Presidential Power on Social Media


What a great weekend to buy a mattress, furniture, car or just about anything. So as retailers pull out all the stops and do their best to part you with your dead presidents, I thought it would also be good time to reflect on how our living presidents are utilizing social media.  The Washington Post published this piece today to offer a light hearted look of presidential tweets.  While @BarackObama is thought to be the first “social media” president by utilizing the medium mostly to stir public debate, political rhetoric and even campaign strategies, former presidents @billclinton and @GeorgeHWBush seem to utilize Twitter more like the rest of us tweeting pics of loved ones:

Or this popular one from George senior:

Or reaching out to old friends (note the plea to Dubya in this tweet)

Got to wonder if slick Willy is just trying to bait George to create more fodder for his army of fans of Bushisms. Here’s a few gems for those who feel like reminiscing:


Unfortunately, ole George seems resigned to only using Instagram perhaps because he is  more proficient with pictures than words.

In the category of “it must be true because it’s on the internet”, The Times article mentioned that Gerald Ford hasn’t joined Twitter yet. Ehhh, awkward:

Ford funeral

But in the spirit of the day I’ll “pardon” the Times and assume the author meant to reference Jimmy Carter. And while it would be true to say that JC doesn’t tweet directly @CarterCenter definitely does with over 3,500 tweets and 23,000 followers.

All of these twittering leaders also do a great job of getting very important messages out to their followers covering everything from human rights, healthcare, education, national defense, foreign relations and everything in between. And presidential wannabes will certainly follow the social media blueprint forged by Obama in both the 2008 and 2012.   In 2008, the McCain camp virtually ignored the virtual medium while Obama seized it much like JFK capitalized on the television.

obama-twitter-150x150By the time 2012 rolled around, Obama had a well oiled social media machine. And while the Romney campaign was not as lackluster in this area as McCain, they didn’t have the four year head start that perhaps proved to be the difference for Obama.

Obama also understood the psychology of social behaviors and not just how to use the tools. By changing the typical mass media model (i.e. newspapers, television, etc), the power of his political message became more personal as followers got their information in a new and more engaged manner. Not only from the campaign itself but from the opinion leaders with similar demographics, interests and socio-economic factors that all of us follow within our own networks.  People like your friends, family and colleagues. Many people vote based on recommendations of people they trust and the rippling effect of social media is a very effective way to spread the word.

Social media creates multiple levels of trust based on relationships. Social media also allows information and opinions to travel across networks, like ripples in a pond, amplifying ideas and allowing each person to participate as an opinion leader through media production and distribution, not just by passive consumption.

Campaign memes were another important aspect of the campaign. And nothing can spread a positive or negative symbol quite like social media can. Anyone remember this one?

binders full of women

Lastly, the Obama campaign understood the importance of Big Data. By collecting and analyzing large chunks of data, the campaign was able to predict the behaviors of potential donors and determine which forms of contact and content would be most likely to attract donations and votes particularly in the critical swing states.

So, as the 2015 version of President’s Day comes to a close keep an eye on the 2016 candidates. No doubt they will be coming to a mobile device near you soon.



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One Response to Presidential Power on Social Media

  1. sydhavely says:

    I had forgotten how much missed the President Bush’s garbled and twisted English like “strategery” was a laughing stock. We don’t get that much now. But you’ve captured how presidents use social media. Great post.

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