Sociopolitical Media: How the White House Creates Online Buzz

PHOTO: President Barack Obama Tweets during an Twitter town hall meeting at the White House.

Last week, the White House announced a new audio series, "Being Biden," that offers listeners a peek behind photos of Vice President Joe Biden. Through the audio series, the Vice President will "tell the story behind the story. Like where he was when the image was snapped, why it matters to him, and how the experience fits into the broader narrative of this Administration." He will also share links to each episode via the @VP Twitter account.

But the series is more than just a pretty damn awesome opportunity to see Biden, well, being Biden. It's also another example of the White House's commitment to creating original, branded, extremely shareable content that reveals a more personal, albeit carefully curated, view of the Obama administration.

It's always been clear that Obama's social-media team "gets" the Internet. But as it turns out, it also really understands online popular culture in a way that no other political machine has before it. That may be why they're the first administration, and the first political team, to truly speak the language of the web and successfully use it to shape their image.

Take, for example, this year's announcement of the annual White House Easter Egg Roll. The President's team had a little help from "Kid President" -- a (very cute) (and presidential) 9-year-old named Robby who dispenses advice, gives lessons on proper pronunciation, and conducts interviews with arguably famous people. Robby announced this year's Easter Egg Roll after a call (via tin can, naturally) from President Obama himself.

The White House's decision to align itself with a beloved video star -- someone whose fame is predicated not only on spreading a fun, positive message, but on doing so via people's tendency and willingness to share videos online -- was an inspired one, and one that not only connected the President and his White House directly to American families who watch and enjoy Kid President's videos, but also to the Zeitgeist. The President (or, at any rate, those who oversee his outreach efforts) knows who Kid President is. That's big.

The Obama administration has also carved a place of itself on platforms like Instagram (inspiring the site to issue a personal welcome for the President), Twitter (where the President and First Lady will sometimes Tweet for themselves, signing off with their initials), and Reddit. But what sets this President apart from other politicians who have also cultivated a presence on social media (See: Mitt Romney's son's images of the former presidential hopeful eating a fluffernutter cupcake on his birthday, party hat askew), is that his team don't simply post photos or publish Tweets. They create content. They allow those images and 140 characters' worth of information to become a part of something bigger, be it tapping into a particular mood or presenting online followers with a call to action.

Take, for example, the photo Obama Tweeted after winning his bid for reelection. It wasn't just a "Hey, we did it!" surrounded by patriotic clip art. The image showed President Obama and his wife embracing, along with the caption "Four more years." It revealed a more personal, intimate side to his win and, for his supporters, it provided a symbol of optimism and victory that could be shared with a simple click. That's not just an image: It's a statement. Not to mention the most re-Tweeted Tweet of all time. And, as Tumblr's Storyboard explains, that image "wasn't chosen by the president's press secretary, or even a senior-level operative, but by 31-year-old Laura Olin, a social media strategist who'd been up since 4am."

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