How the White House Became a Social-Media Powerhouse

Macon Phillips, the White House’s director of New Media, describes how the administration is using social media in unique ways — and how your business can too.

BY Shira Lazar, Entrepreneur Magazine

Want to reach millions of Americans instantly? Try using the hashtag #BarackObama in a tweet.

Even before Barack Obama was sworn in as the nation’s 44th President, he was a big fan of social media. On Election Day in 2008, for instance, Obama had 380 percent more Facebook fans than his rival John McCain (R., Ariz.). So it’s little wonder why today’s White House has an entire staff dedicated to operating a YouTube channel, filtering photos on Instagram, crowdsourcing petitions on We The People, hosting Q&As through Twitter and even hang outs with voters on Google+.

I spoke to Macon Phillips, the White House’s director of New Media, to discuss why the current administration is all a buzz over social media. Here’s how his team is using social tools to engage with the public in the digital age:

How do you engage with the public differently on Twitter vs. Facebook?
Just after the president gave his speech on the nation’s state of the union, we held a series of Twitter Q&A sessions with more than 30 senior administration officials. We were able to do that because Twitter is a much more conversational medium. Facebook, rather, is a better place for sharing rich content. We see that people regularly share our “photos of the day” and videos on Facebook.

What is the strategy behind your use of YouTube?
We’ve put together a series called “West Wing Week,” which offers an update on the President’s weekly activities such as when he travels and meets with foreign dignitaries, business groups, veterans or staffers. In addition, we have another video series called “The White House White Board,” where we look in depth at an issue like tax policy.

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