Barack Obama on social media

The topic of Barack Obama's usage of social media in his political campaigns, including podcasting, Twitter, Myspace, Facebook, and YouTube has been compared to the adoption of radio, television, MTV, and the Internet in slingshotting his presidential campaign to success and as thus has elicited much scholarly inquiry.[1] In the 2008 presidential campaign, Obama had more "friends" on Facebook and Myspace and more "followers" on Twitter than his opponent John McCain.[2]

Obama's usage of the wider Internet has often since been compared to Franklin D. Roosevelt and John F. Kennedy's adaption of the radio and television mediums respectively in the history of communication between the White House and the American Public.

Obama Tweeting
Barack Obama in the first presidential Twitter town hall meeting with service creator and moderator Jack Dorsey looking on.


Twitter activity of Barack Obama
Twitter activity of Barack Obama from his first tweet in April 2007 to September 2017. Retweets are not included.
Michelle and Barack Obama embrace
Barack Obama embraces the First Lady after she had introduced him at a 2012 election campaign event in Davenport, Iowa. The campaign tweeted a similar photograph from the campaign photographer on election night and many people thought it was taken on election day.

Barack Obama's Twitter account (@BarackObama) is the official account on social networking site Twitter for former President of the United States Barack Obama, and has been used for his election efforts. Obama also used the White House's Twitter account (@WhiteHouse) for his presidential activities. As of January 18, 2019, Obama's account had 104,251,685 followers,[3][4][5] followed 616,446 accounts,[6] and had posted 15,573 tweets.[3] Well into 2011, it was following the most people of any account on the network and was the third to achieve ten million followers. It is one of only two accounts in the world to be in the top ten in both followers and followees (Twitter friends). As of June 12, 2016, the White House account is also among the two-hundred most followed with nearly three million followers.[7] On May 18, 2015, Obama sent his first tweet from the first Twitter account dedicated exclusively to the U.S. President (@POTUS);[8] his first reply to a tweet directed at him was a tongue-in-cheek exchange with former President Bill Clinton (@billclinton).[9]

Obama has used Twitter to promote legislation and support for his policies.[10][11] He has been the subject of various controversies on Twitter.[12] Obama is also the subject of various debates on Twitter.[13][14] He had also used his account to respond to the public regarding the economy and employment.[15][16] Based on its rate of adoption, Twitter will have a complementary role to other communication efforts that is more significant in Obama's 2012 presidential campaign than in prior elections.[17]

Statistics on Twitter usage

20120614 @BarackObama Follower Chart
Graph of Obama's follower growth

The account is among the top ten worldwide in both followers and followed.[3][18] The account held the record for following the most people.[19][20] Obama's account ranked sixth in terms of followers with 16.5 million followers,[3][4][5] and fourth in terms of accounts followed with 677,188.[6]

During his 2008 campaign the account was intermittently the world's most followed. In May 2010 Obama's Twitter account ranked as the fourth most followed account with about 4 million followers.[21] By May 16, 2011, @BarackObama was followed by 7.4 million people, including twenty-eight world leaders.[22] His account became the third account to reach 10 million followers in September 2011.[19][20]

Account usage history

Barack Obama tweeting on May 24, 2012 in response to hashtagged questions
Obama "using Twitter" on May 24, 2012 in response to hashtagged questions

@BarackObama was launched on March 5, 2007 at 16:08:25.[23] It is his official account, although he also tweeted through @WhiteHouse which is usually used by the presidential administration, while @BarackObama was for his election campaign staff.[24] @WhiteHouse predates the Presidency of Barack Obama, since it was created on April 21, 2007.[25] Following the 2008 United States presidential election, the Democratic National Committee was believed to have taken over the account and in a speech in November 2009, Obama stated "I have never used Twitter", although he had over 2.6 million followers.[26][27] The @BarackObama account is "run by #Obama2012 campaign staff. Tweets from the President are signed -bo."[28][29] Although his staff does most of his tweeting, Obama became active on the account in June 2011, tweeting under his own initials, beginning with the father's day message "Being a father is sometimes my hardest but always my most rewarding job..."[20][24]

Twitter Town Hall audience
Audience members at the July 6, 2011 Twitter Town hall meeting tweeting questions to Barack Obama

Obama has at various times held public forums in which he fielded questions posted on Twitter. On July 6, 2011, he participated in what was billed as "Twitter Presents Townhall @ the White House".[15][30] The event was held in the East Room of the White House and was streamed online. Only written questions on the site about the economy and jobs were accepted for oral response by Obama.[31] His average responses were over 2000 characters and when Speaker of the United States House of Representatives John Boehner tweeted "Where are the jobs?" to the hashtag #AskObama,[32] it took Obama 3111 characters to respond.[33] The event was moderated by Twitter executive Jack Dorsey, and Obama started the session with a sample tweet to himself through @WhiteHouse that said "in order to reduce the deficit, what costs would you cut and what investments would you keep – bo".[34] Dorsey said afterwards that Twitter received over 110,000 #AskObama-hashtagged tweets.[35] Boehner was quite active with his questions from the outset.[34] Some in the media proposed May 24, 2012, as the date when Obama became the first President to respond to questions on Twitter.[16][36]

On July 29, 2011, during the United States debt-ceiling crisis, the account lost over 40,000 followers when the president asked "Americans Friday to call, email and tweet Congressional leaders to 'keep the pressure on' lawmakers in hopes of reaching a bipartisan deal to raise the nation's $14.3 trillion debt limit ahead of an August 2 deadline."[10] During the day, he sent about 100 tweets that included the Twitter accounts of Congressional Republicans.[37] Later in 2011, Obama used Twitter again to try to encourage the people to voice their opinion on legislation when he was attempting to pass the American Jobs Act.[11]


On January 5, 2009, Obama's campaign account @BarackObama was among several celebrity accounts that were hacked and domain hijacked.[12][38] The hacker phished the password of a Twitter administrator's account, gaining access to other accounts to which he then changed the passwords, and subsequently offered access to accounts upon request at Digital Gangster. The case eventually led to a non-financial settlement with the Federal Trade Commission by Twitter.[39]

On July 4, 2011, Obama was the subject of a death hoax on Twitter when Fox News's Politics Twitter account (@foxnewspolitics) was hacked. The hackers were unfamiliar with Twitter and started their hoax messages with @BarackObama, thus only making the message appear in the Twitter timelines of those who follow both Fox News and the Presidential account. Eventually the hackers switched to hashtag references, increasing the visibility of their activities.[40] Fox News acknowledged the breach and apologized.[41]

Significance of Twitter in campaigning

Obama responding to tweets
Obama and Jack Dorsey during the July 6, 2011 Twitter Town hall meeting

Although both Obama and his Republican adversary Mitt Romney were active on Twitter and Twitter has "become an essential tool for campaigns", the Pew Research Center has determined that only about 13% of American adults had joined the site. Thus, Twitter's impact on the election was only "one slice of an enormous communication effort". Its impact grew significantly that as many tweets are sent in 8 minutes as were sent on all of Election Day 2008.[17] As of May 25, 2010, 48% of Obama's followers resided outside of the United States and 47% were female. At that time, the top five industries in which his followers were employed were

  1. Hospitality,
  2. Law,
  3. Marketing/Public Relations,
  4. Fashion and
  5. Education.[42]

Measuring social influence has become a new consulting career opportunity.[43] According to discussants on the PBS NewsHour, Obama has 5000 times as much social media influence as Romney;[44] however, according to The Hill, Obama only has 12 times as much social media influence.[45]

Other social media platforms

The official website of Barack Obama is It is run by Chris Hughes, one of the three co-founders of Facebook, and has been described as a "sort of social network".[1] Steve Spinner, a member of Obama’s National Finance Committee, says that while previous campaigns have used the internet none had yet taken full advantage of social networking features.[1] The website included online tools that allowed members to identify neighbors that the Obama campaign thought might be potential backers and then report back on any resulting conversations.[46]

Members of the site could also create blogs, post photos, and form groups through the website,[46] but each member must publish limited biographical profile and no more than one photo.[47] According to Hughes, during the 2008 campaign, over two million accounts were created for the website to "organize their local communities on behalf of Barack Obama".[46][47] He estimates that more than 200,000 events were organised through the website.[46] Moreover, 400,000 articles were written in blogs. 400,000 videos that supported Obama were posted into YouTube via the official website. 35,000 volunteer groups were created. $30 million were spent by 70,000 people into their own fundraising webpages. In the final four days of the 2008 campaign, three millions phone calls were made through the website's internet virtual phone.[47]


In March 2007, the Barack Obama team created an interconnection between a user's account in Obama's official website and Facebook account, so a user may publish activities via sending postings from one to another.[48] In 2008, the Obama presidential campaign spent $643,000 out of its $16 million Internet budget to promote his Facebook account.[47] On June 17, 2008, after Hillary Clinton ended her campaign, number of followers of Barack Obama's Facebook account increased to one million.[49] Meanwhile, in addition to Facebook accounts of Barack and Michelle Obama and Joe Biden, the Obama team created ten more Facebook accounts for "specific demographics, such as Veterans for Obama, Women for Obama, and African Americans for Obama."[48]


President Barack Obama made a surprise half-hour visit to the social news website Reddit on August 29, 2012. Using an Ask Me Anything (AMA) format, the President garnered 3.8 million page views on the first page of his self-post. Users left 22,000 comments and questions for the President,[50] 10 of which he answered. The answered questions' topics included more serious topics, from the most difficult decision made during his first term to a plan to end the corruption of money in politics. Some included a more lighthearted focus, like the recipe for the White House beer.

In response to Obama's use of Reddit, many noted the bypassing of generally established channels of mainstream media in use during the 2012 campaign in favor of less-filtered and closer forms of communication.[51] When asked why Obama logged on to Reddit, one campaign official responded "Because a whole bunch of our turnout targets were on Reddit." [52] By using a newer, underused media channel like Reddit, Obama's campaign acknowledged a largely unaddressed demographic of unlikely voters on social internet boards.

See also


  • Hendricks, John Allen; Denton, Robert E. Jr. (eds.) (2010). Communicator-in-Chief: How Barack Obama Used New Media Technology to Win the White House. Lanham, Maryland: Lexington Books. ISBN 978-0-7391-4107-6.CS1 maint: Extra text: authors list (link)
  • Baumgartner, Jody C.; Morris, Jonathan S. (2010). "Who Wants to Be My Friend?". Communicator-in-Chief. pp. 51–66.
  • Harfoush, Rahaf (2009). Yes We Did: An Inside Look at How Social Media Built the Obama Brand. Berkeley, California: New Riders—Peachpit. ISBN 978-0-321-63153-4.


  1. ^ a b c James Lewin (June 6, 2008). "Is Social Media Behind Barack Obama's Success?".
  2. ^ John Brandon (August 19, 2008). "Barack Obama wins Web 2.0 race". Archived from the original on July 10, 2012. Retrieved August 3, 2012.
  3. ^ a b c d "The Top 100 Twitterholics based on Followers". November 10, 2016. Retrieved November 10, 2016.
  4. ^ a b "The top 100 most followed on Twitter". June 14, 2012. Retrieved June 14, 2012.
  5. ^ a b "Barack Obama (timeline)". Twitter. June 14, 2012. Retrieved June 14, 2012.
  6. ^ a b "The Top 100 Twitterholics based on Friends". November 10, 2016. Retrieved November 10, 2016.
  7. ^ "The Top 200 Twitterholics based on Followers". June 5, 2012. Retrieved June 5, 2012.
  8. ^ "Obama gets his own account on Twitter: 'It's Barack. Really!'". Reuters. May 18, 2015. Retrieved May 21, 2015.
  9. ^ "Good question, @billclinton. The handle comes with the house. Know anyone interested in @FLOTUS?". May 18, 2015. Retrieved July 18, 2017.
  10. ^ a b Mullany, Anjali (July 29, 2011). "President Barack Obama takes debt battle to Twitter, loses more than 40,000 followers in one day". Daily News. Retrieved May 28, 2012.
  11. ^ a b Shear, Michael D. (October 4, 2011). "Obama Campaign Takes Jobs Fight to Twitter". The New York Times. Retrieved June 5, 2012.
  12. ^ a b Zetter, Kim (January 6, 2009). "Weak Password Brings 'Happiness' to Twitter Hacker". Wired. Retrieved June 8, 2012.
  13. ^ "Grassley, Axelrod resort to name-calling on Twitter over Obama court comments". FOX News. April 8, 2012. Retrieved June 8, 2012.
  14. ^ "Obama & Romney Aides Duke It Out". Twitter. January 16, 2012. Archived from the original on June 11, 2012. Retrieved June 8, 2012.
  15. ^ a b "President Obama @ Twitter Town Hall: Economy, Jobs, Deficit, and Space Exploration". July 6, 2011. Retrieved May 28, 2012.
  16. ^ a b Obama, Barack [@whitehouse] (May 24, 2012). "Let's try this: After I speak here in Iowa about clean energy jobs, I'll answer a few questions on #CongressToDoList. Ask w/ #WHChat -bo" (Tweet). Retrieved May 26, 2012 – via Twitter.
  17. ^ a b Fouhy, Beth. "Twitter plays outsize role in 2012 campaign". WXYZ. Archived from the original on May 25, 2012. Retrieved June 1, 2012.
  18. ^ "The Top 100 Twitterholics based on Friends". Retrieved June 1, 2012.
  19. ^ a b Bennett, Shea. "President Obama Becomes Third Human, First Politician To Reach 10 Million Twitter Followers". Retrieved June 1, 2012.
  20. ^ a b c Jackson, David (September 18, 2011). "Obama's Twitter-verse trails only Gaga, Bieber". USA Today. Retrieved June 1, 2012.
  21. ^ Bosker, Bianca (May 24, 2010). "Britney Spears Is Twitter QUEEN: Ashton Kutcher Loses His Top Spot (PICTURES)". The Huffington Post. Retrieved May 28, 2012.
  22. ^ Lüfkens, Matthias (April 16, 2011). "How World Leaders use Social Media: Why the @WhiteHouse doesn't follow @BarackObama & other idiosyncrasies". Brian Solis. Retrieved June 1, 2012.
  23. ^ "Stats & Rankings for Barack Obama". Retrieved June 1, 2012.
  24. ^ a b Boutin, Paul (June 20, 2011). "Obama Starts Tweeting for Himself". The New York Times. Retrieved June 1, 2012.
  25. ^ "Stats & Rankings for White House". Retrieved June 1, 2012.
  26. ^ Milian, Mark (November 16, 2009). "President Obama: 'I have never used Twitter'". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved May 28, 2012.
  27. ^ O'Brien, Michael (November 16, 2009). "Obama: 'I have never used Twitter'". The Hill. Retrieved May 28, 2012.
  28. ^ "Barack Obama". Twitter. Retrieved May 26, 2012.
  29. ^ Levinson, Paul (2012). New New Media (2nd ed.). New York: Pearson. p. 30. ISBN 978-0205865574.
  30. ^ "Twitter Presents Townhall @ the White House". Twitter. July 6, 2011. Retrieved May 28, 2012.
  31. ^ Carbone, Nick (July 2, 2011). "Twitter Town Hall Won't Limit President Obama's Answers". Time. Retrieved June 5, 2012.
  32. ^ Boehner, John (July 6, 2011). "@johnboehner status". Twitter. Retrieved June 5, 2012.
  33. ^ Shear, Michael D. (July 6, 2011). "Obama Averaged 2,099 Characters in His Twitter Answers". The New York Times. Retrieved June 5, 2012.
  34. ^ a b Shear, Michael D. (July 6, 2011). "Obama Takes Questions From His Tweeps". The New York Times. Retrieved June 5, 2012.
  35. ^ Jack Dorsey (July 8, 2011). Impressions on the White House Twitter Townhall. The White House. Retrieved July 10, 2011.
  36. ^ Klapper, Ethan (May 24, 2012). "Barack Obama Twitter Chat: President Answers Questions On Twitter". Huffington Post. Retrieved May 26, 2012.
  37. ^ Gardiner, Nile (July 30, 2011). "Barack Obama's vulgar Twitter spamming campaign is a classless act of desperation by the US president". The Telegraph. Retrieved June 1, 2012.
  38. ^ Geere, Duncan (January 6, 2009). "Britney, Obama and Fox News' Twitter accounts get hacked". Tech Digest. Retrieved June 8, 2012.
  39. ^ Zetter, Kim (June 24, 2010). "Twitter Settles with FTC Over 'Happiness' Breach". Wired. Retrieved June 8, 2012.
  40. ^ Turnbull, Giles (July 4, 2011). "'Obama Dead' Hoax Sweeps Twitter After Fox News Feed Hack". Time. Retrieved June 8, 2012.
  41. ^ "Foxnewspolitics Twitter Feed Hacked". Fox News. July 4, 2011. Retrieved June 8, 2012.
  42. ^ "Obama and Romney Go Head-to-Head on Twitter [INFOGRAPHIC]". May 25, 2012. Retrieved May 28, 2012.
  43. ^ "The businesses looking for the 'magic middle' on social networks". BBC News. April 24, 2012. Retrieved June 1, 2012.
  44. ^ "Sizing Up Which Presidential Campaigns Are #Winning in Twitter Influence". PBS NewsHour. May 31, 2012. Retrieved June 1, 2012.
  45. ^ Cohn, Alicia M. (June 1, 2012). "Obama's Twitter influence beats Romney's with women, young users". The Hill. Retrieved June 1, 2012.
  46. ^ a b c d Heather Havenstein. " Stays Online". Computerworld.
  47. ^ a b c d Baumgartner; Morris (2010). "Who Wants to Be My Friend?". Communicator-In-Chief. p. 58.
  48. ^ a b Harfoush 2009. "Social Networks", pp. 139–140. Retrieved August 3, 2012, at Google Books.
  49. ^ Baumgartner; Morris (2010). "Who Wants to Be My Friend?". Communicator-In-Chief. p. 57. Retrieved August 3, 2012 – via Google Books.
  50. ^ Tsukayama, Hayley. (August 30, 2012). "Obama on Reddit: By the numbers". The Washington Post. Retrieved November 26, 2012.
  51. ^ Grier, Peter (August 29, 2012). "Why Did President Obama do a Reddit 'Ask Me Anything'?". Retrieved November 26, 2012.
  52. ^ Scherer, Michael. (November 7, 2012). "Inside the Secret World of the Data Crunchers Who Helped Obama Win". Retrieved November 26, 2012.

External links

Donald Trump on social media

My use of social media is not Presidential - it’s MODERN DAY PRESIDENTIAL. Make America Great Again!

July 2, 2017

Donald Trump's use of social media attracts worldwide attention. He frequently uses Twitter and other social media platforms to make comments about other politicians, celebrities and daily news. From his official declaration of candidacy in June 2015 through the first two years of his presidency, he tweeted over 14,000 times. Since early in his presidency, his tweets have been "considered official statements by the President of the United States," according to then-White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer.He often posts controversial or false statements, and his advisors have warned him that his tweets may alienate some of his supporters. In a June 2017 Fox News poll, 70 percent of respondents said Trump's tweets were hurting his agenda. In a January 2019 UMass Lowell poll, 68 percent of all respondents aged 18-37 said Trump tweets too much.

Social media and political communication in the United States

The emergence of social media has changed the way in which political communication takes place in the United States. Political institutions such as politicians, political parties, foundations, institutions, and political think tanks are all using social media platforms, like Facebook and Twitter, to communicate with and engage voters. Regular individuals, politicians, "pundits" and thought leaders alike are able to voice their opinions, engage with a wide network, and connect with other likeminded individuals. The active participation of social media users has been an increasingly important element in political communication, especially during political elections in the 2000s.Social media are changing the nature of political communication because they are tools that can be used to inform and mobilize users in new ways. Users are able to connect directly to politicians and campaign managers and engage in political activities in new ways. Each social media platform is programmed in code by developers, creating a unique digital architecture that influences how politicians and citizens can use the platform for political ends. For example, by simply pressing the "like button" on Facebook or by following someone on Twitter, users have the ability to connect with others and express their views in new ways. The option for users to share, like, or retweet political messages instantly has opened up a new avenue for politicians to reach out to voters. At the same time, social media campaigns can carry risks that are not present on traditional platforms, such as TV or newspaper ads. Whereas the political party controls all of the messaging on a TV or newspaper ad, in a social media campaign, critics and opposing party supporters can post negative comments immediately below campaign messages.

Politicians have a platform to communicate with that is different from the mainstream media. Politicians have the ability to raise large amounts of money in relatively short periods of time through social media campaigns. In 2012 president Obama raised over a billion dollars for his campaign, which broke the fundraising record. Around $690 million was raised through online donations including social media, email, and website donations and more money was raised from small donors than ever before.

Use of Twitter by public figures

The use of Twitter by celebrities and politicians has become an important factor both for Twitter itself and for the celebrity users. As with many other social networking WWW sites, the postings and pictures by celebrity users attracts people to the site, which increases opportunity for advertising. To this end, Twitter has provided two facilities to its high-profile users.

The first is the verified account.

Introduced in June 2009, the verified account system provides Twitter readers with a means to distinguish genuine accountholders from impostors.

A symbol displayed against the account name indicates that Twitter has taken steps to ensure that the account has the approval of the person whom it is claimed to be, or represent.

However, the public signup page for obtaining verified accounts was discontinued in 2010, with Twitter explaining that the volume of requests for verified accounts had exceeded its ability to cope; and nowadays Twitter determines itself whom to approach about verified accounts, limiting them to "highly sought after users", "business partners", and "individuals at high risk of impersonation".

Business partners include those who advertise using Twitter, although it is not clearly spelled out in the material that Twitter provides to its business partners when and whether they might qualify for having verified account status.Secondly, Twitter attempts to work with celebrity and media public relations staff to encourage them to make use of Twitter in their advertising and publicity campaigns, encouraging them to use Twitter in their promotional campaigns, and providing support and analysis services to determine what worked, what created "buzz", and what did not.

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