Is there anyone quite like Sarah Palin online?At the moment, no -- not Michael Jackson, not Manny Pacquiao, not even President Obama. According to Google Insights for Search, which tracks what the online masses are searching for within specific times and regions, the former Alaska governor-turned vice presidential nominee-turned media celebrity far surpasses Obama when it comes to Google searches. Online, interest in all things Palin has surged in the past few days. Of course, the more TV appearances she makes promoting her book "Going Rogue" -- first with Oprah Winfrey, then with FOX's Sean Hannity and a multi-part series with ABC News -- the bigger draw she becomes online, in blogs (right and left), on YouTube (1,320 Palin-oriented videos have been uploaded since last Thursday) and other social networking sites. Online popularity can be defined in various ways. Sheer ubiquity is one.
"Searches for Sarah Palin have surged to their highest level since the election -- even further than when she resigned as Governor of Alaska," Google spokesman Galen Panger told HuffPostTech. "While search interest now still pales in comparison with when she was announced as John McCain's pick for VP, at the moment she's all the rage--and right now people are searching for her more than President Obama."
The top 10 search terms in the past 30 days on Sarah Palin are in the image below.
Not coincidentally, this has been a big week for Palin's presence on socnets like Facebook and Twitter. On Tuesday afternoon, Palin reached a crucial Facebook mark -- attracting 1 million fans to her official page. (It must be noted that not all fans are actual fans but more voyeurs if not downright anti-Palin.) "I would like to thank everybody who has signed up to follow this Facebook page," Palin (or somebody working for Palin) wrote on her page. "We are now over one million strong! Our voices have been heard loud and clear on issues ranging from energy to health care. Your support has made this unfiltered communication medium a success." Yesterday, Palin created a new Twitter account; @SarahPalinUSA has been adding hundreds of new followers by the hour. As of 7 p.m. EST Thursday, 20 hours after her first tweet, her account lists 24,031 followers. For a political figure who's been consistent in her attack of the mainstream media, her use of what she calls an "unfiltered communication medium" is key. And downright necessary.
Colin Delaney of EPolitics.com said that Palin's online strategy is "classic insurgent jujitsu." He continued, "The more the "media elites" criticize her, the more credibility she gets with her followers. And since the Internet lets her do an end-run on mainstream media filters and speak directly to the people, she can get her message out unfettered." Adam Brickley, the young college student and early Palin supporter who created the Draft Palin for Vice President blog long before the 45-year-old mother of five became a household name, wrote in an e-mail to HuffPostTech that "social media will continue to be the linchpin of the Palin operation moving forward." Added Brickley: "She has over a million followers and she's the only person that I know of who regularly has their Facebook postings treated by the media as if they were columns in major publications. That's really a breakthrough not just for Palin, but for Facebook as a communication medium."
Leading up to the 2008 election, when more than 50 percent of the American electorate went online to get their news, spread information within their own social networks and, most importantly, interact with campaigns, the GOP trailed the Democrats. With some exceptions, the technological gap was wide -- not just in the use of old and new tools (Obama's sophisticated use of e-mail and text messaging was miles ahead of the nearest campaign), but in the energy those tools attracted from supporters. But a year after Obama's historic win, it's clear that the young tech-savvy Turks of the GOP had been keeping score and taking notes. In some ways, the GOP is now experiencing an online renaissance of sorts.
Evidence abound. With the help of the online political firm EngageDC -- headed by Mindy Finn and Patrick Ruffini, both veterans of the Republican National Committee's eCampaign department -- Republican Robert McDonnell effectively leveraged social media in his race for Virginia governor. McDonnell's campaign spent 7.5 percent of its overall media budget on online advertising. Translation: if you were a Virginia voter, McDonnell ads were almost inescapable online, popping up from site to site, in your computers at work and laptops at home. It's not just Republican pols who have gotten savvy. Ditto Republican groups. On Tuesday, the same day Palin announced passing the 1-million-Facebook-mark, the conservative think-tank Heritage Foundation crossed the 75,000 mark for Facebook fans. "While that might be a fraction of what Palin has produced, it's significantly more than any other think tank or policy organization," Robert Bluey, Heritage's director of online strategy, told HuffPostTech. Bluey also pointed to NoEnergyTax.com, which Heritage built using Facebook Connect to mobilize and organize its supporters. As the GOP has learned, technology is all about organizing, mobilizing and, in these hyper-partisan days, getting its message out.
And, right now, the messenger who attracts the most intrigue is Palin, who may run for president in 2012. Memo to her fans and detractors: outside of her native Alaska, interest on Palin is high in the early voting states of New Hampshire and Iowa.
So why is she burning up the Web?
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