Originally posted on Capital Gig.

Over the past couple weeks, the White House has been all about Twitter.

Of course, President Obama’s team isn’t exactly new to Twitter — and neither is the White House. His official @whitehouse Twitter account has been in use since April 2009 and his @BarackObama campaign handle launched in March 2007. Today, the campaign’s Twitter feed seems to be in full re-election mode with almost 9 million followers and the #Obama2012 staff working to keep it updated with both campaign and official White House news.

So, what’s new? The most recent activity of note is that the president himself is beginning to tweet.

Officially, his first tweet was back on January 18, 2010 when President Obama “pushed the button” on a tweet from the @RedCross account. He and Mrs. Obama were visiting Red Cross headquarters to tour the disaster operations center and discuss Haiti relief efforts.

Fast forward 17 months later to June 19, 2011 when the president actually tweeted this message on Father’s Day, “Being a father is sometimes my hardest but always my most rewarding job. Happy Father’s Day to all the dads out there. -BO” The campaign indicated that future posts by the Commander-in-Chief would be designated by a “-BO” signature.

Last week the White House announced plans to host an inaugural Twitter Townhall (HT Alex Howard) on July 6, 2011 moderated by Twitter founder Jack Dorsey.

From the release, “White House to Host Twitter @TOWNHALL” on June 30, 2011:

Today, the White House announced through its official Twitter account, @whitehouse, that it will host its first ever Twitter town hall on Wednesday, July 6 at 2 PM ET in the East Room of the White House. Twitter co-founder and Executive Chairman Jack Dorsey will moderate a conversation between President Obama and Americans across the country about the economy and jobs. Starting today, twitter users can submit questions using the hashtag #AskObama. More information from Twitter can be found at the event’s homepage: http://askobama.twitter.com.

Today, the White House also announced its first “Tweetup.” A portion of the Twitter town hall’s live audience will be drawn from people who follow @whitehouse and visit whitehouse.gov/tweetup to sign up. This “Tweetup” will be the first one the White House hosts; future Tweetups will provide @whitehouse followers with the opportunity to attend events, engage with Administration officials, and share their ideas with other @whitehouse followers.

Just today on Independence Day, Vice President Joe Biden joined the Twitter conversation with the launch of his official @VP account. Of course, with only 3,700 followers (at the time of this post), he has a long way to go before catching up with his Democratic veep predecessor Al Gore with 2.2 million, but he’s off to a good start with this first tweet.

In addition to @whitehouse with its 2.25 million followers, several other White House offices, programs and staffers also maintain Twitter accounts including Let’s Move! (@letsmove), Joining Forces (@joiningforces), White House Press Secretary Jay Carney (@PressSec), Communications Director Dan Pfeiffer (@pfeiffer44), Director of Progressive Media & Online Response Jesse Lee (@jesseclee44), Director of Digital Strategy Macon Phillips (@macon44), and White House Photographer Pete Souza (@petesouza).

Clearly, as Campaign 2012 gears up, all of this new activity means that the Excel spreadsheet with official social media account usernames and passwords continues to grow — while a number of official dot gov websites are headed for the “chopping block.”

Will all of these accounts be actively used for sustained engagement or become dormant after they are no longer needed? The issue of transition is an important one — and even the current White House received some criticism when they first came to office for their delay in updating the @BarackObama Twitter feed in the weeks between Election Day in November 2008 and Inauguration on January 20, 2009.

More recently, there was a sizable gap in usage of the White House Press Secretary Twitter handle @PressSec in the transition between Robert Gibbs and Jay Carney back in February 2011. (PHOTO)

Of course, transition is always challenging and whether it’s in two years or six, it is bound to happen again and one has to wonder what will happen to all those official social media sites? Obviously, this is a subject that merits deeper thinking and at the very least — probably a future blog post!

There was confusion when @TheWhiteHouse, launched in September 2007 during President George W. Bush’s Administration, was wiped out after President Obama’s White House officially joined Twitter.

In either case, engagement and interaction with our leaders is always a good thing regardless of the medium — whether the questions and answers are sent via handwritten letter, audio, email, video or even 140 characters.

UPDATE

More details on the #AskObama Town Hall. (Twitter blog, 7/5/11)

To have your voice heard, tweet your questions on the economy and be sure to include the hashtag #AskObama. You can track the conversation in three great ways: Watch the event live at http://askobama.twitter.com, follow live Tweets from @townhall, or search the hashtag #AskObama.

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