White House prepares transition of social media presence

Next president will inherit Facebook, Twitter and Instagram accounts

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Personeelsnet, CC BY-SA 2.0, via Flickr

As the White House gets ready to transition to a new presidential administration, it's also getting ready to hand over the reins of its social networking world.

President Barack Obama is frequently called the "first social media president" since he was the first president to be on Twitter, to go live on Facebook, to host a Google+ hangout and even the first to use a filter on Snapchat.

Now the Obama administration is getting ready to archive all of its tweets, posts, videos and photos.

And it's also getting the White House social presence ready for the next president to take over on Jan. 20, 2017.

"Over the past eight years, the president, vice president, first lady, and the White House have used social media and technology to engage with people around the country and the world on the most important issues of our time (while having some fun along the way)," wrote Kori Schulman, special assistant to the president and deputy chief digital officer, in a blog post. "Looking back over the past eight years, our digital footprint reflects some broader changes in the ways people consume news and information and engage with the world around them online."

Increasingly, people -- and not just millennials -- get their news and information about everything from politics to climate change and racial issues on sites like Facebook and Twitter.

The Obama administration used those social tools to connect to a large portion of American citizens.

Schulman noted that the White House is preserving its social media material created during this administration at the National Archives and Records Administration, or NARA.

"From tweets to snaps, all of the material we've published online will be preserved with NARA just as previous administrations have done with records ranging from handwritten notes to faxes to emails," she wrote. "Second, wherever possible, we are working to ensure these materials continue to be accessible on the platforms where they were created, allowing for real time access to the content we've developed."

Patrick Moorhead, an analyst with Moor Insights & Strategy, said the White House seems to have a solid, "straightforward" digital transition plan.

"Like any form of communications that have gone on in the presidency, social media -- a form of content -- should be preserved," he said. "It is important to have an accurate record of communications so that history is not white-washed."

For the transition, Schulman wrote in the blog that on Twitter, for example, the handle @POTUS will be made available to the next president on Jan. 20. The account will retain its more than 11 million followers, but start with no tweets on the timeline, she added.

President Obama's history of tweets will then be found on @POTUS44, a newly created handle maintained by NARA. All of those tweets will be accessible to the public on Twitter as an archive of President Obama's use of the account.

This also will be the case for the Obama administration's other Twitter handles, including @WhiteHouse, @FLOTUS, @PressSec, and @VP.

In addition, President Obama's tweets also will be archived at NARA, where they will be preserved as are all other presidential records.

The White House's Facebook and Instagram accounts also will be moved over to the next president, along with all of their followers. Those timelines will also be wiped clean and the new administration will start fresh.

The history of the Obama administration's posts will be moved to the newly created Obama White House Facebook and Instagram accounts.

"We'll follow a similar approach with other official accounts on platforms including Medium, Tumblr, and YouTube," Schulman wrote.

Ezra Gottheil, an analyst with Technology Business Research, said while social media posts may not be as important as official government documents, it's good that there's a process to preserve them.

"It's a trove for historians and journalists," said Gottheil. "It's turned out that it has been important that all past communications were saved, for historical, legal, and political purposes. And many presidents have felt it was important, and have used whatever technology was available to preserve that information."

Copyright © 2016 IDG Communications, Inc.

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