On Monday, when the former president learned that his successor-but-one, President Obama, hadfinally been allowed to set up an official Twitter account under the handle @POTUS, he couldn’thave related to the news personally. He could, however, show interest in the development onbehalf of a “friend”.
“#askingforafriend”, Clinton said mischievously, as he welcomed @POTUS to the twittersphere. “One question: Does that username stay with the office?”
With his cheeky comment, Clinton also raised a subsidiary question of Twitter decorum which hedid not address in his tweet. In the event of his “friend” winning the 2016 presidential election, andindeed going on to inherit the @POTUS Twitter account from Obama, what would happen to Billhimself?
“Hello, Twitter!” Obama said in his first tweet. “It’s Barack. Really! Six years in, they’refinally giving me my own account.”
It’s not that Obama has been silent on social media. In 2008 he demonstrated the power of Twitteras an early adopter on the presidential campaign trail, and his personal feed @BarackObama, wherehe occasionally tweets personally with the sign-off “bo” – is now approaching 60 million followers.
But the launch of the @POTUS feed at 11.39am ET on Monday was still enough of an occasion toattract followers at a rate of about 5,000 a minute. The White House said the account would serveas a “new way for President Obama to engage directly with the American people, with tweetscoming exclusively from him”.
As the banner photo for the account, Obama chose an image from the 50th anniversarycommemoration of the bloody Selma march for civil rights. He stands in the picture holding handswith Representative John Lewis, who was beaten by Alabama state troopers in 1965, on one sideand Amelia Boynton Robinson, another organiser of the original march who is still going strongaged 103, on the other.
It is unlikely that Obama will use his new social media platform as robustly as does Iran’s AyatollahAli Khamenei. The supreme leader is fond of trolling his enemies, not least the US – most recentlyaccusing it of being the “supporter& plotter of terrorism”.
But by deploying the @POTUS account, which the White House reserved several years ago,Obama has gained an official voice as head of state running concurrently alongside his morepersonal @BarackObama account. A similar two-track approach has been taken by MichelleObama, who appears on the @FLOTUS account as well as her own personal feed.
If the White House is telling the truth, and Obama really does write his own entries on the newaccount, that would put him in a very elite club indeed. As a recent study by Burson Marstellerdiscovered, though 86% of the 193 member states of the United Nations are represented onTwitter, very few world leaders actually tweet themselves.
According to the report, notable exceptions include Estonian president Toomas Hendrik Ilves(@IlvesToomas); @DonaldTusk, the president of the European Council; Latvian foreign minister@EdgarsRinkevics; and Norway’s prime minister, @Erna_Solberg.(Source:theguardian)