From the Editors’ Desk: The Age of #SocialMedia

by Sam Calvert, Online Managing Editor

President Barack Obama made another media splash today with his Twitter “Town Hall Meeting”. Twitter users were encouraged to tweet a question to our nation’s president, simply by using the hashtag #AskObama. After a campaign to get him reelected that stormed the social media scene, Obama is changing the way the game is played yet again.

Photo courtesy of the official twitter of The White House.

Normally in a town hall meeting, questions are limited to those that can actually be there in person. Obviously attendance is restricted because there isn’t a venue that has unlimited seating. But with Twitter, anyone with a computer and Internet access can participate in the discussion.

When Twitter first burst on the scene in 2006, who would’ve thought it would become such a huge part of meaningful society? Especially since, according to an interview with founder Jack Dorsey by the L.A. Times, they decided on the name Twitter because it meant “a short burst of inconsequential information.”

The tweets today are anything but inconsequential. Obama is answering questions about the future of our country. News sources are using it to get information out quickly. It’s changing the way we get our news and how journalism is run entirely.

CNN has not just one but three Twitter accounts — CNN, CNN Breaking News and CNN en Español. The regular CNN account has 2,242,700 followers. The New York Times’ Twitter account has 3,420,306 followers. Obama’s account has almost nine million followers. No longer is Twitter just a series of inconsequential statements.

One illustration of how powerful this new medium has become is illustrated in the politics of my own hometown. In 2010, there was a man in my district running for State House. Not too exciting — except that he was just 21. Had he won, he would’ve been the youngest to ever win a spot in a State House anywhere in the country.

The official White House Twitter kept its 2,251,521 followers up to date throughout the town hall.

Throughout his campaign, he ran against a woman that had been elected for the first time six years earlier.The re-election rate for incumbents is over 90 percent. Not only did his age put him at a disadvantage, but so did his circumstances. And in total, he spent less than $2,000 on his entire campaign.

But he launched a political rally on social media. He used Twitter, as well as Facebook, to reach out to his constituents, and although he didn’t win, he got 45.3 percent of the vote. Before he started, a well-respected politician told him if he could just get 10 percent of the vote, he’d radically change the way elections were held.

Twitter is becoming a huge part in our society, not just on a personal level, but also on a level that affects us greatly. From politics to news, these things have a big impact on us, even if we don’t realize it.

Obama understands this, but do we?

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