Obama – I’ve Started…so I’ll Finish?

4 03 2009

In the last 24 hours Barack Obama’s Twitter has been ousted from the number one spot.  His 352,531 followers have been eclipsed by CNN’s breaking news feed @cnnbrk.  The reason is quite simple, since winning the presidential election the feed has had just two updates, and neither were posted by the president himself.

During the election campaign many of Obama’s tweets were in the first person, possibly posted by him on the ubiquitous campaign Blackberry.  It has presumably been decided that it is un-presidential to tweet.

What does this mean for the administration that pioneered engagement through social media as a key part of an election campaign? There is the new ObamaNews feed but it isn’t personal so it’s not really in keeping with the medium and it has just 24,000 followers at present, less than that of the average self respecting stand up comedian.  

In four years Obama will have to go to the people again. Will it be credible if he starts to engage once more at the point that he is looking for the popular vote, or will he leave that to his opponent? (It may be too late for McCain but he has added 50,000 Twitter followers in the last week). This is a serious question; is engagement with the people something that is just to be done during elections or does the social web mean that politicians can and more importantly should engage directly with their electorate whilst they are in office.  A tweet or two a week wouldn’t be too onerous even for the leader of the free world.





Obama and the Social Web #1

14 01 2009

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The United States presidential election of 2008 was the first major election anywhere in the world where social media played a significant role.  Half of the candidates in the primaries including Barack Obama had blogs. 

The number American citizens who regularly went on line for news about the presidential campaign more than doubled from the previous presidential election. As well as news sites like MSNBC, CNN and Yahoo News voters used social networks like Youtube and MySpace for updates as well as blogs like the Drudge Report.

Interaction with social networks became very much a two way process in the run up to the election.   On the day that Barack Obama announced he was forming a presidential exploratory committee in January 2007, a student leader created a group on Facebook called “One Million Strong for Barack”.   Opponents created a group on Facebook called Stop Barack Obama (One Million Strong and Growing).  This reached the one million total in Summer 08 whilst the original and older pro-Obama group still had only 600,000 members.   

Involvement in social networks was significant from the earliest days of the primaries. Republican Mitt Romney was the first prospective candidate to launch a Facebook profile,  Democrat John Edwards set up a campaign headquarters in the cyber world of Second Life which resulted in one of the more unusual web 2.0 occurrences when it was vandalised by the avatars of his political opponents. 

Barack Obama was a prime mover from the outset.  He actively engaged with most of the high profile social networking sites including MySpace, Facebook, Flickr, YouTube, LinkedIn, Eventful, Twitter as well as Blackplanet.com, a community with over 20 million members.








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