Palin’s Facebook Strategy

Sarah Palin

Sarah Palin

Since resigning as governor of Alaska in early July, Sarah Palin has used the social networking tool Facebook almost exclusively to convey her thoughts on the issues of the day to her supporters and the media.

The latest missive came late Saturday night when Palin penned a note on Facebook on the passage of President Obama‘s health care bill through the Senate Finance Committee.

“Those driving this plan no doubt have good intentions, but good intentions aren’t enough,” wrote Palin. She added that the fact that the specifics of the bill would be worked out behind closed doors was inconsistent with the sort of transparency Obama had advocated during the campaign. “All of this certainly gives the appearance of politics-as-usual in Washington with no change in sight,” Palin wrote.

All told, Palin has written 20 “notes” on Facebook since mid-August on a variety of subjects ranging from a statement on the death of Sen. Ted Kennedy (D-Mass.), a plug for conservative talk show host Glenn Beck and, of course, the now-infamous post raising concerns about end-of-life care contained within the Obama plan.

At the same time, Palin, who was once a dynamic user of Twitter — she posted 14 tweets on July 23 alone — has gone largely dormant as a presence on that hottest of social networking sites. Her current Twitter feed largely re-produces links to her Facebook posts and has none of the personal feel of the feed she maintained while still governor of the Last Frontier. (Her new Twitter site has 4,932 followers; her previous feed had a more robust 150,615.)

“Facebook itself is a true testament to American ingenuity and the entrepreneurial spirit; it will remain one of many great sources through which the governor will communicate directly with Americans,” said Meg Stapleton, a spokeswoman for Palin.

Several operatives who count themselves as friends of the former governor offered their own thoughts on the “why” behind Palin’s attraction to the medium.

Fred Malek, a major Republican donor, suggested that for a politician with very little staff, Facebook’s ease of use may well appeal to Palin. “Facebook has benefit of simplicity,” he added.

John Coale, a Democratic trial attorney and personal friend of the governor’s suggested three reasons for her Facebook focus: “1. No editors 2. Beats Twitter 3. She has a zillion Facebook friends.”

As of press time, Palin’s Facebook site had nearly 930,000 supporters and each of her posts typically draw thousands of comments on what she has written, comments that are broadly supportive of her. By way of comparison, former Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney (R) has 82,000 Facebook supporters while former Arkansas governor Mike Huckabee (R) has 121,000.

That sort of reach coupled with the direct contact between politician and supporter that Facebook offers makes what Palin is doing potentially powerful, explained one senior party strategist who was granted anonymity to speak candidly about the former governor’s strategy.

“Through her [million] Facebook followers she is her own virtual broadcast platform and the size of that platform makes her a player,” said the source. “She can create her own reality on whatever she likes in a way that is no different than the balloon boy ‘reality’ created by cable producers.”

Palin has made no secret of her distaste for the media since she emerged on the national stage last summer, arguing repeatedly that the press is pre-disposed against her and will twist whatever she says for their own purposes. She clearly believes that the public image of her created by the media is fundamentally incorrect and is seeking to end-run the media to speak to her backers. (Worth noting: President Obama used a number of social networking tools to speak directly to supporters without the use of the media.)

“My guess is that Team Palin is very twitchy about what they perceive as the hostile ‘filter’ of the regular media, so Facebook offers a direct way to communicate,” said Mike Murphy, a prominent Republican media consultant who has been broadly critical of Palin. “Plus, it’s not that big on correct grammar.”

Chris Cillizza
The Washington Post

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