White House joins the fun on social-media sites

As a candidate, Barack Obama harnessed the power of social-media sites such as Twitter, Facebook and YouTube. So it’s no surprise that his administration recently set up official profiles for the White House on these sites and more. But being friends with the White House on MySpace isn’t the same as “friending” your college roommate. It’s one thing when your friends see pictures of you drunk at school or read a post speculating about whether you have the swine flu, but it’s quite another when officials at the White House can see that.

To quell privacy concerns, an Obama spokeswoman recently told The New York Times that the government does not intend to use its online profiles to keep tabs on people and that it is working with digital experts on the details.

Even though the White House is using these sites more to broadcast information than to interact with people, I commend it for creating these profiles and allowing feedback, one of the hallmarks of social-networking sites.


This is my favorite of the White House’s social-media profiles because it provides the most intimate look into the day to day life of President Obama. The account features hundreds of photos taken by official White House photographer Pete Souza, including one where the president, first lady and others are wearing 3-D glasses while watching the Super Bowl. Another shows Obama running down the White House hallways with his new dog, and many more are of the president and his daughters.

Just as entertaining as viewing the photos are the comments people leave on them. For instance, there’s a great photo of Obama and the governor of Vermont moving a couch in the Oval Office. The first commenter asks, “why did they have to move the couch?” to which someone responds, “they’re looking for change.”


Many of the updates on the White House Facebook page are simply links to blog posts from the official White House blog at whitehouse.gov/blog. Here, the comments on each post item usually debate the merits of whatever the White House is announcing, such as the release of the budget.

The White House should do more to distinguish its Facebook profile page from its official blog.


Updates on the White House’s Twitter account are almost identical to its updates on Facebook. However, White House staff has started to use Twitter to lead a conversation, which is one of the best uses of the service. Recently, the White House sent out a Twitter message with a link to live video of President Obama speaking about a tax-reform proposal. In the Twitter message, the White House told its followers to give their thoughts on what Obama was saying by including “#WHtaxreform” in their messages.

After the announcement, the White House had Jason Furman, deputy director of the National Economic Council, respond to some of the Twitter and Facebook comments people posted.


The White House’s YouTube profile features videos of lots of regular appearances, such as the press secretary’s daily briefings, the president’s weekly addresses and remarks from other special events and signings.

But there also are videos of things you don’t often get to see, such as a clip of President Obama playing basketball with the Lady Huskies, the NCAA women’s basketball national champions, and a video of a visit to the White House by the national champion University of Florida football team. Another shows the president reading the book Where the Wild Things Are to some children.

Unfortunately, like many of the comments posted on YouTube videos, the quality of the discussion is not very high.

(c) 2009, The Orlando Sentinel (Fla.). Source: MCT