Does Obama really do social media?

Politics and social networks don’t mix?And if they do, how do online communities have a say, and aren’t just ‘used’? I’ve have my doubts about Obama’s commitment to social media. Oh, not to social network marketing – the pushing out, on social media broadcast channels like YouTube and Twitter, of widgets and press releases. But…

Politics and social networks don’t mix?And if they do, how do online communities have a say, and aren’t just ‘used’?

I’ve have my doubts about Obama’s commitment to social media. Oh, not to social network marketing – the pushing out, on social media broadcast channels like YouTube and Twitter, of widgets and press releases. But he or his advisors stopped tweeting the day of the election and weren’t heard from for months (there are now 2 tweets on his account). Fundraising using social media – full marks. Listening to the people? Hmmmm…

An Obama Promise Broken Already?

I was excited when the President’s new administration announced that their website Http:// would play a big role. Here’s what it said:

One of the first changes is the White House’s new website, which will serve as a place for the President and his administration to connect with the rest of the nation and the world.


They’ve also opened the site up to search engines, for the very first time. Great step!

They promise more communication, transparency and participation. Sounds good, but their blog is not open for comments.

That’s right. Although you can fill out a form, commenting on their blog isn’t available.

Communication and participation is a dialogue, not a monologue. Although it may seem like a petty gripe with all the big issues the new administration has to deal with, from a public relations standpoint, this may backfire on them.

Sure, I know it takes a lot of time to weed through comments, after all I write and manage three blogs. But it’s not like they aren’t already getting tons of email and letters, and someone (or many) are on top of that!

What do you think? Should the blog be open to comments? (more)

I wonder which social media consultant the Whitehouse is taking advice from?

If a government can’t have comments on their blog, the likelihood of them having something like The Future of Melbourne wiki or the The Police Act wiki is… well, unlikely.

Barack Obama widget for News PR
Barack Obama widget for News PR

Especially one that has had a few years of engagement online to learn engagement. Now it’s time to give back. And not by turning off comments.

What is required of us now is a new era of responsibility — a recognition, on the part of every American, that we have duties to ourselves, our nation, and the world, … (inauguration speech)

He’s right – it’s time for collaborative government. Leaving comments turned on, even with pre-moderation but a tonne of interns would’ve been a start. But until those comments go on, we’ll have lots of push press releases, and no open source governance.

If you want to read more on how good Barack Obama was at advocacy (motivating people to do stuff for him), read Stephen Collins at Acidlabs. I wonder how the New Mr. President will reward those advocates. Oh not with money. Just with a voice, that will be heard.

You can also comment on the above at CommonSensePR. Don’t forget to say how great he was a pushing out onto social media, that comments turned off does not mean not engaged, that he’s only been in the job 24 hours yada yada 😛

EDIT: What is a blog? What is a website?


Is a blog an “easy to update website” ie something that is dependent on what the creator/owner does with it? Or is a blog “a website for engagement” and dependent on what the reader does with it? Because at the end of the day, how many people really care if it’s WordPress or Dreamweaver that the site was written in – they just know if it’s read-only or read/write, no?

I personally don’t care – only, if you call your website a blog, I’ll scamper over to have a conversation, to find it has no comment function, I’ll be disappointed. If you call it a nice new website with a feedback form, I won’t even notice.

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  1. I don’t know. I mean, I get the point about the “no comments” thing – because I noticed it when i went in as well. But IMO, government sites are a little different than your standard blog. Number one, the chaos that would ensue if you left the White House blog open for commenting would be *enormous*. I realize you said you manage three blogs, and that you understand wading through comments is a nightmare – but I don’t think you understand the *enormity* of what would happen if you did open up the White House blog to comments. No offense, but what *you* administer in three blogs would be *nothing* by comparison.

    Not only would you have to deal with all the well-wishers, but also the people who hate him and make threats (and then they have to decide whether or not those people are serious or not, and what would happen from there), and then commenting systems are another “opening” for people to hack into a system. Granted, it’s a government system and unlikely – but the possibility of that happening? It’s there, and even if it did happen for a brief moment, what would have been gained?

    I think that the outreach is legitimate and genuine. I think the way that it’s set up is a great compromise between communicating with the masses and keeping yourself from standing wide open for an attack that’s not really necessary. The site is *definitely* a step in the right direction, and it’s a bold step. I really don’t think it should be charged with an accusation that he might be “putting in a face” simply because there’s no open commenting system. I think that’s there as a safeguard. This is something that hasn’t been done with the government before – I think it’s definitely wise to remain careful – and the new administration shouldn’t be shot down for being careful. After all, we could just go back to the way things were for the last 8 years. 😉

    As for the Twitter stuff – I think everyone now has a lot on their plates personally, I’d much rather know that his staff is working to fix all the problems we face right now – not worrying about what their Twitter status is. He plans to have a lot of different methods to communicate with people. I’m sure Twitter will still be used – but he’s in a different place right now. I would not expect the same stuff that he’s been using – I expect the stuff to be *better*.

    And maybe you should keep watch on this site:

    That looks interesting, I think. 🙂

    1. errr I run communities, not blogs. I also advise various gov departments in Australia on engagement as well at the Singapore and Malaysia Government on building communication communities. Plus a project funded by the Royal House of Saud to give Saudi Arabian/Middle Eastern women a voice in Islam. If they (and the President of Iraq) can have comments, so can your Barack Obama. Don’t accept excuses from people who because they don’t know how to manage comments, say they can’t be managed. 🙂

  2. I’m not questioning your “authority” or your “experience” in this area. You asked for an opinion, I simply gave mine. (for the record, your post does say “I write and manage three *blogs* – I went with that.)

    I’m not accepting any excuses or anything. I’m just saying – I think the way they have it set up is just fine. I don’t think it should be taken as a “hit” against our new administration simply because they don’t allow comments on their site. There could be hundreds of reasons why they don’t do it – the ones I mentioned above are just the ones I thought of off the top of my head. There’s a LOT of sites out there that don’t accept comments on their blogs – some for legal reasons, some just because it’s their preference. In the face of the entire scope of things, I really don’t think it’s that big of a deal.

  3. Okidoki.
    If you hear of the reasons why, could you let me know? The head of the European Union, the President of Iraq and others have comments on their blog – be interesting to hear the reasons why the President of the USA doesn’t… Just out of interest, what is the difference between a website and a blog with no comments? I have trouble seeing any major difference, except one has a trendy name “blog” and the other is old school “website”.

  4. … and I just realised: that “three blogs” is a quote from CommonsensePR. See how it’s indented and attributed? 🙂

  5. Ah. My mistake 🙂

    As for the difference between a “website” and a “blog” – well that’s in interesting discussion I actually asked on Twitter recently! The majority of people who responded to my question said basically, it was all about how the information was presented. That’s really the only difference.

    Now, if you want to know the *back end* differences, that’s something else. 😉 But from the responses I got, it was all about presentation. Whether or not comments were readily available was one point made – most people said if comments were available that a site was more “bloggy”, but “professional blogs” could easily *not* have comments, but still be considered a “blog”. (In fact, I recently did a site for a client who wanted a blogging platform because it was easier to manage, and they used the “blog” portion as a “newsletter”. They didn’t want commenting available either – for many various reasons – but like the White House’s site – they do have a contact form so issues and input can be sent in that way.)

    I think the difference between a “blog” and a “website” is really a matter of opinion anymore. Just a point to make about the commenting systems – did you know that in the US it’s common practice that if you allow comments, you *can* be held responsible for what people say if you moderate them, and you *can* be sued if someone posts something slanderous? The view is, if you moderate, then you are accepting responsibility for what people say on your site. So the general recommendation is: *never* moderate, or don’t leave comments open. Because if you do anything in between, you can be held liable for what people say in your comments section. You know Americans – we’re sue-happy. If you don’t like something, there’s no “turn the other cheek” it’s “I’m calling my lawyer!” 😉

    As for finding out why…well I don’t know. I suppose you could use the form on the site and ask! 🙂

  6. Um, so we’re judging the social media performance of a new US President based on his first four days in office? When the first couple of days were filled with rituals and events and half of his staff probably haven’t even found their desks yet? When priorities might actually have been to orient themselves and focus on the highest operational priorities facing a modern nation, rather than the “listening to people” that’s about the subsequent change and policy-making?

    I think this whole conversation is happening about six months too early.

    Right now I’m not terribly interested in knowing which social media advisors Barack Obama is listening to. Right now I’d rather he be listening to economic and military advisers. Without the right advice in those areas people lose their job or homes, or their lives. Without the right social media advice… oh, a few folks get all a’flutter because they can’t post blog comments. Poor petals.

    Stilgherrian’s last blog post..So Conroy’s Internet filter won’t block political speech, eh?

  7. Stil, actually, no, if you read our posts, we’re basing it on the last 4 years of electioneering 🙂
    I don’t write a blog on politics – I know you do – I write it on social media and repercussions of the decisions we make. And it’s never too early for consultation with the public – consumer or voter.
    *shrugs* he can have a new website. Just don’t call it a ‘blog’ and consultation with the people. I’ve added an image to the post 🙂

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