Crisis Communications, Public Relations, Social Media

White House & #SOTU: Lessons in Social Media Strategy

By Carol Lee | On January 26, 2015

President Obama departed from tradition in the State of the Union (SOTU) address last week and set precedence by releasing a copy his speech via social media before he even stepped onto the House floor to address Congress.

In a strategic ploy of using social media to not only inform the public but also cause a surge in publicity for the President’s proposals, the Administration generated 2.6 million tweets with the hashtag #SOTU – a 52.9% increase from last year when Twitter logged in 1.7 million tweets about the President’s 2014 address. To add to the fire, 5.7 million users engaged in 13.8 million interactions about the SOTU.

There’s a lot to be learned from the White House’s strategy in using social media, which we can consider for our own publicity efforts. Let’s take a look at some of the ways the Administration leveraged social media to stir discussions in the digital realm:

  • The White House posted a video on its Facebook page earlier this month – with hashtag #FreeCommunityCollege – to explain the President’s education proposal
  • Senior advisorValerie Jarrett took to LinkedIn to announce the President’s renewed push for paid sick leave a week before the SOTU address
  • The President taped a video on an iPad from the Oval Office and posted it on Upworthy a week before the SOTU to explain the Administration’s proposal to improve andexpand access to broadband
  • The President’s full SOTU speech was posted on Medium.com shortly before the live address

So what can we learn from all this? Below are some important takeaways:

  • The power of ‘the preview’ still holds true. A steady flurry of activity in advance of a launch or an important announcement can help build excitement and even boost viewership and online engagement.
  • Our media landscape is changing. It’s critical to recognize and understand that traditional channels of communication are giving way to more dynamic methods of how people are consuming content – via videos, hashtags, posts, blogs, etc.
  • We need to adapt. Meeting people where they not only get news but the way they actually consume it is vital to our success as communicators. A majority of people now gets their news through social media. By adapting to digital, we gain a direct channel for communication to target audiences.
  • Diversify platforms and content. Explore different platforms beyond Facebook and Twitter to reach different audiences. And don’t forget that the type of content shared is equally as important. A video on LinkedIn may not be as appropriate or relevant to your target audience as a video on Facebook. (For social media tips, visit here.)
  • Bold moves can lead to big payouts. There’s always a risk in posting tweets and other social media posts during a big event or promotion. Inherently, there’s room for misinterpretation, criticism and huge blowback on social media (recent examples of promotions gone wrong can be seen here and here). However, if done correctly and strategically, bold actions in a smart campaign can yield significant gains.

Carol Lee

Carol is a Sr. Account Supervisor at Affect, where she manages account programs and provides clients with strategic counsel. As a public relations and corporate communications professional, Carol develops and executes media relations, branding and marketing campaigns for her clients in both the B2B and consumer spaces. Prior to joining Affect, Carol was a senior account executive at Rogers & Cowan, a premier global entertainment and technology firm, where she led successful public relations activities for various clients in the technology, digital and interactive entertainment sectors.