Texas’ SB4, a law signed by Gov. Greg Abbott last month, allows police to inquire about a person’s immigration status during traffic stops. Matthew Martinez mmartinez@star-telegram.com
Texas’ SB4, a law signed by Gov. Greg Abbott last month, allows police to inquire about a person’s immigration status during traffic stops. Matthew Martinez mmartinez@star-telegram.com

Bud Kennedy

Texas’ No. 1 weekend show? Abbott’s 700K viewers on Facebook

By Bud Kennedy

bud@star-telegram.com

July 15, 2017 5:54 PM

FORT WORTH

While reporters await the next tweeted missive from the Oval Office, Texas Gov. Greg Abbott is a video star on Facebook.

Since Abbott made a surprise Facebook Live appearance May 7 to sign Texas’ new immigration law, his following has surged to 1.2 million users, passing former Gov. Rick Perry’s. Abbott is now one of the 15 most-“liked” politicians nationwide.

When Abbott launched his 2018 re-election campaign Friday in San Antonio, thousands of Texans watched live. By late Saturday, the speech had piled up more than 300,000 viewings.

“Wow,” said Aaron Chimbel, an associate professor at TCU’s Schieffer College of Communications, who also writes on social media for the technology website MediaShift.org.

“You might think of Facebook as a niche thing, but he’s reaching large amounts of people … That’s more viewers than a local newscast.”

That wasn’t Abbott’s only show.

On Saturday, simply going door-to-door on a campaign trip to McAllen, Abbott drew more than 210,000 viewers.

Combined since Friday, Abbott’s campaign has posted four videos (one was a highlight reel) that have been viewed more than 700,000 times.

When Abbott signed the so-called sanctuary city immigration law in a sudden Facebook Live appearance instead of a typical ceremony, Democrats mocked him as hiding. But spokesman Matt Hirsch tweeted that it was for the audience.

For those wondering why we chose Facebook live. And it's only been an hour. pic.twitter.com/IdkHm7Mf45

— Matt Hirsch (@MattJHirsch) May 8, 2017

“It won’t be the last time,” Abbott told Irving-based radio talk host Glenn Beck.

“We saw what happened in the [President Donald] Trump campaign … this is the next step. But listen, I have more than a million viewers. And it’s important that I be able to connect directly with them unfiltered through other media.”

As governor, Perry had friendly dealings with California-based Facebook. His office economic development fund contributed $1.4 million for an Austin office.

Abbott spoke at the groundbreaking for Facebook’s coming $1 billion data center in far north Fort Worth.

With 2 billion users, Facebook has become the leading news or broadcast medium. Facebook Live videos are an effective way to deliver a message, Chimbel said.

There’s a difference when you see what the person said and how they say it.

TCU Schieffer College assistant professor Aaron Chimbel

“If you see a tweet, you wonder how choreographed it is,” he said.

“There’s a difference when you see what the person said and how they say it.”

Twitter is great for politics and breaking news, but it’s not growing. Abbott also uses it, writing his own tweets.

But “Facebook is a much larger audience and a smart choice,” Chimbel said, in part because Facebook’s mysterious ranking algorithm helps push live videos to the top of pages.

“I can see a politician using it for a town hall instead of engaging with a challenger,” Chimbel said. (Or journalists.)

Abbott campaign strategist Dave Carney credited the weekend’s success to “the excitement of the launch, and the hot weather.” Texans are indoors more, which means more time on Facebook.

“We’re not doing anything different,” he wrote in a text message.

Just broadcasting to an audience of 1.2 million.

Bud Kennedy: 817-390-7538, @BudKennedy. His column appears Sundays, Wednesdays and Fridays.

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