Barack Obama will hold a Twitter townhall today where he will field and answer questions with the #AskObama hashtag. Recently, Obama indicated that he will regularly tweet himself from his Twitter handle, @BarackObama.
Obama and his team are late to the game. And though he will never admit it, Obama would not be tweeting or having Twitter townhalls if it weren’t for the way former Alaska Gov. and potential presidential candidate Sarah Palin became Twitter’s trailblazer.
In fact, I have said Palin should be properly referred to as “The Great CommuniTweeter.”
On April 29, 2009, Palin, then using the handle @AKGovSarahPalin, took to her Blackberry, used her thumbs, and tweeted, “This is my official Twitter feed – from here I’ll provide updates on issues concerning Alaskans. Learn more about AK at www.alaska.gov.”
It was her first tweet.
Hours later, in what would foreshadow future events, Palin then set out to correct a false story from the national mainstream media. Her second tweet was, “AP gravely misquoted my staff, saying I ‘changed my mind’ on the stimulus package. For accurate info, go to http://tinyurl.com/c7v84t.”
Attacking the biased mainstream media — in addition to linking to substantive policy proposals and attacking Obama — would be a recurring theme in Palin’s tweets.
What makes Twitter work for Palin is she has found the secret to social media — she comes across on Twitter as the type of person she is in real life. She’s authentic.
Palin’s tweets do not read like they are press releases or have been run through a series of bureaucratic operatives or focus groups.
And that is why her supporters, critics, and the media had to pay attention to every tweet.
In the process, Palin lured the members of the mainstream media onto Twitter. They had to join out of necessity and curiosity.
Of course, the GOP establishment and the mainstream media mocked Palin at first. They said she was “not serious” for just “tweeting.” And now, Twitter is conventional. It is the terrain on which more of the political game is being played.
And how the game has changed.
In real time, news and information is shared and spread. Rapid response is conducted. Reporters are spun and the stories they will write about are shaped on Twitter. News is made. Stories are scooped.
The medium partly is what it is today because the mainstream media is addicted to the medium.
Twitter was and is different. Twitter symbolizes the wild frontier. It is democratic and meritocratic, where the cream rises to the top. It is a medium in which interesting, engaging, and dynamic writers can have the same measure of influence as a former Gov. from Alaska.
Twitter represents what some of America’s Founding Fathers referred to as the “aristocracy of the soil.” On Twitter, there were no rules, mores, or definitions of what was deemed to be conventional — they were made up along the way by a collective community.
In short, Twitter is emblematic of exurban frontier pioneer ethos that Palin personifies and champions. And so it is symbolic Twitter is where she started anew, so to speak, after she was brutalized as John McCain’s running mate in 2008 just as American pioneers have sought out the frontier and the exurbs to begin their lives anew.
And that ethos is spreading across the world. And doing so with warp-speed that rivals the speed at which information spreads on Twitter.
No potential candidate, at this point in time, is better positioned to use new mediums such as Twitter to circumvent a political order and establishment that seems more calcified.
If Palin decides to run for president and succeeds, she will have done so because she is the “Great CommuniTweeter.”