With President Barack Obama being the first social media president, the Obama administration is looking for more ways it can use digital and social media to promote some of the president's policies.
Paulette Aniskoff, who heads the White House Office of Public Engagement, traveled to Beverly Hills, California, in April to gather ideas for using YouTube and Vine stars in educating Americans about the president's proposals, The Washington Post reported.
Obama is the first president who has had to learn to survive in a social media-driven society, the Post said.
The upside to using social and digital media is that Obama is able to promote his policies without first having to go through the filter of the mainstream media and able to target a niche audience while receiving feedback almost immediately, according to the Post.
But there are also downsides to the strategy, the paper argues — because it means primarily speaking to his own supporters, which can further alienate those who don't support Obama, creating more political polarization.
Some critics have said that reducing policy ideas to a hashtag could also cheapen the power of the office, but others say that it's an example of what presidents have always tried to do — find a way to connect with Americans.
"Presidents have always wanted to talk to all Americans at once, have them pay attention, and have them believe what they are saying," Nate Persily, a Stanford University law professor who studies political communication, told the Post.
"With the new platforms, not only can President Obama speak directly to 'the people,' but he can also target particular messages to audiences that ordinarily would not be paying attention," Persily said.
The staff making up the White House Office of Digital Strategy is larger than both former President George W. Bush's press secretary's office and Obama's in 2009, when he first took office, the Post reported.
But the White House argues that it's part of accepting the reality of this digital and social media age.
"Our consideration is these platforms just reach so many people, we can’t not play in that space," White House deputy communications director Amy Brundage told the Post.
Toward that end, the White House has become a de facto media production company — uploading more than 400 YouTube videos and almost 275 infographics on the White House website and other social media platforms.
Using digital and social media platforms has made it easier to engage in "micro-targeting," which allows the administration to direct its message to a specific group of people, and it has been key to Obama's success as a candidate as well.
Former director of the White House Office of Digital Strategy Nate Lubin told the Post that when creating online content for a specific audience, it's easier to create an experience for such "a group that's more detailed than the entire country. It's impossible to create something that speaks to something that broad."
Michael X. Delli Carpini, dean of the University of Pennsylvania's Annenberg School for Communication, explained that "this is a medium largely meant to motivate the core, rather than a medium to convince those on the other side or in the neutral camp."
It doesn't hurt that the White House has close relationships with several of those in new-media businesses or that many of them support Obama politically.
"At the end of the day, I am skeptical that the Googles of the world are going to be as open to a Republican president,” Lanhee Chen, a fellow at Stanford University’s Hoover Institution who served as policy director of Mitt Romney’s 2012 campaign, told the Post.
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