How can the candidates leverage the White House’s social media?


Set aside all predictions — there is no way to know for sure if it will be President Clinton or President Trump until November 8.   

However, there is at least one guarantee: whoever takes the helm in January, he or she will have a new power in their presidential toolbox.

{mosads}The new leader will inherit the White House’s massive social media operation. This is significant because just like using the veto or being able to access the nuclear codes, controlling these social media channels is power.

The White House’s social hub 

President Obama’s administration was the first in the era of social media. It should be no shock that the candidate who leveraged new technologies so well in his campaigns established a behemoth of a social media presence for the White House.

Here’s a snapshot, in rough numbers, of the White House’s online following:

  • Facebook: 7.2 million Likes

  • Twitter: 11.8 million Followers

  • YouTube: 764,000 Subscribers

  • Instagram: 2.7 million Followers  

To put this into perspective, in 2015 The New York Times total circulation for print and digital was just over 2 million, according to Adweek.

The White House, for better or worse, has become a true force in digital publishing. From creating high-quality videos for YouTube, to posting behind-the-scene photos on Instagram, to making compelling infographics for Twitter and Facebook, to even having its own app, the White House’s social media presence rivals the most prominent media outlets and communications firms.

What this essentially means is that the president no longer needs to solely rely on the news media to deliver a message to the nation.

While Trump or Clinton have not formally indicated how they would use their bestowed digital presence while in office, observing their current use of social media as candidates can offer some foresight.

President Trump’s social media operation

Trump has honed in on a new  phenomenon  he learned that a well-timed tweet can drive the traditional news cycle, thereby determining what the mainstream media covers.

He had the mainstream media hanging on his every tweet in his feud with Megyn Kelly and what he deems as the dishonest media. Ironically enough, he drove that narrative and got the message out that the mainstream media is “unfair” and against him.

Trump should also be credited for his effort to respond to some posts from his followers. On Twitter, he will often acknowledge something positive a supporter said about him and will retweet it. This builds a trusted relationship with his followers and gives the perception that he listens to their concerns and is available for conversation.

With the White House’s production team at his disposal and an increased following, Trump’s instinct for creating provocative content and delivering it with impeccable timing, would give him newfound power in mass communication and rhetoric.   

President Clinton’s social media operation

Clinton, as a candidate, has modeled more after the style of Obama on social media. She posts highly-produced multimedia content, and her posts with text often seem planned and scripted by an editorial team. She also uses social media to complement the message of her traditional campaign communication, rather than create it online first.

With the power of the office behind her, Clinton will most likely become even more conservative with her social media strategy. As a calculated politician, it’s doubtful Clinton will take too many “risks” with the way she uses her new power of communication.

Something to consider, though, with her background as secretary of state and her experience in global relations; will she use the social media hub to produce targeted content for people in other countries? Could social media be a way to try and build goodwill globally?

The internet has no borders, and perhaps a well crafted message that comes from the White House in the language a person speaks and referencing the cultural norms they are familiar with would build more trust around the world.

Social media will change, too

For certain,  no matter who leads the country, social media is going to look very different in four years than it does now. It is constantly evolving and the president who knows how to effectively utilize the new changes and use it to it’s maximum potential, will continue to have a broadcast reach like never before.

Adam Chiara is an Assistant Professor of Communication at the University of Hartford. He has worked as a legislative aide, journalist, and as a public relations practitioner. 


The views expressed by contributors are their own and not the views of The Hill.


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