Trust is Down, Facebook is What’s Up

5 10 2009

A recent Nielsen Global Online Consumer study found that the most trusted form of advertising worldwide is the opinions and recommendations of friends and online strangers. Since the inception of Facebook and the addition of the “status” option, people have used the tool as a medium to pitch rants, support their favorite football team or to express political views. Several politicians have recognized this medium and are utilizing it to alter public opinion and ultimately win votes.

Throughout the 2008 presidential campaign, Barack Obama’s smart use of social media was endlessly praised and discussed within the industry; however, both during the campaign period and after returning to her position as governor of Alaska, Sarah Palin has also held a noteworthy grasp on social media.

Debates over health care reform in August sparked heated Facebook messages distributed to Palin’s 850,000 Facebook friends rather than perhaps a press release sent out on the news wire. When she announced her resignment from Governor of Alaska, Palin made practically no public appearances or public statements at all, communicating with her supporters (and critics) via status updates and lengthy Facebook messages.

Andy Barr’s recent article on Politico analyzes Palin’s social media strategy and points out that such a politician is the perfect person to hold a strong online presence. Palin has many supporters but also many critics and has been famously and repeatedly criticized for her interviews and debates obtained through mainstream media. Interacting with people in an online conversation gives Palin the opportunity to better her image by becoming more personable and appealing to the public while still being able to express and position her political opinions.

In the past, avoiding the media would immediately remove a politician or celebrity from the spotlight. This is not the case any longer, however, as news organizations follow the buzz that her online actions receive and distribute her carefully contstructed opinions and posts rather than awkward, error-filled or simply downright confusing interviews.

Palin understands the importance of using social media to initiate a conversation with the public and her activity online encourages supporters to speak up in the conversation on their own Facebook pages. Generating support on Facebook via status updates is key because of the previously mentioned study about consumer trust in advertising; if all of your Facebook friends post statuses about the great things Sarah Palin is doing, public opinion and her reputation will be impacted. And perhaps that’s more than advertisers can say…

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3 responses

5 10 2009
Caroline Blanzaco

Social media does sound like it has paid off for Sarah Palin due to her weaknesses in public speaking and quick fire questioning. I never have really thought about how politics uses social media to highlight their strengths, but this was a very well written post and taught me a lot. Not only are politicians getting their message out in a coherent way, they are bonding with their voters and promoting themselves at the same time. People are incredibly influenced by each other, and by getting on their level, they are more likely to help the politician by talking about them on their own pages and influencing their friends for them.

7 10 2009
Amy English

When I think of Sarah Palin, I think of her interview with Katie Couric. Keeping that interview in mind, I think it is a great idea for her to use social media as a way to connect with her fans and critics. She can proof read her messages and key points before the country has a chance to attack her for asking her next door neighbor Russia for a cup of sugar. Barack Obama is known for his good relationship with our country’s younger generation and his use of social media has only strengthened that connection. It’s good to see that politicians are taking advantage of social media tools such as Facebook, because they are bonding with a new group of young and impressionable voters.

19 10 2009
Ashley Siegle

Amy makes a good point – I feel the younger generation is becoming more politically active, especially with the onset of Obama’s presidency. There’s not a more effective way to reach that target demographic but through social networking sites like Facebook. I can’t believe Palin didn’t use any traditional press methods when announcing her resignation as Governor of Alaska! The fact that news spread so quickly and efficiently via online is almost unbelievable and really raises curiosities as to where journalism is heading. From personal experience, I can say that Facebook updates are actually a useful way of staying on top of breaking news – people update really fast! Just today I was unable to watch a football game on TV, but just following updates of my Baltimore friends was enough to let me know what was going on. Social media really is the next wave of communication!

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