There he was, our new President, Barack Obama. He was just announced the 44th President of the United States, was gloating in his victory, sighing in relief, and was finally happy that that could all be put behind him. “Mr. President, Mr. President”, His campaign manager David Plouffe exclaimed, “It’s time to get back to work and look forward to 2012, we need you to send out a tweet tonight and four more tomorrow”. President Obama knew the hard work was not finished but wanted to boast in his glory a little while longer, he had just been announced the President of the United States. He stayed sitting down for another minute, took a deep breath, and followed Mr. Plouffe to finish the work that had been started. He wrote out a tweet to be sent out later that night and got to work for the country that needed him and elected him into office. And this was only the beginning of Obama’s successful political career but as well his trending social media posts, especially Twitter.
When Obama first started to think of the possibility of running for the position of President and actually winning he could not believe it, the idea even surprised him a little bit. However, he knew in order to win he had to do something that was out of the box and never before seen by any other political campaign. Obama was young, innovative, and had a fire burning inside him, that told many he would do whatever it took to win because he knew he was the best candidate for the job and that our country needed a healthy change. Obama knew from the beginning that he needed to hire someone with these ideas. It had to be someone that would not only target the young to go out and vote but to understand the middle-class Americans and their wants and needs as they make up the majority of the population in the United States. David Plouffe, an experienced Democratic Party campaign consultant was excited to be a part of Obama’s team and knew what exactly was needed in order to win, Social Media. When Obama first heard this idea of using Social Media, he was shocked. He did not believe that Social Media was the new innovative idea that they needed in order to win the campaign, but Obama trusted Mr. Plouffe’s judgment. President Barack Obama, at the time 46 years old, joined Twitter in March 2007, and never looked back.
Starting off his 2008 campaign strong, President Obama used MySpace, Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook. These social media platforms used by the Obama Administration were thought of as an expansion to reach increasing voters and as well to strengthen his existing audience. Further, What journalists see in their Twitter feeds may be the result of strategic politicians attempting to shape the contours of discussion. 1 Obama in 2008, had more followers on all social media platforms than his opponent, the late Senator Mr. John McCain. This was a factor as to why the younger generation perceived John McCain as old, not up-to-date, and was not making an effort to really connect with the younger first-time voters. This, however, was President Obama’s forte. Sixty-six percent of the younger registered voters identified with the Democratic party and voted in favor of Obama. 2 These campaign strategies could be linked to those used throughout his 2008 campaign to obtain the presidency, especially the use of social media as at the time, social media was being mostly used by the younger generations. Some may even say that this strategy used by Obama was similar to the strategy used by John F. Kennedy’s use of television as a tool for self-promotion. Like JFK was good at TV, Obama is good at social media. 3
Obama’s presence on social media did not stop after his first election into office. He was a powerhouse and his administration continued to use social media as a storytelling tool, and a way for the public to know what the office was doing, planning on doing, and wanting to do. The Obama White House was indeed the first presidency to make use of services like Twitter, Facebook, Snapchat, and Instagram. The White House brags that Obama was the first to tweet from @POTUS on Twitter, to go live on Facebook, to use a filter on Snapchat. However, this is a valid assumption as Obama took office during a time that the social and economic values of our countries were evolving and changing more than ever. They were revolving around the idea that technology was not only going to change the world but would become the new way to govern. At the sound of this idea, President Obama and his Administration did not take a chance to breathe before jumping to implement this idea. Many factors contributed to his success, but a major one was the way Obama and his Chicago-based campaign team used social media and technology as an integral part of their campaign strategy, not only to raise money, but also more importantly, to develop a groundswell of empowered volunteers who felt that they could make a difference. 4
After being elected into office, President Obama wanted to leave a lasting impact on the people and his time in the White House. His Administration made the decision to make a Twitter handle for the President and Presidents to follow after him which influenced President Trump’s use of Twitter. Although Donald Trump did not use it in the way that President Obama intended it to be used, Trump’s Twitter handle was efficient in many ways. In May 2015,
Obama made his first tweet from this account. Feeling proud, happy, and ecstatic about the collaboration of social media into the political world, President Obama knew that this was only the beginning of great things to come. Over the year 2015, known as the year of the political tweet, Obama accounts for 14 of the top 27 political tweets of the year. Some of his more popular tweets include the issues involving the criminal justice system during the NAACP national convention. His most popular tweet regarding the supreme court decision of same-sex marriage equality and their ruling stated, “Today is a big step in our march toward equality. Gay and lesbian couples now have the right to marry, just like anyone else. #LoveWins” Twitter, not only was this announcement a big step for the evolution of our country as a whole, it was also a big step to announce this information as a tweet to share the opinion of the President. It allowed others to share their opinion on the ruling freely and justly. And that is the power Twitter and all social media have over any other web-based tool. The idea is to confidently share ideas, share opinions, and receive helpful feedback on them, whether it be negative or positive. This announcement of the this ruling in the court, coming after decades of fighting for justice was celebrated and seen throughout all social media platforms. However, there was something about the President of the United States feeling the need to tweet about it and make it known to the people that made this even more powerful and needed.
Twitter, like any other social media platform, is can be utilized to share the latest news however, it also shares opinionated bias on that news as it is it is being delivered. When President Obama did this, however, it was not perceived negatively by most of the Twitter using public. This legislation was viewed as a victory, and it was something that would be included in history books in the years to come. Barack Obama and his Administration knew this and took this into consideration. This tweet, one of the most famous in the history of this social media platform, was the prime example of how successful Obama was. It demonstrates how far he had come, from being a hopeful candidate, wanting to reach the younger generations to make a significant and long-lasting impact on the way that news, policies, and opinions were going to be shared from now on.
President Obama has been called the “first social-media president.” The White House staff have used social media and technology to engage with people around the country and the world on the most important issues of our time. 5 His ability to become technologically savvy can apply to legislation and governance issues as much as to public communication and that was the key component to the effectiveness of President Obama and his administration staff. They used social in a way that could be a bridge and connection to all different types of people thanks to the nature of Twitter uses, and without even trying. This strategy, effectiveness, and perseverance led to a “digital transition”—the process by which the Obama presidency handed over the reins to its various social media accounts, keeping their followers kept intact, while also resetting and archiving their former contents in compliance with the Presidential Records Act. For continued content to be produced for Presidents and Presidents to come. Obama and his Administration put processes in place to ensure that these materials continue to be accessible on the platforms where they were created such as the @POTUS Twitter and the White House Instagram account. President Obama, though seen as the catalyst for social media use, fed into the idea that he was up-to-date with the latest trends, was educated on how to catch an audiences attention with one sentence, and become apparent to all, that he clutched and used his smartphone as much as anyone. He could make a post go viral and deserved the attention because of the title that was given to him through the campaign strategies that began his whole political journey. Further, Obama, now, still active on Twitter on his personal account is now looked upon for his advice, endorsements, and lessons through his social media platform use because of the work he used to do as President of the United States. President Obama will go down in history for his unique new campaign strategies but will be better known for the way that he integrated technology and social media to not only express his opinions nut his ability to adapt the telling of news, while representing the country of the United States and himself.
- Kreiss, Daniel. “The Real Story about How the Obama and Romney Campaigns Used Twitter.” The Washington Post, WP Company, 18 Apr. 2019, https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/monkey-cage/wp/2014/12/09/the-real-story-about-how-the-obama-and-romney-campaigns-used-twitter/. ↵
- Smith, Aaron. “The Internet’s Role in Campaign 2008.” Pew Research Center: Internet, Science & Tech, Pew Research Center, 28 Aug. 2020, https://www.pewresearch.org/internet/2009/04/15/the-internets-role-in-campaign-2008/. ↵
- Adams, Richard. “Barack Obama Tweets the Start to His 2012 Re-Election Campaign.” The Guardian, Guardian News and Media, 4 Apr. 2011, https://www.theguardian.com/world/2011/apr/04/barack-obama-twitter-facebook-election. ↵
- Aaker, Jennifer, and Professor. “Obama and the Power of Social Media and Technology.” Stanford Graduate School of Business, https://www.gsb.stanford.edu/faculty-research/case-studies/obama-power-social-media-technology. ↵
- “The Digital Transition: How the Presidential Transition Works in the Social Media Age.” National Archives and Records Administration, National Archives and Records Administration,https://obamawhitehouse.archives.gov/blog/2016/10/31/digital-transition-how-presidential-transition-works-social-media-age. ↵