During John Fetterman’s race for U.S. Senate, his social media campaign garnered attention for connecting Gen Z to politics.
His TikTok has amassed more than 240,900 followers, 3.6 million likes and tens of millions of views, and Lehigh’s Annie Wu Henry, ‘18, is credited with playing an integral part in the success.
Henry was the creative power that spearheaded Fetterman’s TikTok campaign. She returned to her alma mater on March 6 to discuss the political social media stint and her other career experiences. Faculty and students from the journalism department gathered in Drown Hall to hear her speak and ask her questions.
Henry said she started working for Fetterman’s campaign in July 2022 as a social media producer for Fetterman’s Twitter, Instagram and TikTok.
According to Slate.com, Henry gained over 240,000 followers on Fetterman’s TikTok in just three months.
Some of her most popular posts on Fetterman’s account included pop culture references pertaining to artists like Taylor Swift and Adam Levine.
However, Fetterman did not just partake in any random trend. Henry said each post was strategized and thought through to capture the now-senator in a way that is authentic to him.
“Content should have a purpose,” Henry said. “A lot of times we see stuff and it’s random, but especially when working from a brand perspective or campaign, it’s important to understand why you’re posting things.”
When posting for Fetterman, Henry said her job was all about leaning into the stories and narratives around him that have impacted people.
Henry said she wanted viewers to gain something from the content — whether it is entertainment or information, there was always strategy and intention behind the posts.
She said it was also important to learn how to catch people’s attention quickly and understand the digital landscape, something timeliness plays a large role in.
“A meme one day, it’s not going to be a meme the next day,” Henry said. “You can make the best tweet in the world that’s off the trend and if you post it a week later it’s not gonna have the same impact.”
Will Smalley, ‘25, said he found the way Henry was able to differentiate Fetterman from other candidates through the use of social media interesting.
“TikTok is a new branch of social media, and to show politics like she did was really powerful,” Smalley said.
While at Lehigh, Henry majored in journalism with minors in political science and sociology & anthropology, which gave her insight to how people communicate and interact. Jeremy Littau, professor of journalism and communication, was Henry’s thesis advisor and mentor.
When asked to describe Henry’s work ethic in one word, Littau said: fearless.
Henry said she had an untraditional college path as she started her higher education journey at Franklin & Marshall College before transferring to the University of South Carolina and then again to Lehigh.
“Students transferring in midway through and trying to adapt to a social culture that already exists is hard,” Littau said. “To jump right in like she did I think says a lot about her personality as she didn’t wait around for an adjustment period.”
After enrolling, Littau said Henry immediately joined The Brown and White and ran the digital media accounts, where she revamped user engagement and brought new ideas.
When working with Henry for her senior year thesis, Littau said Henry was a unique case because she came in with a clear sense of what she wanted to research.
In her thesis, one of her findings centered around if there was a separation between people’s online and offline identities. Littau said she discussed how one’s online presence feeds their sense of identity and how they are perceived by others in the real world.
“Her thesis was remarkable in the sense that there was a lot of rich thinking, especially for the time period being 2018 when social media was fairly new,” Littau said.
Henry credits her “chaotic” college path to getting her to where she is now. She said her transfer process was freeing, as she was able to try new things, connect with many people and enjoy how she spent her time.
As for the campaign, Henry has taken time off since it ended to recharge herself from burnout. She said the job meant long hours, low pay and giving up a lot of her life — however, despite this, she’d like to stay in the political sphere.
Henry’s strive to make an impact is not isolated to her work or academic life, but also carries over to her personal one, such as on her own social media accounts.
“Whether it is getting one more person to swipe up on my Instagram story and register to vote or a graphic going viral, I think all these different impacts are important,” Henry said.