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President Obama, is that You?

November 18, 2009

The media was a buzz this week following President Obama’s visit to a group of students in Shanghai. What got everyone excited was not the subject of the discussion, but a casual remark Obama made when asked about Twitter. “I have never used Twitter…My thumbs are too clumsy to type in things on the phone.”

Many members of the media found this to be a surprising admission, considering the @BarackObama Twitter feed has 2.6 million followers.

 

 

 

 

 

[See Los Angeles Times at http://latimesblogs.latimes.com/washington/2009/11/obama-never-used-twitter.html]

I follow a handful of celebrities on Twitter, but never really thought seriously about the question. Is it a betrayal of trust to suggest communication is coming from a person directly, when in fact it’s not?

Ghost writers are often used in book publishing and speech writers are a staple of any political team.  Both are rarely credited or acknowledged.  However, the author, celebrity or politician will typically review content before it is published or broadcast.

Do people really expect for President Obama to jot off a 140-character update in between sessions on health care reform, economic recovery and nuclear disarmament? Probably not. But is it a disappointment to learn the line of communication between you and the President isn’t really there? A little bit.

For me, this also has interesting implications for brands and marketers hoping to utilize social media to build relationships. I think the key is transparency. To form a strong and loyal connection with consumers, you need to establish trust. That begins with being honest with who you are and how you are going to operate.  Marketing, PR, advertising all rely on theater of the imagination. I don’t think the magic needs to be altogether removed, but I do think it’s important that consumers know where you (or your tweets) are coming from.

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