Mr Obama Goes To Twitter Town

Yesterday was a historic event in the world of social media, the President of the United States, Barack Obama, used Twitter to answer questions from the general public. In what is set to be the first of many Town Hall meetings using the mico-blogging service, Twitter users were asked to send questions to the President by using the hashtag “#AskObama.” In turn, the President tried to answer those questions in little 140-character snippets.

While the idea was very progressive and interesting, some people felt that the event didn’t go exactly as they hoped it was going to. For one, an estimated 40,000 questions were sent via the #AskObama hashtag, but since the event only went for about an hour, the President only had time to take and answer 18 of those questions. Others spoke out about  how the questions were chosen. The question were supposed to be coming from every-day Americans who wanted answers, but some said they only let through the soft-ball questions and others noticed that somehow a question from House Speaker John Boehner got asked while many others were passed over. The last criticism that I’ve seen apparent over the event was that the public was expecting the event to be more of a conversation via Twitter, as most people use the service everyday for, and it was rather more of the President dictating canned answers that seemed more like a broken up speech than an actual conversation with the people. To that end though, after the event finished Jack Dorsey, one of the cofounders of Twitter and moderator of the Twitter Town Hall, asked his 1.7 million followers how they can make these Town Hall events better in the future.

While Twitter is working with some partners to handle the official analytics and assessment of what actually happened on Twitter yesterday, we thought it would interesting to look at what the rest of the social media sphere was saying about the event using our Sysomos social media  monitoring and analytics software. A look at just how much the event was talked about starting the day before the event to this morning showed us that the event was talked about in 4,715 online news articles, 2,545 blog posts, 627 forum posts, 149 YouTube videos and 1,386 public Facebook statuses.

We also found that the two age groups that seemed to be most interested in the event were those 21-35 and the 51-and-over crowd who accounted for 33% of the conversation each. Not surprising was that those 20-and-under only accounted for 4% of the conversation outside of Twitter. As well, we found that outside of Twitter males seemed to be the ones talking the most about the Town Hall event.

While the event took place in the United States and was aimed at citizens from the country, a look at our heat map of the world shows that people around the world were still talking about the historic event. Of course though, the most conversation was coming from the USA as shown by the darker colouring.

A buzzgraph that we put together from all sources outside of Twitter gives us a look at what people were talking about in relation to Obama’s Twitter Town Hall. Near the center of the buzzgraph we can see that the people involved were being talked about the most; “pres” and “Barack” Obama as well as “Dorsey” who moderated. As well, we can see a strong connection to “Boehner” because of all the people calling foul on the fact that House Speaker got a question asked when it was supposed to be questions from the general public. We also see a strong connection to “140-characters” because a lot of news organizations talking about the event felt the need to explain how Twitter works to the non-tweeters. Around the edges we can also find some of the topics that were addressed including “taxes,” “debt,” “economies” and “jobs.”

When we focused in on specific mediums to see if different talk was coming from within we found that both online news and blogs seemed to be talking about the same sorts of things. The buzzgraphs for both online news and blogs looks very similar to the overall buzzgraph above. However, when we looked at what was being said about the event through public Facebook statuses we found that people weren’t really analyzing the event as much there. Instead, Facebook seemed to be being used by people to inform their friends that the event was happening. This is most evident by the time of the event “2pm” being right in the center of our buzzgraph. We also see words like “today,” “ask,” “hashtag” and “whitehouse.gov” being used to inform people of what was going on.

Overall, the Twitter Town Hall seemed to be a successful event despite some of the criticism it received. Lots of people got involved by sending questions and watching for the Presidents responses. Twitter also plans to do more of these types of events and wants to make them better experiences for their users. It was a very interesting experiment to see how politics and social media can mix, but what did you think of the whole event? Let us know in the comments bellow.

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