When I saw a tweet from Barack Obama come up on my Twitter feed the other day, I realized how unique it is to have our President active on Twitter. Does anyone else think it’s kind of cool that Obama has created an online presence for himself? At first, it seems like it’s only to have Obama seem like he is more in touch with people as a way to be more acceptable. But if you think about it, he really is connecting with people on an individual basis.
I remember Obama being on social media during his campaign against Senator McCain back in 2008. At the time, I was living out in Boston, and he made a few appearances there during his run. At that time, Facebook was definitely the most popular way of reaching out to people, especially college students and young professionals. Every time he came to visit Boston, Facebook would blow up with notifications about Obama coming to town. This created a huge buzz among all of the college students living in the city. And because students make up a large part of the Beantown population, publishing this “hot” information on Facebook was definitely the right route. I even remember the day he drove down our campus’ main street beeping the horn of his limo just because someone from my school posted a petition on Facebook to have Obama come to BU.
In Obama’s more recent campaign for election in 2012 vs. Mitt Romney, his use of social media skyrocketed. Obama led over Romney with his social media use throughout. He used Twitter and Facebook to talk about policy, but also to get feedback from American people. He used YouTube to post podcasts of his policy beliefs and hopes for the future of the United States.
The Pew Research Center did a study on social media use during the 2012 Presidential Election, and found:
“The Obama campaign posted nearly four times as much content as the Romney campaign and was active on nearly twice as many platforms. Obama’s digital content also engendered more response from the public-twice the number of shares, views and comments of his posts.”
I think that using social media during a political campaign can be risky, but if it’s done well, it is always beneficial. Not only is the candidate showing that they care about what people have to say, but they also are smart enough to connect via a platform that people can trust and care about.
Connecting with people over social media is a sure bet because there will be guaranteed readership and content is so easy to share with friends. Social media is word of mouth, but in an online world. The President is smart as he uses social media to help get the word out about where he’s coming from on certain decisions. He likes to keep people informed about what’s going on, and why it’s happening–that’s a public official that actually cares.
With the recent government shutdown in full swing, Mr. President has been consistent with posting content on his social media accounts. On both Facebook and Twitter, he has posted many quotes and comments about the shutdown. He has singled out the Tea Party members as responsible for the shutdown, and claimed that the entire thing has been planned for a while now. He urges Congress to figure things out:
On the other side of the issue, I think that having social media can be a little risky for someone in such a high office. If something small goes wrong, it will be broadcast and exploited as much as possible. In addition, the staff that work with and for President Obama also have to be extremely careful when they are on their own personal accounts. For example, Obama’s Communications Advisor, Dan Pfeiffer, made a horrible typo using his Twitter account a couple of days ago (using the N-word, no less!). I think this was an extremely poor mistake on Pfeiffer’s part. He definitely put his, and the President’s, credibility in public question.
I think that Obama’s best use of Twitter so far has been his Townhall Meeting held on Twitter, back in 2011. While he talked about policy, the economy, gay marriage, and other hot topics, Obama answered only questions asked of him via Twitter. This was a really cool idea because it created a majorly buzzed about conversation during the actual event, and for several weeks afterward. And most importantly, it gave people a voice! And when it comes to politics, that’s something that people usually feel is denied to them. Check out this article to see what people asked him.
Barack Obama currently has over 38 million followers on Twitter and over 36 million likes on Facebook. With numbers like this, he has access to almost all generations of people. If he continues to make good choices about what content he posts, he can continue to foster great conversation and relationships with American citizens everywhere.