnerships were real.
Several posts used the disclaimer: “And yes this is really #sponsored by @mikebloomberg.”
But while some commenters found the posts amusing, others have taken a dim view.
One wrote “@fuckjerry just got stopped and frisked,” referring to a highly controversial policing strategy that’s landed Mr Bloomberg in hot water this week. Another put it more bluntly: “F*****ck this. Unsubscribe.”
Asked to explain what was going on, a campaign spokeswoman said: “Mike Bloomberg 2020 has teamed up with social creators to collaborate with the campaign, including the meme world.
“While a meme strategy may be new to presidential politics, we’re betting it will be an effective component to reach people where they are and compete with president Trump’s powerful digital operation.”
“We haven’t done a political campaign before,” said Reid Hailey, chief executive of Doing Things Media, which runs 12 of the meme accounts involved in the campaign, including @NeatDad and @GamersDoingThings. He said it was a creative decision, rather than an endorsement of Bloomberg.
The campaign’s online spending has run well into the tens of millions, including $70m spent just on Facebook and Google ads in the last year.
Mr Bloomberg’s polling figures have been rising since the campaign was announced. He may soon qualify for the next Democratic TV debate, to be held before next week’s Nevada caucuses.
However, he is also facing major controversies over his record as mayor, in particular his embrace of notorious stop-and-frisk tactics that he said targeted “male minorities, 16 to 25,” because “that’s where the real crime is.”