Presidential Social Media Engagement: The Great Obama Twitter Town Hall

Update: Watch the town hall live feed via Ustream at 2 pm Eastern on July 6th below.

Glorious times for the internets! President Obama will take to Twitter tomorrow — kind of — to take questions from Us the People. I say “kind of” because he won’t actually be limited to 140 characters in his answers, since he’ll reply via live online video. But the questions themselves come from ones posted with the #askobama hashtag, filtered through White House handlers of course.

Seeing as thousands of Tweets will be submitted, the odds of any individual one making it to Obama himself are naturally low, but activists on the Left and the Right are trying to mobilize followers to post enough variations on a theme that their messaging might break through. Plus, each question is visible to anyone following the hashtag — here’s my favorite so far. Revolutionary? No. A good way to build the President’s following, to present his messaging unfiltered by journalists, and to get a lot of press attention in the process? Yes.

Note that as social media monitoring firm Radian6 happily points out (way to jump on a story, y’all), Obama’s speeches have driven significant online discussion in the past. The Twitter town hall also comes a day after Joe Biden joined Twitter, and also after quite a bit of reporting on Obama 2012’s planned emphasis on social media (remember that Twitter barely existed in 2008).

And don’t forget that the President participated in a Facebook town hall a few months back (Zuckerberg wore a suit!), which along with the fact that the White House has created a dedicated town hall Twitter feed suggests that we’ll see more Presidential public engagement via social media in the months to come. Now, if he’d just hold a few more press conferences, we might have the kind of accessible presidency his supporters expected in ’08.

Interestingly, all of this comes only a couple of weeks after contributor Beth Becker and friend-of-the-site Alan Rosenblatt’s social media panel at Netroots Nation, in which Beth stated that the President’s social media engagement strategy “sucked,” followed by advice for improving it — words that (I have heard) very quickly reached the White House online staff attending the conference. Coincidence? You be the judge.

Feed provided by Ustream


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Colin Delany
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