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Obama romps home as Tweeter-in-Chief

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He was the first US presidential candidate to fully embrace social media back in 2008, and some credited it with playing no small part in his victory that year. He was the first US president to use the word hashtag in a speech. He’s the most followed politician in the world on Twitter, with the fifth most popular Twitter account. And last night he became the first US president in history to call an election – before many of the major news networks – with a tweet.

The Obama campaign was expressing gratitude over Twitter before some of the biggest news organizations had declared his victory. The tweet above was sent at 11.14 pm Eastern Time. It landed in newsrooms like a bolt from the blue. With one eye on state-by-state results and the other on rival networks, who would have thought to redirect their gaze to one of the candidates’ Twitter streams for the breaking news? Once Obama’s tweet hit their radars, however, newsrooms had to scramble to attention and make swift decisions, even as memories resurfaced of the false calls of 2000.  What Obama’s unexpected tweet did, in essence, was present a whole new set of problems for journalists and newsrooms who did not have the same access to internal polls as Obama, but were aware that if the president was publicly claiming victory, it would be foolish not to take note. Some networks, to be fair, had almost simultaneously reached the same conclusion. This one from NBC went out at 11.14pm:

This from Bloomberg News at 11.15pm: 

CNN wasn’t far behind, with this projection just minutes after the president’s telling tweets, coming through at 11.18pm:

Fox News followed suit at 11.20pm:

It took the New York Times, however, a full 49 minutes from Obama’s first alert to follow suit:

And the Washington Post was a full four minutes later again:


Meanwhile, Barack Obama was still tweeting, sending out the following at 11.15pm, “signed” by the president himself:

His decision – to announce his victory over social media ahead of the majority of the news organizations – was certainly unprecedented, and even cheeky. But, however you read it, it marked a new social media milestone and illustrated like nothing before how platforms like Twitter are shifting the way news is disseminated and consumed. Where once the world was entirely dependent on mainstream media for such an announcement, last night many got the news from the president himself.

It underscored a change that’s been happening for some time: mainstream media can no longer claim to be the gatekeepers of knowledge they once were. Now a president – or for that matter, anyone with a Twitter account – has a direct line to an audience, in this case one of over 22.7 million people. At a moment like the one when his campaign calculated the victory was his, he had no need of the middle man. And it’s at a moment like this that mainstream media must redefine itself.

There was more history made last night. Obama’s third tweet of the night, below, went on to become the most retweeted in the history of Twitter, with over 716,000 retweets at the time of writing:

The same photograph, when posted on Facebook, became that social network’s most popular photograph of all time, with over three million ‘Likes’ at time of writing. And all this within an event – #election2012 – that became, unsurprisingly, the most tweeted about in political history, with 31 million tweets.

For months leading up to this moment, pundits and commentators were dubbing it the ‘social media election.’ And voters have been using the platforms to debate the issues, campaign for their candidate and even document their ballot casting. But last night Obama took things one step further in his use of social media as a direct channel to the electorate – what could be  more social than a single conversation topic shared among millions?  –  and perhaps more importantly, as a means of communication, a personal platform – in other words, as media. Where does that leave mainstream media? That’s for the news organizations themselves to decide.


3 comments on “Obama romps home as Tweeter-in-Chief

  1. GabrielleNYC
    November 8, 2012

    Nice curation guys 🙂

  2. Fiona Mccann
    November 8, 2012

    Thanks Gabrielle. 

  3. Jim UK
    November 9, 2012

    it may be amazing to twitter geeks but what does it matter? He’s been re-elected whether you announce it in 4 secs, 4 mins or 4 hrs. Get real people

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This entry was posted on November 8, 2012 by in Uncategorized.
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