Gini Dietrich

The White House is Killing it on Social Media and You Can, Too

By: Gini Dietrich | January 20, 2016 | 

The White House is Killing it on Social Media and You Can, TooBy Gini Dietrich

Let’s talk about politics, shall we?

Not the left wing or right wing type of politics.

Not the polarizing type of politics.

No, let’s talk about the way the White House is using digital media to allow people around the globe—and most particularly Americans—to connect to the government.

It’s not a discussion about whether or not you like President Obama. It’s not even a discussion about his policies.

It’s a discussion about how this gigantic organization that has red tape galore is using social media to connect with its audiences…and what you can learn from it.

The White House on Facebook

The White House has been on Facebook since May 2009, where they keep things fairly serious, though interesting, and provide a really good behind-the-scenes look at things most of us would never otherwise see in our lifetimes.

Sure, it’s POTUS so it’s more interesting to most Americans than, say, your CEO, but there is something to be learned here.

For instance, a full 12 hours before the state of the union address a little more than a week ago, they posted a preview video of the speech.

Screen Shot 2016-01-19 at 4.50.05 PM

That was just the beginning, though. From there, they spent the day:

  • Showing a graphic comparing 2009 to today;
  • Live streaming from the Oval Office;
  • Following Michelle Obama as she greeted her guests;
  • Photos of the team polishing the speech;
  • Posting the remarks as they were ready for publication;
  • More live streaming on the way to deliver the speech;
  • Video as President Obama arrived; and
  • Video clips and quotes from the speech.

And this was just on Facebook!

Twitter and Vine

Of course, the White House has been on Twitter since 2009, but a POTUS account was launched last May where President Obama, himself, tweets.

Not very often, but he does tweet. This social media account will be passed to the next president.

But what’s more cool (in my humble opinion) is their use of Vine.

The First Lady had some fun with a turnip (which has been looped 50 million times) and there are lots of fun appearances from celebrities, dignitaries, and influencers.

Also check out what they’re doing in a Day in the Life. As silly as you might think that is, people who do business with you are really interested in what you do all day.

It’s what we shall call social media gold.

Amazon Video

While the White House has been posting video to YouTube since President Obama took office, this is the first year you were able to stream the state of the union, on-demand, on Amazon Video.

The thing I love, love, love about this is they’ve noticed the trend of many of us who have cut the cord and are giving everyone access to the speech across all devices where it’s convenient for you.

They talk about how they are meeting each of us where we hang out and nothing demonstrates this better than the move to stream on-demand.

The Other Social Media

For a while (like many of us), they were fans of Google Hangouts.

They’ve hung out on Tumblr.

They are on Flickr and Instagram.

President Obama did one of the most popular Reddit AMAs ever (where he opened by saying, “Hey everyone, this is Barack” like it was your next door neighbor sitting down for a beer and a chat).

Both the White House and President Obama are on Medium.

And they just got on Snapchat last week.

They are pretty much everywhere giving everyone a glimpse through social media into what it’s like to hang out in the White House every day.

There are even Vine videos of my boyfriend, Joe Biden, taking phone calls in his office.

What You Can Learn

On Monday, while recording For Immediate Release with Shel Holtz, we talked with Laura Johnson who is the face behind the Dell Twitter account and Direct to Dell blog.

She talked about how they use behind-the-scenes material on the blog, as well as tell the part of the story the media missed or didn’t cover.

Sure, they both have large personality leaders—President Obama and Michael Dell—but think about how you can do the same with your executives.

  • Does your CEO have a hobby, such as windsurfing or duck hunting (or cycling… cough, cough!)?
  • Have you recently had them in a TV interview and you have photos of him or her being prepped in make-up?
  • Did you recently attend CES and get video of one of your leaders on the karaoke machine?
  • Are you hosting a news conference and have the opportunity to live stream it on Periscope or Blab?
  • Do you have employees who have fun talents or hobbies, such as gospel singing, mountain biking, or skydiving?

This is where you should start! All of this is ripe for social media and for owned media.

I know, I know. Your executives want it to be all work and no play.

Point them to the White House and show how they mix the two. I promise you will engage far more prospects and customers this way.

People do business with people they like and trust. There is no better way to build that likability and trust than by showing them who you are as human beings.

Follow in the steps of the White House and have a little fun!

image credit: The White House Instagram post wishing the First Lady a happy birthday

About Gini Dietrich

Gini Dietrich is the founder and CEO of Arment Dietrich, an integrated marketing communications firm. She is the author of Spin Sucks, co-author of Marketing in the Round, and co-host of Inside PR. She also is the lead blogger at Spin Sucks and is the founder of Spin Sucks Pro. Join the Spin Sucks   community!

  • Great insights for everybody involved in political (and corporate) communication(s).

  • Kevin Vandever

    I love what they’re doing. Never would have figured, a few months ago anyway, they’d go to Snapchat, but I completely get it now. Did you see The President on Comedians in Cars Getting Coffee? Brilliant!

    • Why are you up so early??!?!

      • Kevin Vandever

        To read your blog post, of course.

  • This Administration has been such a fun case study of amazing use of digital communication from election to now. And they keep getting better. They’ve also not tried to stick a square peg in a round hole, which is what you see many candidates and politicians do. AKA: “Oh, snapchat is popular, I’m going to somehow try to fit my awkward persona into a cool snapchat account that all the kids will think is on fleek.”

    And then it just fails.

    The Obamas established a clear “brand” from the beginning, and while it has grown in depth and transformed through the years (and they’ve pushed the edges out by testing what works and what doesn’t), it’s maintained a certain level of consistency. They choose social outreach campaigns which reflect the brand and fit it, vs. because it the latest thing. So it works, really well. It gives us an Administration which we expect, just through different platforms and in different ways.

  • I also like how they guest on niche online-only shows like Comedians in Cars Getting Coffee and Between Two Ferns. Always willing to go where their audience is.

    • Yes! Shel Holtz brought up Between Two Ferns on this week’s FIR. Such a fun way to both talk about your policy and show you’re a human being.

      • I loved Comedians in Cars Getting Coffee, especially the behind the scenes part where he says: “X don’t shoot Jerry, he’s a good guy.”

  • I have been in discussions a lot lately with lawyers, accountants, and other financial advisors – highly regulated industries online – and it occurred to me reading this that if the POTUS can produce content that makes government interesting, surely these people can make their industries more interesting as well. Also, realtors, but I feel that may be a more challenging problem.

    • But don’t forget our hero, Bob The House!

  • The White House just raised the bar for social media engagement (hello regulated industries).
    Speaking of, I have an idea I want to run by you: I keep pushing my CEO to jump on Blabs and do more video.
    Here is a new one: How about launching a Day in the Life series with once a week video. Basically going through the day, recording it. Do you think my CEO would like that? 🙂

    • No, I do not think she would like that! It would entail lots of sweat and three hours on a bike, in some fashion, and swearing (which isn’t allowed)…and then some sitting behind a computer screen, which is not exciting.

      • Well, if you think I’m giving up that easy… I am NOT! 🙂

        • FINE. I’ll do a Blab. But we have to come up with something creative that doesn’t require me sweating on camera.

  • I demand that your CEO do that!

  • howiegoldfarb

    This also proves how hard it is to reach people at scale in today’s world.

  • Kara V

    So, what I got from this is you’re two-timing RDJ.

    • That is what you would like to take from this so you can have him, but that’s not the case. RDJ is always number one. Joe is just handsome, particularly when he smiles.


  • I’ve long been an admirer of the Obama White House’s use of somed. Would that all clients would look and learn.

    • Me too! To Karen’s point, if they can do it, and do it well, no one has an excuse.


  • Emi Nguyen

    This is what I love the most about America. Politicians use social media as a platform to connect to their citizens. This would never happen in a million years in China or in Vietnam, which I guess hard to blame because of the difference in political systems. Social media has been used by a lot of famous and influenced people as a communication platform to connect with other people. People also use it as tools in order to become famous, or now, even earn money. Great post Gini 🙂

    • No, I imagine it wouldn’t happen in China or Vietnam. We are VERY lucky here. Of course, that could all change if Donald Trump is elected president. In which case, I may be moving to China or Vietnam.

  • Desiree Dahlson

    I never know the White House was so present on social media and thought it was so cool when I found out! I think their consistent and informative presence on social media is a great example of how important it is for all companies to maintain a social media presence, and what that presence can do for the company. I like how you point out that people do business with those they trust, and that using social media to show consumers your business is more than a business but actual people, and that is a great way to build trust.