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Why US President creates Twitter account ain’t news

President Obama has created a personal Twitter account. It’s a lousy form of broadcast media and isn’t very social.

A famous man created an account on Twitter this week and posted less than a handful of tweets.

He quickly amassed followers. In fact he got more followers, more quickly, than the last famous man or woman to sign-up to Twitter.

Old fashioned media can barely contain its excitement. Social media types are cheering and clapping, whooping even, and claiming this as evidence that the world has changed forever.

It is nothing of the sort.

This is the story @POTUS, an acronym of ‘President of the United States’, a personal account created by President Barrack Obama, who joined Twitter and snagged a million followers in five hours.

He’s surpassed Robert Downey Jnr’s (@robertdowneyjr) record of a million Twitter followers in 24 hours.

President Obama has posted four messages and has gathered 2.3 million followers in five days.

In one of his tweets he responds to a tweet from former-President Bill Clinton (@billclinton) but this is the beginning and end of any conversation.

This isn’t a story.

Missed opportunities

If President Obama started listening to US citizens, and other publics on Twitter, that’d be a story.

If he engaged people in a conversation or hosted a Twitter-chat that would really be a story.

It isn’t even as if Twitter is a new form of media for the Obama administration. Staff have previously used @BarackObama and @WhiteHouse for official communication.

The media of me

Media has changed. An individual such as President Obama can create their own media and have a conversation with its publics.

President Obama has said he’ll post the content himself rather than through official channels. But he is no more a case study for this new form of engagement than Taylor Swift (@taylorswift13) or many other celebrities.

The majority of people use Twitter and other social forms of media to broadcast messages to followers. President Obama is no different.

Twitter doesn’t scale

Twitter has limited application for a high profile politician. It has a liberal bias and the community management tools are limited.

It would be wholly unreasonable to expect a high profile individual to spend all day responding the tweets. President Obama has already received more than his fair share of abuse.

There are far better forms of social media. Indeed Obama created a community as part of his 2008 election campaign for activists and used it to seek input on policy.

Twitter is a poor form of broadcast media. The numbers don’t stack up. 2.3 million followers compared with a population of 318.8 million US citizens, or even 302 million active monthly Twitter users, is poor.

Organic reach is typically 10%, interaction 0.1% to 1%, and engagement 0.01 to 0.1%. It’s a really poor numbers game unless you invest in ad products.

Obama’s Twitter account is a sideshow. It’s a diary story. It certainly isn’t social.

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Stephen Waddington

Partner and Chief Engagement Officer, Ketchum and Visiting Professor in Practice, Newcastle University.

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