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March 11, 2009

President Barack Obama & His Social Media Agenda in the First 50 Days

By Li Evans

President-barack-obama Quietly, without trumpets, fan fare, ticker tape parades or walks outside of the limo that give the secret service heart attacks, President Barack Obama has been changing the way the executive branch of the government does business online.  Not only that he's influencing the other branches, in particularly the legislator, both Congress & Senate.

In the first 50 days of his presidency President Obama's team has pushed forward a number of new sites to help citizens of the United States understand better what the President and his staff are doing. This was something we have never seen before, all we ever got before was a static WhiteHouse.gov site that people continually tried to Google Bomb for "miserable failure".

I stated back in November that President Barack Obama was going to be "Our First Social Media President", within the first 50 days of this presidency he's sure living up to that moniker I tacked on him (sure hope he doesn't mind).  We also know that Blackberry is sure thankful for the free press, since he wouldn't give up his and got that super dooper James Bond one.  Besides the Blackberry, in the first 50 days of his presidency, President Obama and his team have launched a number of new sites above and beyond just WhiteHouse.gov and that's what I'd like to focus on today, along with some other things.

It All Started With Change.....

Change.gov was the starting point that launched what we now see being built with the Obama administration.  Then as President-elect, he used Change.gov as a sounding board to listen to what the country was saying.  The platform for the site was very similar to BarackObama.com during the campaign, discussion boards, a blog, places for people to connect.  As I understand it, his team monitored this site and came back to then President-elect Obama with what issues people were really discussing and were passionate about.  They listened & participated to a degree, but most importantly, this was the start of giving the American public a taste of what was going to be coming starting January 20th, 2009.

The site now is just a web page holder directing visitors to WhiteHouse.gov, since the transition for Barack Obama as President is complete

Whitehouse-gov WhiteHouse.gov - No Longer About Miserable Failure....

Soon after the swearing in, the parades and all those fancy balls, changes to WhiteHouse.gov were set in motion.  If you look at the site today, it's very familiar to that of BarackObama.com.  In fact all the sites I will discuss have the same "feel" to them, so its likely they are all using the same platform.  Smart move if you ask me, saves on training and maintenance issues and also helps users. 

On the newly revamped WhiteHouse.gov site we've got a blog, and we've got YouTube videos in the form of weekly addresses.  We've got live blogging and live streaming also going on now on this site from time to time as well.  Visitors to the WhiteHouse.gov site will soon be able to interact with the Office of Public Liason,  The administration is billing this as "the front door to the White House through which everyone can participate and inform the work of the President." 

Recovery-org What About The Economy....

Recovery.gov launched soon after President Obama settled into the Oval office as a way for Americans to participate in this "stimulus" process.  Whether or not you agree with how much is being handed or who its being handed out to, the site keeps taxpayers abreast of the latest developments.  The site though does lack the social media aspect of letting taxpayers & citizens converse on the site, so it's not exactly a true "Social Media" site.  It does utilize YouTube via the WhiteHouse channel to post various messages from President Obama about what is going on with the Economic Recovery efforts.

Healthreform-gov Healthcare Reform, Its Now or Never ....

HealthReform.gov is run by the United States Department of Health & Human Services, however, just like every other site I'm pointing out in this piece, it's got the same look & feel to it, just with a different "skin".  This site was actually just launched in the last week, too. This site aims to educate its visitors about what is going on with America's health care reform initiatives.  There's quite a bit of use of video and it links back to the WhiteHouse.gov blog.

With this site, this is where President Obama's team has taken a rather commendable stride into the arena of Live Blogging.  Whether it will continue with this site or with others is yet to be determined, but I'll keep my eye out.  For now you can take a gander at Rebecca Adelman's take on the White House's Forum on Health Reform.

Usaservice Donate Your Time, Be A Volunteer ....

USAService.org was a bit tough for me to find, I heard it mentioned on a commercial by President Obama first but forgot to write down the URL.  I later found it through Yahoo Answers.  This site is extremely reminiscent of the BarackObama.com site.  I get the feeling they really wanted their already familiar audience from my.BarackObama.com to feel very at home with this site so that they would sign up to be a volunteer.

This site is really the site that is "social media" out of all of the sites I've pointed out.  I think in a way this really makes sense, if you understand the audience that President Barack Obama targeted to get to the White House.  You can find an event, schedule one, join the Facebook cause page and read the blog.  I do wonder if they are going to add more to this site though.  What would be nice is photos (via Flickr) and video (via YouTube) of some of these volunteer efforts that sprung from this site be displayed here.  True Social Media in action - offline!

House-youtube-channel President Barack Obama, Inspires Use of YouTube...

Some have dubbed President Obama the "YouTube" president, I believe he's a lot more than that, that he inspires others to use these technologies for communication.  Foregoing the weekly radio addresses of his predecessors for weekly YouTube Video addresses was definitely a step into the 21st century and web 2.0 (a scary place for the White House!).  What has happened with this step, was inspiration for other branches of government to use this form of social media to speak to audiences.  If you understand even a little about Online Video Marketing, you understand that this is a really great step forward for both Congress and the Senate.

Each of these branches have their own YouTube video channel and are really starting to use these in effective ways.  The House of Representatives (Congress) YouTube Channel features videos from various Representatives and well as Speaker Nancy Pelosi.  What also is important is that they link to individual Representatives' channels so their constituents can find them rather easily either by the map or by looking in their section on the left hand side of the channel.  The Senate's YouTube Channel, is set up in a very similar manner and features videos from various Senators as well as Senate head Harry Reid.

The Only Drawbacks?

How do you find all of these sites or know that they exist?  I didn't find links for USAService on WhiteHouse.gov, i found the answer on Yahoo Answers.  I didn't find navigation pointing toward these different YouTube channels, either.  It was more by poking around the websites did I discover them.  A button on this page, an announcement in the blog, it seems very disjointed.  What would be really nice and beneficial to everyone is some how tying all of this together to make it easy to find, especially if they launch more sites that aim to get America more involved in their government.

Overall, I think what's being done is a great step forward, but I think there needs to be a bit more conversation going on - or allowed to be going on.  Right now the majority of the conversation is going on, on the YouTube channels.  Having a place for conversation online, that's what made BarackObama.com so great, and such a success!  If they could put a little more of that into these new sites, imagine what they could learn!

However, the effort in the first 50 days of President Barack Obama's term shows that at least the White House staff and President Obama understand the need to communicate and listen and are intent on using the new technologies to do that.  That's something we as Americans never really had before, as an online marketer, it's exciting to think what's coming next!


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Thank you for the great post, and investigative work pulling all these resources together.

I think you should send this over to Macon Phillips, Director for New Media, and team. I have all the confidence in the world that they'll want to fix the problem.

They've done outstanding work!

Debbie Hemley

It is about time our government got with the times and started focusing on online exposure and also social media.

Li, this is great work - thank you. In our work with small business owners "of a certain age" - much like the former president - there is a lot of "don't get it", but I think we all agree that there has been a fundamental shift in how we manage our relationships, and there is no turning back.

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