WhiteHouse.gov Breaks New Ground with Social, But…


The highlight of last week’s YNPNdc briefing on the Obama Administration’s nonprofit policy was Macon Phillips, Director of the White House Office of New Media (pictured above). Phillips detailed how the White House was using social to engage stakeholders online.

As you can see, the White House site is very social, playing with every tool possible. While there are forays into conversation (one such foray had Phillips asking Obama during a chat if he planned to legalize marijuana), the overall effort seems more shiny object-oriented, and less conversational.


BlogPotomac Keynotes Beth Kanter and Shel Israel joined me for the briefing. Shel noted that while there was a Scoblesque joy for tools, the site lacked full on dialogue. In review, consider that while you can share White House blog posts and comment on your various social networks, you can’t actual enter a comment on the White House blog. True to form, the White House Twitter feed pretty much publishes links, and doesn’t engage in dialogue.

There are bright spots in the social media effort. The Flickr page is outstanding with hundreds of comments, and a less polished look at the Obamas in their day to day activity. You feel like the President is real, finally. Facebook and YouTube have more dialogue, too (while Vimeo is open for chat, but has less traffic).


What’s really missing? Frank on-site conversation and dialogue — good and bad — about the very real issues Obama is facing. Instead, what we get is glorified message delivery on whitehouse.gov, with said conversations occurring on beachheads elsewhere.

For an initial White House foray into social media, this is a great start. The barriers to Gov 2.0 are significant and substantial in nature. But… We all know this isn’t full on social media. It’s more of an experiment and test bed to see how American citizens interact with its government at arms length. Progress, my friends, not perfection. I give it an eight out of 10.

Overall, I felt the larger Obama Administration nonprofit team had lots of bubbly comments for the YNPNdc attendees about how great their efforts were. Then we received patronizing platitudes of hope, pats on the head for tough questions, and very little substance. While it’s early in the Obama presidency, I’d like to see a lot more substance from Buffy Wicks, Trooper Sanders and Sonal Shah. Otherwise we will waste our national nonprofit policy and dollars on disparate and uncoordinated activities with little impact.