Barack Obama is the third most popular person on Twitter. With over 8.9 million followers, the president is a few strides behind Justin Bieber's 10.8 million and Lady Gaga's 11.4 million. But when the White House launches the first ever Twitter Town Hall, @barackobama won't be tweeting. He'll be answering questions tweeted by Americans in what everyone's calling a "conversation" about jobs and the economy, all under the hashtag #AskObama. Twitter co-founder Jack Dorsey will moderate, and there are all sorts of algorithms and visualization tools that the White House will use both to curate the incoming tweets and to express, somehow, what's going on.
Chris Cillizza at The Washington Post thinks this Twitter thing is a great idea for youth outreach--much needed outreach for president who's no longer as popular as he used to be:
President Obama’s Twitter townhall today amounts to a win-win proposition for a White House looking to hone its message on the still-struggling economy and woo young voters back to the incumbent ahead of the 2012 election.
The event, which is being touted as historic, first-of-its-kind gathering, is already drawing considerable press attention and will be all the buzz of cable news in the runup to the 2 p.m. townhall.
The social media town hall is hardly a shocker, however. As Cillizza points out further down in his blog post about the time that Obama flew out to Palo Alto in April, talked Mark Zuckerberg into putting on a tie and hosted a Q&A session with Facebook's employees. The session lasted an hour, but Obama ended up answering only eight questions, most of them also about the economy, as Mark Zuckerberg moderated. The New York Times called the vibe between the president and the CEO "chummy." Twice. "Obama needs Facebook to help him get re-elected," remarked Dan Lyons at The Daily Beast. "Facebook needs Obama to keep them out of trouble with Congress and countless government agencies. No wonder they’re on each other’s friends list."