How Social Media Changed The Way Presidents Disseminate Information

With millions and millions of social followers, POTUS can disseminate information a lot easier.

So a little fact about myself before I dive into this blog – I love the TV show The West Wing. Yes, I know, it stopped airing in 2005 but Netflix is like a drug. I’m not super political and as a quick disclaimer, this blog post will also not be political. With President’s Day occurring earlier this week, I felt it would be appropriate to talk about how the Internet and social media changed the ways in which the President and his staff disseminate information.

2001 – George W. takes office (Facebook and Twitter do not exist)

Kind of weird to think about, right? Go back 14 years ago and think about how we as consumers used the Internet. Yes, MySpace was pretty popular but from a millennial perspective, we were either still in elementary school or in college. Personally, my primary use of the Internet in 2001 when I was an awkward 8th grader was for AOL Instant Messenger to talk to my friends. I’m getting a bit off track… Anyway, fast forward to September 11th, 2001. How did we learn about the terrorist attacks? TV. As soon as the first plane hit, the news immediately broke on all the major outlets. Of course you could’ve read about what happened on Yahoo or even Google but it’s not like people were flocking to the Internet to get the latest news!

The domino effect after 9/11

Shortly after 9/11 happened, the National Security Agency (NSA) began a covert mission to track not only phone calls but Internet usage. The only reason we know this is because of one Edward Snowden who leaked massive amounts of classified information. I don’t condone what either party did but what followed in the next few years would make it infinitely easier for the Government (and businesses for that matter) to track what we do while we’re on the Internet.

February 4, 2004: Facebook is born on the campus of Harvard University

Facebook's Mark Zuckerberg.As Google was celebrating its sixth birthday, Facebook (or referred to as The Facebook when it first emerged) was being created by Mark Zuckerberg and his college roommates: Eduardo Saverin, Andrew McCollum, Dustin Moskovitz and Chris Hughes. The social network started out being for college students only and grew across the country from campus to campus. Now, in 2015, it’s safe to say that everyone who is anyone has a Facebook account. No kidding – I’ve never met someone who is NOT on Facebook. I set up my account the summer of 2006 when I received my college email address. A lot has changed with their (Facebook’s) interface but when you first sign up, you enter basically every known fact about yourself. How naive we are as consumers – did we really not think Facebook was going to use our own information to allow advertisers better targeting for their campaigns? Now, because of Facebook’s algorithm changes, the only way to reach a large audience (or even build an audience) is to pay for it. It is relatively inexpensive to do, but still… the days or organic reach on Facebook are over.

2006: Twitter is created

As Facebook turns two, Twitter emerges as the next prominent social network. There are a lot of similarities between the two – conversely – there are also a lot of differences. Twitter doesn’t ask for you to share your life story in a profile. Twitter is big on character limits not only for bios but for tweets, too. 140 characters is all they give you to get your point across! In recent months, Twitter has done a complete overhaul to their UI. Once black, now is completely white and there’s now and option to feature a large banner on your profile. And, per our previous blog post by Steve Horton, you can now snap a video and immediately tweet it out to your network.

You have the history; here’s the presidential context

As the social media landscape became increasingly more relevant moving into the latter stages of W’s second term, consumers progressively flocked to the Internet for trending news and anecdotal posting with the hopes of going viral. Sidebar: I’m only on season 4 of The West Wing but they are just now beginning to touch on the power of the Internet and even email for that matter. With every news outlet and their mother having active social profiles to disseminate news and information of their own, the President’s non-fictional staff in the west wing have to be extra careful with what needs to stay under wraps. Fast forwarding to 2015 with President Obama on the latter end of his second term, the social statistics are pretty mind boggling.

Here’s a quick rundown:

 

  • Number of active monthly users on Facebook: 1.8 Billion
  • Number of active monthly users on Twitter: 288 Million
  • Number of active monthly users on LinkedIn: 300 Million
  • Number of active monthly users on Instagram: 300 Million
  • Number of people who follow President Obama’s Twitter account: 55.3 Million
  • Number of people who Liked President Obama’s Facebook page: 45.1 Million
  • Number of people who follow President Obama’s Instragram page: 3.6 Million

 

 

Why are these numbers important?

Seems pretty obvious, right? The President has the ability to disseminate information to millions of people with one simple click of a Post button. If he were to post something on any of those accounts that was significant enough to impact a lot of people, it would go viral in a matter of seconds. Now, judging from the sub-text on these accounts, the President isn’t doing any of the posting. It’s coordinated by a group called Organizing for Action and whenever the President actually does post something from he himself, it’s signed with -bo.

How will the dissemination of information change for future presidents?

How will presidents in the future disseminate information to the public?At this point in the 21st century, who really knows. There have only been two presidents who have been elected during the “social age” and so far, I think they’ve both done a good job at disseminating news via the web. I’m sure the folks at Facebook, Twitter, and Google for that matter have some pretty amazing ideas up their sleeves. The power of the aforementioned brands is simply fascinating and almost a bit unsettling to know that essentially, they hold the keys. But for now, we as consumers will continue to do what we’ve been doing and that’s holding our cell phone in our hand and scrolling up and down social feeds to discover the next interesting story.

How can StrataBlue help you disseminate information?

As it turns out, we are pretty good at it! Our staff of social media account managers have been expertly trained to increase brand exposure in a number of different industries. Give us a call if you’re interested in learning more – Tyler Moore will be the one to handle your call, and, for what it’s worth, he’s pretty awesome to work with. Here’s his number: 317-207-0195. Or, if you’re shy like me, you can contact us by submitting an online form. Just click the button below and Tyler will follow up within 24 hours!
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