In the digital age, social media networking is a priceless form of communication for politicians and public figures.
Elected officials can reach millions with little to no cost up-front, and use tools like Facebook, Twitter and Instagram to engage constituents with unprecedented ease.
Those diving into the relatively new phenomenon, though, are finding they pay big for mistakes.
In the past few months, politicians have created a firestorm from misconstrued comments, jokes or jabs.
Phil Bailey, political director of South Carolina Senate Democratic Caucus, The tweets came after Haley got involved in an election battle between supporter Katrina Shealy and Haley nemesis Sen. Jake Knotts. Bailey considered an “unlawful campaign.” His account no longer exists.
In July, Democratic Congressional candidate as “homos.” Morrow temporarily closed her account before reopening it.
Most recently, Haley took to Facebook and Twitter to discuss her budget vetoes. Haley While giving live updates of House veto decisions, Haley wrote that “Special interests made their way into the DHEC budget” when the House voted unanimously to override the almost $500,000 cut to Rape Crisis Centers.
Haley’s comment sparked an uproar among sexual assault advocates and Democrats. One Rape Crisis Center director said that “every time she opens her mouth, she puts her foot in her it.”
Sen. Joel Lourie, when addressing the South Carolina Senate, suggested that Haley “stay off Facebook” and spend more time governing. Facebook will only get you into trouble, he said.
And some political analysts seem to agree.
“To me the social media sphere is more dangerous than its helpful,” said Brent Nelson, political science professor at Furman University. “In fact, it seems like you can almost only get in trouble.”
Nelson said that with such short messages, messages can be easily misinterpreted, and that getting emotional is generally not a good idea.
“Everybody has to be on it, but it can only present you with PR or campaign problems. You’re kind of caught if you’re too open with it.”
Nelson refers to Rep. Anthony Weiner of New York who, last year, sent a photo of his groin area over Twitter to a college student. Weiner later confessed to having inappropriate electronic relationships with multiple women.
Nelson, who ran for State Suprenintendent of Education in 2010, questioned whether Haley was running her Facebook alone. He said that when he was a candidate, “sometimes I was writing them, sometimes other people were writing them.”
Haley’s spokesman Rob Godfrey confirmed that Haley controls her own accounts: “Governer Haley manages her own Facebook and is active on social media because she has always made direct access with people a priority...”
Godfrey also stated that Haley’s Facebook posts automatically post to her Twitter.
On Haley’s comments being blasted, Nelson said the Democrats “are salivating.”
“It’s a way for political opponents to try to write their own narrative about Nikki Haley for picking these things out,” he said. “She’s young, she’s got a young image, it’s really important for her to say ‘I’m doing the things that young people who are doing great things and are creative are doing.’”
Nelson added that it’s the nature of the medium for one tweet or Facebook post to be picked out and analyzed out of context.
Bob Oldendick, political science professor at the University of South Carolina, said that he thinks politicians will get better at navigating the social networking world.
“Smart candidates and smart politicians know they have to use it,” he said. “It’s kind of a risk - it’s a relatively new phenomenon. It’s another one of those things people are going to learn.”
Oldendick said that over time, there might be less and less negatives. He added that the nature of politics makes social media especially shaky for some.
“In the political arena where everything’s very competitive, certainly opponents are going to take advantage of every opportunity. If there’s a misstep, they’ll take advantage of that.”
Oldendick said that, naturally, politicians will wish they had not posted certain comments or statements.
S.C. House Representative Bakari Sellers, D-Denmark, said that improving social media usage comes with experience, or "maturity in your political career."
Sellers was recently cast into the social media spotlight , over President Obama's faith.
"It’s 140 characters, things are always going to be taken out of context," he said. "So you just have to move forward with your message and hope to reach as many as possible."
Sellers adds: "It’s an effeicient way to contact people you otherwise wouldnt have contact with. The dangers are like any other dangers you'd have with political messages."