White House press secretary joins Twitter

Robert Gibbs calls Twitter 'important' for the White House to use

Robert Gibbs has become the first White House press secretary to join the ranks of the Twitterverse.

Gibbs sent out his first tweet last Saturday, saying, "Learning about 'the twitter' - easing into this with first tweet - any tips?" With just 11 tweets under his belt by Wednesday afternoon, Gibbs has quickly accumulated nearly 25,000 followers.

The press secretary told a roomful of reporters at a White House briefing on Tuesday that he's tweeting himself, and he thinks the microblogging site has become an important communication tool, even for the White House.

"It seemed, as I've said to some of you, [Twitter is] an avenue that our voice would be important in," said Gibbs. "It's been fascinating to watch just over the few days since I've joined it..."

"Look, there's a tremendous amount of information that we all get and have to read and go through each day. This is certainly one way to get, on a rolling basis, to see a lot of that information in front of you. It's an interesting thing to watch," Gibbs said.

While Gibbs said he's enjoying diving into Twitter, he admitted that he is finding it difficult to fit his messages into 140-character quips.

"I do not know yet if I have tried to type one of those out where the number right next to the box didn't say "negative" something, and then I'm trying to figure out how to shorten," he said in the briefing room.

"There's a whole language, obviously, and typing with numbers and symbols that has evaded me. I'm sure my son could teach me that far better than I could pick it up," he said.

President Barack Obama and members of his administration have made use of social networking sites like Twitter and Facebook.

Last month, Obama sent his first tweet during a visit to the American Red Cross headquarters in Washington D.C.

The president, who noted last November that he had never sent a tweet, has a very active Twitter account. Obviously, a ghost writer -- make that a ghost Twitterer -- is behind the @barackobama Twitter account, which has more than 3,300,000 followers.

Obama himself might not be an avid Twitterer, but his staff is known for being big users of social networking.

After making good use of services like Facebook, MySpace and Twitter during his presidential campaign, Obama and his administration have been keeping up his image as a tech-savvy president by establishing a presence on a variety of social networking sites.

The White House is now on Facebook, Twitter and MySpace, putting out information about ways to get donations to the relief effort in Haiti, updates on health care reform and news about the H1N1 virus.

And earlier this month, Obama did a live online interview for more than half an hour, taking questions that had been posed on YouTube, the Washington Post reported. Some of the questions, which were submitted during his State of the Union address week, came in video form and others in text.

Sharon Gaudin covers the Internet and Web 2.0, emerging technologies, and desktop and laptop chips for Computerworld. Follow Sharon on Twitter at @sgaudin or subscribe to Sharon's RSS feed . Her e-mail address is sgaudin@computerworld.com.

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