Annie Henry sitting in chair

Annie Wu Henry ’18, social media producer for John Fetterman's U.S. Senate campaign, grew the candidate's TikTok account to more than 241,000 followers and produced videos that exceeded a total of 3.5 million likes.

Annie Wu Henry ’18: Fetterman Senate Campaign's TikTok Phenom

A former staffer on The Brown and White, Henry’s use of social media for John Fetterman’s Senate campaign has gained her national attention.

Story by

Stephen Gross

Photography by

Michelle Gustafson

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The most viewed TikTok on U.S. Sen. John Fetterman’s account is a 2022 video clip from his race against Dr. Mehmet Oz, who, at the time, was defending himself from criticisms that he was not from Pennsylvania. “I grew up just south of Philadelphia,” Oz says.

The video cuts to a map of Philadelphia, then pans south to show New Jersey. A music mashup featuring Smash Mouth’s “All Star” plays, “Somebody once told me the world is gonna roll me, I ain’t the sharpest tool in the shed.”

The post received nearly a half million “likes” and was viewed over 4 million times.

It was the brainchild of Annie Wu Henry ’18, whose social media efforts for Fetterman’s successful Senate campaign have brought her national attention, leading to a 1,700-word profile in The New York Times and a Q&A with Slate.

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

A post shared by ANNIE WU (@annie_wu_22)

Henry assisted the Fetterman campaign both online and off, but her most significant contributions came via TikTok, running an account that grew to more than 241,000 followers and produced videos that exceeded a total of 3.5 million likes.

“Annie is a quintessential self-starter constantly working hard to make measurable impact,” says Matt Veto, journalism teaching assistant professor at Lehigh and faculty adviser of The Brown and White. “At the paper, she ran our social media accounts her senior year and basically tripled our Instagram following and engagement in mere months. Her professional success is a testament to her determination and skill.”

Annie Henry with a Fetterman campaign jacket

Annie Wu Henry ’18 says her research for her senior honors thesis at Lehigh aided her in her social media work for John Fetterman’s U.S. Senate campaign.

Henry says she was hired by the Fetterman campaign because she “understood the online and digital space in a unique way.” Though given a large amount of freedom with TikTok, her task was challenging.

For some projects, she says, she had to articulate her vision to colleagues who didn’t always understand how the specific social media medium worked. Those gathering the content, such as the video producers, had to trust her instincts. She also had to gauge the right time to post content for the widest audience. As much as Henry tried to plan, she had to be flexible.

“With news clips and the nature of social media, it's all about timing,” Henry says.

While TikTok was her focus, she pitched in on other ideas, such as a “Let Them Eat Crudité” sticker in response to another video by Fetterman’s opponent. She also contributed on Twitter, finding trends and events important to the campaign, such as in support of striking workers at the Philadelphia Art Museum.

THE LEHIGH EXPERIENCE

Henry says her research for her senior honors thesis at Lehigh, in which she was trying to understand how people present themselves online and how that’s perceived by others, aided her in implementing Fetterman’s social media campaign.

Her thesis advisor, Jeremy Littau, associate professor of journalism and communication, noticed.

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

A post shared by ANNIE WU (@annie_wu_22)

“I always saw her flexibility and open-minded pursuit of impact as enabling her to get the most out of Lehigh because she had things she wanted to know before deciding how to act,” Littau says. In following her work on the Fetterman campaign, he says, he was reminded of the questions she asked in her research. “So her success doesn't surprise me, given how much thought and care she put into preparing the road she was about to travel.”

One of her thesis findings was that people can’t differentiate between what they know of someone online and what the person is like in real life. In essence then, she says, what people post becomes part of their identity.

A large part of the Fetterman campaign focused on the candidate’s authenticity and values, she says, and that had to coincide with the picture painted online.

Overall, Henry says, the Fetterman campaign didn’t have a singular moment that defined its message; it consistently produced moments online. She says the staff also made sure the people engaging with the campaign felt they were being seen and heard. Online content was created specifically for each platform.

“I didn't want it to just feel like a campaign ad, or a ploy to get people to donate,” Henry says. “It was really to showcase who this campaign was—John—and what it stood for, and be fun.”

‘THE RIGHT DECISION’

Annie Wu Henry ’18  with a copy of The New York Times

Annie Wu Henry ’18 returned to campus in March to speak with current journalism students. Here, she stands in front of Coppee Hall holding a copy of The New York Times that featured her. (Christa Neu)

Unsure of a career path at Lehigh, Henry expanded her options by majoring in journalism and minoring in political science and sociology and anthropology. An internship through the Marketing Club gave her additional experience.

After graduation, she landed jobs in and out of politics that included organizational work and took her to the country’s East and West coasts. While she had job offers in politics, she hesitated jumping in full-time because she was looking for more stability.

It was her father, who grew up in York County, Pennsylvania, as Fetterman did, who first brought her attention to the politician. At the time, he admired Fetterman’s work as mayor of Braddock in the western part of the state. In 2022, Henry offered freelance help to Fetterman’s Senate campaign since she felt passionate about the race. Instead, she was offered a full-time position as social media producer.

“I had kind of wanted to stick with my organizing that was in the space that's still a bit more stable,” Henry says. “But it ended up being the right decision.”

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

A post shared by ANNIE WU (@annie_wu_22)

Henry is taking her time deciding on her next adventure, but receiving opportunities. She was invited to a viewing party of President Joe Biden’s State of the Union address by the White House, where she live-tweeted from @Annie_Wu_22, got a surprise visit from the first lady and was among the first to greet Biden when he returned after the address.

“I don't want to pick a job just because this is what's going to look the best on a resume, or this is the job because it pays the most money,” she says. “I want to do something because I really care about it and believe in it and think I can make an impact there."

Story by

Stephen Gross

Photography by

Michelle Gustafson

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