When it comes to the use of social media for political campaigning, the President of the United States, Barack Obama, provided the case study in the 2008 election. Using services like Facebook and Twitter to rally and organize his supporters, he was able to run a grassroots campaign that hadn’t really been seen before.
After he was sworn in, it looked like social media would continue to play a role in his administration but, for obvious reasons, the President significantly turned down his personal use of social channels. Recently he’s been trying to turn it on again, but will he be successful this time around? His recent social media usage hints that the President may have a more challenging time using social media to his benefit in 2012.
In an attempt to encourage citizens to call their congressmen over the
debt ceiling debate, the president turned to Twitter. The New York Daily
News has the details:
Obama asked Americans Friday to call, email, and tweet Congressional
leaders to “keep the pressure on” lawmakers in hopes of reaching a
bipartisan deal to raise the nation’s $14.3 trillion debt limit ahead of
an Aug. 2 deadline.
Obama’s campaign staff used the @BarackObama Twitter account to post the
Twitter handles of tweeting GOP leaders – state by state, tweet by
“Tweet at your Republican legislators and urge them to support a
bipartisan compromise to the debt crisis,” Obama’s campaign staff wrote
on his account before launching the day-long Twitter campaign.
The effectiveness of the campaign remains to be seen. But what we do
know: President Obama’s tweetstorm appears to have caused him to lose
some 40,000 Twitter followers in a single day. And the campaign
generated a lot of negative chatter. Many considered the president’s
tweets to be spam, and some even went so far as to call them a sign of
“desperation.” At least some of the criticism highlighted by the Post
appeared to be leveled by the president’s own supporters.
Obviously, blasting out a bevy of tweets was probably not a good idea.
President or not, most Twitter users don’t want to be flooded with
tweets from a single person. But the bigger question about Obama’s use
of social media is this: is it possible to turn social media on and off
as you need it and still be successful?
There are plenty of good reasons President Obama isn’t tweeting night
and day. He is, after all, the leader of the United States. In other
words, he has a lot on his plate and realistically there is no way he
could have been expected to maintain his pre-presidency levels of social
media activity once he took office. At the same time, his Twitter faux
pas hints at the possibility that using social media only when you need
others to do something for you in the immediate term is a flawed social
Social media is about “engagement.” That means different things to
different people, but at the end of the day, the key to effective
engagement is that everyone involved feels that he or she is getting
something out of the interaction. In other words, if you want social
media to work for you, you have to provide value to the people you’re
engaging with. You can’t simply expect to leave a conversation and
return only when you have something to say.
That, however, appears to be what President Obama is trying to do. Will he be able to make it work? Only time will tell.
For the rest of us mere mortals, it’s important to remember that the
‘relationships‘ we form through social channels should be maintained and
nurtured just like any other. Because even if one of the most powerful individuals in the
world proves capable of using social media effectively only when it
suits his needs, most individuals and businesses don’t have the same