Is Social Media to Obama What Television Was to Kennedy?

Barack Obama, who is following 751,249 people on Twitter and is followed by 2,584,039 twitter user is the most connected man, not President, on earth!

If Barack Obama is N°5 on twitter regarding the number of followers who follow him, he is the N°1 follower as nobody else besides him follows more than 750,000 people.

This indicates that Barack Obama, who understands the importance of connections, has introduced a bottom-up and democratic, open, random and supportive administration that uses social networks like no administration in no other country has ever used before is shifting away from the old Taylorian mass production philosophy to a Demingian philosophy of KAIZEN, of GOOD CHANGE!

Comments from a forum exchange on Ecademy regarding the blog post “One Year Later: Is the Obama Presidency a Bust?

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President Barack Obama

As is the case with any leader there will always be detractors and of course individual shortcomings to which pundits can and will point out – none of us are infallible.  Certainly the polarizing response to the original blog post proved this point with a hard exclamation point!

But there was something that stood out with regard to the above comment in terms of the reference to Obama’s Twitter rank and the 1960 Kennedy – Nixon televised debate (which was the first time a presidential debate had been on television).  Like Churchill, I have a voracious appetite regarding the Kennedy political machine and in particular JFK.

If I am correct in my recollection, Nixon was under the weather going into the debate and with a bit of a five o’clock shadow looked pasty on camera. Conversely, the charismatic Kennedy appeared to be the picture of good health portraying an image of youthful energy.  Ironically, and due in large part to a back injury and frequent hospital stays for a variety of maladies that began when he was a student at Choate, the reality of Kennedy’s poor health did not match the image.

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The point here is that TV was a new medium, and many believed that it was ultimately Kennedy’s performance during the televised debate that pushed him over the top. In fact, many pundits expressed the opinion that Kennedy was made for television.

Can parallels be drawn between Kennedy’s “new” medium advantage in the 1960 election, and President Obama’s advantage in 2008 relative to his early mastery of the Internet and in particular social media networks such as Twitter?  How much of an advantage did he gain through his ability to reach out and mobilize so many through the Internet?

As the only candidate to proficiently leverage a Twitter he was after all the dominant voice being heard.  How would he have fared in the election if there wasn’t a Twitter or an Internet?  How will he fare when he seeks a second term and the political brain trust of the opposition has by that time mastered the use of social media?

This is not an unreasonable question to pose, especially when one considers FDR’s years in the White House.

In my research, I had found references in which some were of the opinion that had FDR run for president in a era in which there was television he would not likely have been elected due to being confined to a wheel chair.  However, and without the visual distraction, his oratory over the air waves became the primary focus transcending his physical limitations.

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Roosevelt in a wheelchair

Is Obama’s reach with Twitter as suggested by the above referenced comment a sign of a true and overwhelming support at the grass roots level, or does this merely reflect a considerably greater level of mobilization?

We may have to wait until the next election to find out the answer to this question.

Be sure to take our PI Window on Business/Ecademy Poll which asks “Is Social Media to Obama What Television Was to Kennedy?

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Comments
One Response to “Is Social Media to Obama What Television Was to Kennedy?”
  1. Jon,

    Twitter is still very disappointing, so whether or not Obama or anyone else has a “presence” there is largely irrelevant.

    That’s because they haven’t gotten rid of the horrid practice of allowing multiple handles per user. And they haven’t done anything whatsoever to discourage the use of script bots. The only real difference is that those script bots now represent the Far Right as well as the Far Left – along with the horrid Trump Network and purveyors of stock tips, reverse mortgages, and other sorts of financial hucksters.

    Of President Obama’s 2.8 million “followers,” I’d estimate 2.7999999999 million were bots!

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