Letter to @BarackObama, Please Talk to Us

Dear President Barack Obama,

Over 300 million people live in this country and live under your administration. Only a few of us get to talk to you directly and only a few more get to be in your presence. To put it lightly, there is a disconnect between yourself and the People. We do not feel like we know you.

The good news is that a technology exists that allows you to talk to us. It is called Twitter and you are not using it correctly.

Twitter is about connecting leaders with their followers through authentic interaction. Despite your staggering amount of followers (over 10 million), here is why your attempt at Twitter has been an #EpicFail.

Authenticity

Stop having your staff tweet for you. We want to read tweets that are unfiltered and uncensored by nothing except Barack Obama’s brain. Yes, you tweet from time to time, but how often? I am looking at your Twitter feed right now and I see two tweets out of forty signed “BO”. That’s not cool. I don’t care what your staff thinks, I care what you think.

To boost your authenticity, take full control of your Twitter account. Sure, you will misspell a word and 1 million people will let you know about it, but at least we will know you are real.

Here is an idea: give your staff it’s own twitter account and see how many people follow it. I bet it won’t be 10 million. In fact, I doubt they would reach 100,000 followers. This is because we don’t care what your staff has to say. We want to know what is in the mind of Barack Obama.

@JohnMcQuaid put it perfectly in a Forbes.com article – “If @BarackObama is an empty shell, what does that say about the man whose name it bears?”

Connect With Us

More tweets from the real Barack Obama would be a huge step forward, but using Twitter to connect with us would change the President-People relationship forever.

Connecting on Twitter is about tweeting, reading the replies, and responding. I know it is impossible for you to personally respond to everyone, but this is what is cool about twitter – you don’t have to.

Many people will be replying to you with the same ideas and questions. You just need a Twitter program that can sort out which tweets need your attention (this is completely possible with the Twitter API). After these “important tweets” have been identified, you can respond to them. On the surface it will look like you are responding to one person, but in reality you will be responding to millions of people that were thinking the same thing.

You don’t need to know how any of this works, you just need to hire someone who does. With the proper Twitter application at your fingertips, you become an authentic and engaged President that is connected to the People.

Create Your Legacy

Authenticity and connecting with your followers is a great start, but there is so much more you can do with Twitter!

The first thing that comes to mind would be a “Twitter Town Hall Meeting” about a specific issue. During this Twitter event, you could state your ideas and then read our responses (which would be organized by the program I mentioned above). You could learn what is most important to Americans right now. We could have a conversation!

Once you are more comfortable, you could do more impromptu engagements. For example, you could tweet “Ask me anything, I will answer the question that gets the most retweets”. Then you would watch as the People tweet out their questions and retweet the questions they feel are most important. Something interesting and challenging would rise to the top. Answering that question would be one of the realest things a president has ever done.

Go Beyond Your Commitment

On the contact page of your website, it says the following:

President Obama is committed to creating the most open and accessible administration in American history. That begins with taking comments and questions from you, the public, through our website.”

An online contact form and your current Twitter activity is the least you can do to fulfill that commitment.

You can do more. Imagine the President of the United States using Twitter to have a one-on-one conversation with the People.

No president has ever done that before. You would be the first and it would set a trend for the way the President interacts with the People. It would be in every history book and more importantly in the minds of every President that comes after you. It would also inspire other elected leaders at the federal, state and local levels to engage their constituencies in more meaningful ways. More people would get on Twitter to participate, resulting in more people talking, discussing, and sharing their ideas with the world.

You can do this. It won’t be perfect the first time and you will probably be criticized for trying something new. But if you stick with it, you will create something that allows us to connect with you. Will you take on this challenge to better serve the People? Please.

UPDATE:

On Wednesday, August 29th, 2012, Barack Obama did an AMA (Ask Me Anything) on Reddit.com. Users submitted questions and Barack Obama answered them. You can see his answers here (click on “context” to see the question for each answer).

Few comments about the AMA:

- The surge in traffic caused Reddit to go down and stop accepting user logins. So most people weren’t able to login and ask a question.

- Obama answered about 7-8 softball questions and then dipped.

- This was a big step forward for our President and I applaud him for that, but it doesn’t really change anything I mentioned in this article. Reddit is cool, but way more people are on Twitter and understand how to use Twitter. Yes, reddit has all of the built tools to determine the most popular questions, but a simple Twitter application could do the same thing with way more participants.

I hope Obama does another one of these and answers some questions that actually matter.

One Response to “Letter to @BarackObama, Please Talk to Us”

  1. amedeo modigliani says:

    Barack Obama has had dozens upon dozens of town hall meetings where he answers questions from the audience, and he continues to do so.

    He speaks to the country more than any other modern president by giving lots of short policy speeches in prime time on TV, lots of press conferences where he answers questions on TV, and travels the country extensively delivering policy speeches which are covered by TV (including C-Span).

    He gives dozens of interviews all the time where he answers lots of questions which are broadcast on TV.

    There is no reason for you to say you “do not know him and his policies or personality” because there is more than ample opportunity if you only tune in to what is already available. Apparently, you have watched no town hall meetings, policy speeches, interviews, press conferences by Obama? It would also require that you READ. Read analysis and analytical content pieces of Obama’s policies and goals and accomplishments.

    He gives dozens of interviews all the time where he answers lots of questions which are broadcast on TV.

    You, David DiGiovanni, are much too in love with twitter. And much too in love with hashtags.