Storifying the White House

The White House certainly hasn’t been shy with using social media to engage with the public. Obama himself has been credited with having the foresight to use social media in his 2008 presidential campaign while the other candidates preferred using traditional phone banks and mailing lists.

More recently, the White House has used Twitter to host town hall meetings, and Obama took to his own Twitter to address the debt ceiling crisis.

Now it looks like the White House is branching out to another social media platform to further engage and inform: Storify. It’s the latest social media darling, and until recently the White House was one of its top ten contributors after joining last week.

Storify allows users to corral tweets, pictures, videos, and Facebook status updates to organize them in a reader-friendly format.

It’s been helpful for keeping track of and clarifying breaking news stories, such as the Norway terrorist attacks. Storify also is incredibly useful for holding the media accountable for reporting mistakes.

The White House, however, uses Storify a little differently. It recaps its “Office Hours” Twitter chats — an informal Q&A between a member of the Obama Administration and Twitterverse.

It’s a much better use of the technology than its first attempt, which was a short transcription of the Obama debt speech with a teaser to continue reading at the White House website. It didn’t capture the real spirit of Storify, though it remains the White House’s most read story with more than 21,000 views. Later posts never climbed higher than 3,200 (and some never even reached 500).

The White House’s venture into Storify allows it to control content, at least to a certain extent. By using it to compile tweets, the White House creates its own narrative and frames information the way it wants. The Obama Administration therefore is solving two problems with one social media tool. It satisfies democracy’s demand for a transparent government while allowing Obama to be more consistent with providing narratives for its policy decisions, something that he has often been criticized for. 

Until recently, the White House was one of Storify’s top ten contributors. It’s given way to individual users and news and infotainment websites/blogs. Regardless if it regains its top spot, Storify is another social media tool the Obama Administration can utilize to transform how government and politics operates and to challenge who or what the traditional social media user is.

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