“President Obama is the first ‘social media president,'” states this week’s White House blog. True enough. Now the White House is preparing to turn over the presidential social media accounts to whoever comes next.
I find it marvelous how the range of communications methodologies has exploded in recent years. Now, in the digital age, the White House needs a digital transition.
Come inauguration, @POTUS on Twitter will become the property of the next administration, as will the Facebook, Flickr, Instagram and Snapchat accounts.
In the meantime, waste four minutes today by watching this video. Nearly 1.8 million other people already have since it was first posted in May. At 1:44 in you see the Snapchat filter cited in the blog. Later there’s Obama yukking it up with former House Speaker John Boehner, who offers another filter — on the end of a Camel. Obama looks tempted but we don’t see him actually take the smoke.
Perhaps the video producers used Camel — Obama reportedly smokes Marlboros — as a subtle reference to an earlier Democratic president. Franklin Roosevelt smoked Camels (the filterless ones) stuck in the end of his long holder. (An aside: I don’t begrudge Obama the occasional cig. You may love or hate his policies, but who among us lives totally free of one vice or another?)
Like Obama, FDR understood the reach and unique qualities offered by new mass communication media. He didn’t overwork the radio, giving only gave 30 of his famed fireside chats over his 12-year presidency. The modern White House produces and distributes a three-minute radio message every week.
If you like architecture and interior decorating, the new emphasis on social media offers a great way to see the inside of the White House when it’s decorated for Halloween or Christmas. When the Trumans arrived following the death of FDR and, a few days later, departure of Eleanor, they found a squalid, rat-infested hulk. Whoever moves in in January will find a splendid showpiece.
Yet the Obama White House has been circumspect in the use of these new, social media. @POTUS, “Dad, husband, and 44th President…” has, at this writing, emitted a mere 317 tweets seen by 11.1 million followers. But @WhiteHouse has put out more than 27,000 tweets to 12.1 million followers. Compare that to the @realDonaldTrump account, with no self description. It’s put out nearly 40,000 tweets, followed by 12.9 million followers. @Hillary Clinton, “wife, mom, grandma…” has tweeted 9,500 times to 10.1 million followers.
On Facebook, the White House makes posts, from what I can tell, about every six to 10 days or so. Contrast that with the average fool who posts every time they pass gas, or so it seems. It gets up to a million views depending on the topic. The campaigns post more than once daily.
Come Jan. 20, the social media accounts will empty, the Obama materials sent to the Archives. Just as the new president will take the seat behind an empty desk, the new administration will have blank social media accounts.
My question is whether the next crew will use these accounts for straightforward information or as a propaganda tin horn. Given how raw political emotions will be, let’s hope for restraint.