The first sitting US president to have a Twitter handle, @POTUS began meeting the tweeps in May 2015, and he’s been pretty funny.
But all good things must come to an end—and so it is for Obama’s account as well as the presidential Facebook, Instagram, and Snapchat.
The next president, to be decided this week, will inherit @POTUS and its 11.2 million followers on January 20, 2017, along with the rest of the White House digital presence. But none can take away Obama’s title as the “first social media president.”
The administration’s approach to social has been to “meet people where they are“—that is, online.
On Oct. 31, Kori Schulman, deputy chief digital officer for the White House, shared her reflections. “Looking back over the past eight years, our digital footprint reflects some broader changes in the ways people consume news and information and engage with the world.”
Indeed, a September 2016 Pew Research report on how news is consumed in the US found that four in 10 people read current events digitally now, second only to television news consumption. And of course, the digital channels for news include social media. In 2014, Pew called Facebook a “news powerhouse” while YouTube was the second biggest social media source for news and Twitter reached 16% of Americans, half of whom used tweets to track current events.
For those reasons, having a social media presence was important to the president. It let him speak to the people directly, as both leader and DJ in Chief.
“Over the past eight years, the President, Vice President, First Lady, and the White House have used social media and technology to engage with people around the country and the world on the most important issues of our time (while having some fun along the way),” Schulman wrote.
Obama also learned things.
We got insight on what inspires him, and who he wanted to hang with at the White House.
He used Twitter to congratulate,
announce an arrival,
and share when he was the guest editor of Wired (see, cool president).
All of these tweets, and the rest of his social media presence, will be preserved and archived by the White House.
Just like handwritten notes or letters have become part of the National Archive, the administration will pass along everything from “from tweets to snaps, all of the material we’ve published online.” To the extent possible, the White House digital team is also working to keep materials accessible on the platforms where they were created.
“Finally, we are working to ensure that the next president and administration—regardless of party—can continue to use and develop the digital assets we have created to connect directly with the people they serve,” she adds.
If Hillary Clinton wins the election, Bill Clinton would be the first First Man of the United States, making him the official @FirstMOTUS. (The handle, which often retweets messages from pro-Hillary accounts, was secured in 2013.)
As those who follow Obama already know, he has been musing humorously about the prospects for some time.