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The #AskObama Town Hall: A Lesson In Social Web Basics

Picture of Danielle D Ali, Social Media Coordinator

Danielle D Ali, Social Media Coordinator

Today was a kind of a big deal on the Internet. First, Mark Zuckerberg and his folks announced some big changes over in Facebook land. Then, right on the heels of Zuck, President Obama hosted the first live-tweeted presidential town hall ever. There’s no rest for us web-minded folks!

As I kept up with #AskObama, @townhall and @whitehouse, I found myself thinking – This is social media at its very best. Day in and day out, I listen to chatter about how to leverage the social web. Every Tom, Dick and Jane bill themselves as “social media gurus” with extra special tips and tricks for success with social.

But the real power of using platforms like Twitter is pure and simple. Use it to have authentic, meaningful conversations you might not have had otherwise. Take the opportunity those conversations present to make a good impression, just like you would if you were able to talk to them in person.

Here’s an example from the presidential townhall: Robin Marty tweeted #AskObama with a question about the housing climate this morning. Obama answered her question via live video stream, and his staff tweeted a summary from @WhiteHouse. Another Twitter user, @Shnaps, tweeted back, challenging Obama’s answer, to which Obama responded in real time.

This kind of back-and-forth conversation between the President and various regular citizens from all over the country is a first. Even when Obama has hosted YouTube townhalls, the questions are submitted and selected far in advance, not tweeted live, and the format was strictly Q-and-A, not conversational. Certainly there were strict controls in place today, but ultimately the event at least conveyed a new kind of openness and access to the President.

The capabilities of the social web – Twitter in this case – are what made this possible. To me, that ability to connect beyond what was previously logistically possible is the real heart of social media. Stick close to that when using it to spread your message, and the tips and tricks will just be icing on the cake.


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