Bernie Sanders is bringing back Facebook profile picture overlays. Do they work?

Noah Berger/AP PhotoBernie Sanders speaks during a campaign rally in Palo Alto, California, in 2016.
  • Harkening back to the early days of Facebook, Bernie Sanders can now have his campaign tacked onto anyone’s profile picture on Super Tuesday.
  • The profile picture template has had highs and lows from “Obama-ize yourself” to “Kony 2012.”
  • As superficial as they may seem, a 2015 study found that this perceived “slacktivism” can actually make a difference.
  • Visit Business Insider’s homepage for more stories.

Bernie Sanders supporters were out in force early on Super Tuesday – at least on Facebook.

Those feelin’ the Bern had the option of making a temporary profile picture indicating they voted for Sanders today, with a simple perimiter surrounding the photo of their choice.

The tactic harkens back to the early days of Facebook.

The “Obama-ize yourself” third party feature that painted a user’s face like Shepard Fairey “Hope” poster was a big hit in 2008, while the controversial Kony 2012 movement saturated Facebook with photo templates spurred by upstart Invisible Children organisation, which later dissolved after calling attention to the Lord’s Resistance Army in Central Africa.

While other campaigns have used similar tactics – an Elizabeth Warren template was also prominently featured in the temporary profile picture tab Tuesday – the Sanders approach is part of a broader grassroots effort to attempt to sway family and friends.

With the Bernie templates popping up, a 2015 study showed that there can actually be a positive effect from similar social media campaigns, if only at the margins.

Researchers Harry Chapman and Hilde Coffé tracked the data of Facebook users under the age of 35 for a study published in the Jyournal of Youth Studies titled “Slacktivism: Not Simply a Means to an End, but a Legitimate Form of Civic Participation.”

“We find that besides the intensity of Facebook use, offline engagement in protest and boycotts has a significant and positive effect on the likelihood to change one’s profile picture as part of a campaign,” the authors wrote. “Hence, the opportunity for Facebook users to engage in politics by changing a profile picture to support a campaign seems to be seized more often by young people who are politically engaged offline than by those who are not.”

Basically, Facebook friends who go with these pictures are more likely to get out and vote, participate in protests and other in-real-life civic actions, and probably have some faith that they can convince you to vote for their candidate.

Central to the Sanders campaign and its proported “political revolution” is relying on supporters to lobby their friends and family to back the U.S. senator from Vermont.

Sanders, 78, is looking to come out of Super Tuesday with a delegate lead takign him to the nomination.

For more coverage and to follow the results coming in, go to the Insider Politics team’s landing page.

Business Insider Emails & Alerts

Site highlights each day to your inbox.

Follow Business Insider Australia on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, and Instagram.