As the White House broadcasts its first Twitter Town Hall, we've been thrilled by the response and enthusiastic feedback it's generated. It's a powerful demonstration of the federal government using social networks to listen to citizens where they live online. Obama just made history by being the first President to live-tweet from his own session! So awesome.
Special thanks to Macon Phillips and the White House’s New Media team for not only making today’s Town Hall possible, but thinking ahead for more than a year, enabling research like ours in the halls of Washington D.C.
Of course, there's no reason this should be limited to a one-time special event. Social media, and open-source tools like ThinkUp, make it possible for this kind of solicitation for feedback and direct interaction to happen all the time. Every single day can, and should, be a town hall.
Today, to coincide with the event, we're releasing three separate data dumps collected by ThinkUp from the Twitter community's interaction with the White House, spanning over a year from April 2010 to this June. Download them and let us know the insights you glean from them. Here’s what’s included:
- All 268,227 mentions of @whitehouse (26 MB .ZIP)
- 91,085 replies to @whitehouse (7 MB .ZIP)
- 29,013 questions, mentioning or directed at @whitehouse (3 MB)
These tweets represent a broad spectrum of opinion, from thoughtful commentary and comedy to political activism and virulent anger.
For me, the most interesting thing gleaned from the dataset was how posting behavior fundamentally changes the level of discourse. Because @whitehouse has rarely been used for responses thus far, the majority of the tweets fall into two categories: people referencing the White House as an entity and people venting frustration. Unfortunately, for both types, it's clear that they don't expect a real conversation with @whitehouse, even though there are real people on the other end.
It's an interesting thought experiment: how would the conversation change if @whitehouse was actively querying people or if it was clear that all mentions were being received on the other end?
It seems as if we may find out sooner than later... The President’s tweet during the Town Hall was a direct question, asking all 2,246,967 followers how they’d choose to reduce the deficit. Have an answer for him?