Dear Mr. Obama:
I heard on the news recently that you have decided to start taking the reigns of your twitter account. Good for you. Sorry you have to waste those three extra characters each time in order to sign your work…trust me when I tell you there’s going to be a time when you really want those three characters back, but it is nice to know which tweets are really from you and not from your handlers.
Even though you are the leader of the free world and can reach out to whomever you want for twitter advice I thought you would appreciate hearing some ideas from a guy who spends quite a bit of time working with baby-boom newbies like yourself. I am also asking all the SMMI faithful to post a tip or two for you in the comments, free of charge.
I am certain you have the SMMI feed in your Google Reader, so feel free to pop me a quick DM (that’s Direct Message Mr. President) and let me know that things are going smoothly.
1. People like twitter. According to their own numbers, more than 100 Million new people jumped on board during 2010 and more than 25 Billion tweets were sent. You probably heard in one of the staff briefings on this move that you have more than 8.5 Million people following you right now. That’s huge. To put it in perspective, the top FIVE daily newspapers in the United States serve 2 Million fewer folks…and you have probably learned that in the press you don’t get to control the message. Tweets get repeated, news gets spread, and you are in charge.
2. People like engagement on twitter. Don’t just broadcast….engage. I realize that the managing the debt ceiling, overseeing Afghanistan and keeping an eye on Mr. Biden can be major time-sucks. You’ll get a pass if you don’t read every tweet that comes your way, but maybe task an intern to find a tweet or two every day that you can reply to personally. Heck, if Lady Gaga can find time to engage the little monsters, you can find a second for Dan from Des Moines, right? Users feel really connected to their twitter pals, and trust me when I tell you that if someone gets an @reply from the tweeter-in-chief it’ll do wonders for the Presidential cred.
3. I think this one has been covered already, but tweeting pictures that you wouldn’t show to the kids is a definite no-no. That said, tweeting pictures of other things is highly encouraged. In the world of 140 characters, a picture really is worth 1,000 words. Just remember to ask the Attorney General to check the fine print on your photo sharing service to make sure they can’t use your pics for something beyond what you intended.
4. I get to “tweet & delete”…you don’t. With 8.5 Million followers, if you tweet it you’re going have to take ownership. So think about what you say before you hit the submit key. Speaker Boehner won’t be too happy if you call him nasty names on twitter…even if you tried to take it right back. Count to ten when you’re angry; it works for the rest of us too.
5. Leave me some room to share your wisdom. Too many users type all the way to the end of their 140 characters and then when I go to re-tweet their greatness I can’t carve it up enough to fit so I give up. Yes, I know a few of your constituents created some tools to extend your tweets, but that kind of feels like cheating…so keep it concise.
6. Learn some hashtag humor. I know you are not going to spend your whole day being cynical or cracking twitter jokes, but a #pleaseHillaryleavemealone tag once in a while would be really funny. If you’re not going to do that, at least tie in to some of your favorite tags once in a while (like #WhiteSox or #Hawaii or #leftygolfers).
7. Finally, Mr. President. Consider tweeting your own news. We all knew about Osama bin Laden before you finally came out and told us; it would have been super-cool if we had read it in a tweet that said “we got him -BO” instead. Plus then we wouldn’t have had to watch the networks vamp for three hours trying to learn how to tell us things we already knew.
Good luck behind the wheel, Mr. Obama. You have technology at your fingertips that really could change the paradigm of how government works; make the most of it and offer us a glimpse of what representative democracy 21st-Century style could really be. I will be watching…as will a few million others.