Haley's bathrobe lock-out generates social media buzz

rbarnett@greenvilleonline.comSeptember 4, 2013 

Gov. Nikki Haley announced her re-election bid outside the Bi-Lo Center in Greenville last month alongside her children, Rena and Nalin.

GERRY MELENDEZ — gmelendez@thestate.com

Gov. Nikki Haley locked herself out of the Governor’s Mansion Wednesday morning, while still in her robe.

How do we know this?

Because she told us, on Facebook.

This confession was made Wednesday to a few friends: About 61,917 fans on her Facebook page.

By Wednesday evening, more than 4,500 people had clicked “like” on the comment, about 560 had left comments, and nearly 240 had shared the post on their own Facebook pages.

By contrast, only 438 people “liked” her post the previous day about a company creating 100 jobs in Blythewood.

A post the day before on a lawsuit filed by two South Carolina women who were legally married in Washington was a hot one, though. Although it got only 812 “likes,” it generated 1,998 comments and 273 shares.

Such is the power of social media and its ability to give public figures a free platform to get their message out, unfiltered and personal.

Sometimes it can be dangerous, as in the case of Anthony Weiner, who resigned from the U.S. House of Representatives after publicly tweeting suggestive photos of himself that were intended for a particular woman who was following him.

Haley’s Wednesday morning confession – although it drew several slightly lurid comments – probably only serves to make her constituents feel more like she’s somebody they can relate to, said Larry Sabato, director of the Center for Politics at the University of Virginia.

“There's Anthony Weiner, and then there's this,” he said. “Haley's post is pretty harmless. Most people will find it amusing. People who like her will say the post humanizes her. People who hate Haley will cite this as proof of — well, something — that justifies the fact they will never vote for her. Not 10 votes have been changed.”

Uncensored posting by political figures is risky, regardless, he said.

“Generally, public officials and candidates probably need to have one staffer check over everything they write for social media before they press the send button,” Sabato said. “We're all a bit hasty on social media, but it matters only for a few — those who are in office or running for it. Every word they write is scrutinized and criticized.”

Democrats were quick to find an angle to attack Haley on for her locked-out-of-the-mansion post.

“File this under Fake Transparency, because it certainly is telling about Nikki Haley’s priorities when it comes to sharing information with the people of South Carolina,” Kristin Sosanie, communications director for the South Carolina Democratic Party, said in a press release.

“Today, Nikki Haley wasted no time telling the public about this,” she wrote. “But in dealing with the business of the state, Nikki Haley and her administration hid information from the public.”

The release goes on to give details about the governor’s fender-bender in North Carolina in June that wasn’t revealed for two months, raising questions about taxpayer-funded transportation at campaign events; a tuberculosis outbreak at a school in Greenwood County that parents didn’t know about for two months; and the hacking of the state Department of Revenue computer network, which compromised private information of millions of taxpayers, unbeknownst to the public for two weeks after authorities became aware of it.

“Gov. Haley’s post about her lock-out this morning must be what she and her team refer to when they talk about transparency, because in Nikki Haley’s record on state business, the only thing that’s transparent are the politically-motivated efforts to cover-up her failures,” the statement concludes.

Haley’s post also generated a few political jabs on Twitter.

A state government observer known as @SCLegislator posted: "@nikkihaley reveals that she locked herself out the Governor's mansion after accidentally giving the keys to an unidentified Russian."

The Tweet is an apparent reference to speculation that the SC-DOR hacker may have been from Russia.

Most of the comments people left on the governor’s Wednesday morning Facebook post, though, were just like you’d leave to a friend who had locked themselves out.

“You are like the rest of us,” Carolyn Tilley commented. “I hope your day gets better. I have done that. Thank you for the laugh.”

“Just proves that you're human. Glad u got let back in,” Connie Neubarth Bergman posted.

(A spokesman for the governor confirmed the Facebook account. He said Haley’s daughter, Rena, opened the door.)

Social media gives politicians an avenue to reach their own constituents in a personal way, as well as broaden their popularity to anywhere the Internet goes, according to Sundi Jo Graham, founder of ThumbPrint Marketing Group of Springfield, Mo.

It also saves campaign money.

“The only investment is time,” she said. “The more time they put into their social media, the more popular it will be. Tweets, statuses, or even a YouTube video could go more viral than a television advertisement.”

Politicians can even add donation buttons to their pages and collect contributions from supporters — which Obama did in 2008 to raise half a billion dollars, she said.

However, trust is probably the most important benefit to politicians for using social media, according to Graham.

“Using social media helps a politician become personable to the general public,” she said. “Viewing photos of President Obama with his family makes him seem trustworthy and family-oriented. Tweets that inform the public of what’s going on makes users feel like the ‘in crowd.’ ”

“And, the more a politician interacts with users, the more relatable he or she will seem. This helps them gain trust and gain a vote in the upcoming election.”

Haley frequently posts photos of her husband, Michael, in Afghanistan. Last week his unit was holding up a Clemson Tiger Paw flag and the caption said they planned to get up at 4 a.m. to watch the Clemson-Georgia game Saturday.

Haley’s likely opponent in the 2014 gubernatorial race also is on social media.

Democratic state Sen. Vincent Sheeheen of Camden, however, has 14,632 Facebook fans, compared to Haley’s more than 61,000.

Like Haley, he doesn’t limit his posts to political events and issues. His most recent posts Wednesday were photos of birds, frogs and bugs, taken by his son, Anthony.

Republicans in particular have taken to social media to get their message out.

In October 2011, The New York Times tabulated that Republican House members had twice as many social media followers as their colleagues on the other side of the aisle — about 1.3 million compared to about 600,000.

U.S. Rep. Jeff Duncan of Laurens is one of the most adept at social media, according to the House Republican Conference. The 3rd District Republican made it all the way to the Final Four in a March Madness-style competition between congressmen for their use of social media.

U.S. Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers, vice chair of the House Republican Conference, made expanding and improving House Republicans’ use of social media among her goals beginning in 2010. In January 2009, only 30 percent of GOP House members used social media. Now, the figure is above 90 percent, according to her website.

Duncan, who allows people to post directly on his Facebook page, unlike most public figures, uses it to gauge the opinion of his constituents on issues.

During a town hall meeting with fellow Republican Rep. Trey Gowdy on Tuesday night, he mentioned asking what people think about the United States striking Syria. He said none of the 92 people who had commented by that time were in favor of it.


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