Last Wednesday, thousands of Twitter users opened their respective browsers and clicked into President Obama’s virtual Town Hall. Using the hash tag #AskObama and tweeting @townhall, Obama’s event garnered over 70,000 questions in the form of 140 character tweets (See: how to make really complicated political issues concise).
Obama has been using Social Media as an outlet to reach the public ever since the beginning of his campaign. Through an initiative referred to as White House 2.0, President Obama has called on the U.S. government to become “more efficient, more transparent, and more creative”. The idea behind this call to action is that we can tackle today’s challenges more effectively by increasing information exchange in terms of both reach and depth. In order to fulfill this new mission, President Obama has begun engaging in social media “Town Halls”. It turns out; President Obama isn’t just jumping on the social media bandwagon to appeal to the youth or social media users at large. The President is using social media outlets because they are highly integrated into the online buzz about Obama and the government. These three charts show the involvement of social media sites in the dissemination of political information for the month of May, directly after the April 20th Facebook Town Hall.
1. Facebook, YouTube, and Twitter Generate Over ¼ Of All Referrals to BarackObama.com
The New York Times, however, falls at #26 and CNN is close behind at #30. I saw similar trends in traffic to WhiteHouse.gov, but I chose to highlight referrals to BarackObama.com in particular because social media components are highly infused in its construction and the site serves as the platform for his reelection campaign.
2. Personal/Social Networking is the #1 Category Referring to BarackObama.com
3. Vice Versa, when people search for “Obama”, YouTube, Facebook, and Twitter are the 1st, 3rd, and 6th places that they are taken to. This means the American perception of Obama is heavily influenced and shaped by these social sharing sites. If Obama can tap into these resources effectively, then he stands a chance at reaching his audience and having a part in those conversations.
I was shocked to see that BarackObama.com gets much of its traffic from social media sites instead of direct news sources. The search referral behaviors were also highly social because they didn’t take visitors to official government websites or news articles, but rather, YouTube channels, tweets, and Facebook (albeit these charts monitored search activity the week following the Town Hall campaign).
Do you think that President Obama and his administration are utilizing social media to the best of their ability? Do you feel that social media will play a key part in presidential elections in the future? What other things could this administration do to embrace online social behaviors and influence the way people access information about our government?
Jen Duguay joins Compete to take on all things social media. She comes from a social issue background, most recently having worked for the Social Innovation Forum, the venture philanthropy arm of Root Cause, a nonprofit research and consulting firm. Jen's interests include singing, marketing, running, art, making guacemole, and using social entrepreneurship to tackle world issues. She has spent time in Belize and the Dominican Republic working on microfinance initiatives and recently traveled to Kenya where she studied the public healthcare system. Follow Jen @jenduguay on Twitter.