This past Sunday, I co-hosted a panel at SXSW Interactive with Brian Cain of Campfire (and Blair Witch Project fame) on Sarah Palin’s successful use of social media. For whether you agree with her or not, the fact that she can post something on Facebook and get 3,000 comments in 3 hours is pretty remarkable.
We opened it up to the audience as a conversation and let everyone weigh in. We had an incredible range of opinion (and a Texas-sized hat tip to Rory Cooper of the Heritage Foundation for weighing in with the conservative POV.)
What we all managed to agree on (more or less) was that Palin’s social media strength had three components:
A) A Consistent Message: She does an excellent job of staying on point on not straying from her core message and storyline.
B) A Strong POV: Palin does not try and please everyone. She does not worry about what people outside her core constituency think and has very definite opinions on things that she is not afraid to both express and defend.
C) A Feeling Of Familiarity: Palin’s supporters often view her as “my friend Sarah, the politician.” You can see this in the very personal tone of many of the Facebook comments, which are written as if the poster was speaking to an old friend. (NB: This is a not uncommon scenario with celebrities of all stripes in social media, where the intimacy of the medium creates a false sense of connection between the celebrity and their audience.)
We then turned the question over to the audience: what would it be like if brands with loyal fan bases took a strong POV on issues, rather than trying to please all constituents. We wondered what the fallout would have been if, say, Southwest Airlines told Kevin Smith that he was welcome to fly Delta from now on, because they had their policies in place for a reason, that it wasn’t fair to the other passengers to have someone that large impinging on their space, and while they were sorry he was embarrassed, he knew their policy going in, thank you and good luck.
It’s an interesting exercise and no one was quite sure what the response would have been. Curious what you think would have happened: can brands take the sort of strong stands politicians do?
Note: I am not suggesting that this is what Southwest should have done or that it would have been a good idea. The exercise is merely to ponder “what if brands took strong stands like some politicians do?” And while you may be thinking “it’s pretty obvious you're not advocating that Alan”... well, you’d be surprised.