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In this day and age, social media plays a major role in everyone’s lives. Even in politics, it helps in reaching out to the masses on a daily basis. It has become more and more evident with the likes of US President Barack Obama and Prime Minister Narendra Modi using social media as an effective platform to interact with people. Their Twitter handles have millions and millions of followers and it has become crucial for the world’s top leaders to maintain a healthy communication on social media. Hence, it wouldn’t be wrong in saying that the transition of Barack Obama’s social media accounts to his successor will serve as an essential tool for future administrations.
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On Monday, the White House said that Barack Obama’s official @POTUS account will be taken over by the next president. Obama’s tweets will move to a new handle, @POTUS44, maintained by the National Archives and Records Administration. Similar changes will take effect with Obama’s Facebook and Instagram accounts, along with other Twitter accounts, including Michelle Obama’s @FLOTUS and Joe Biden’s @VP accounts.
But how would these transitions eventually help the next administration? The answer lies in the enormity of the following the accounts command on social media. The official presidential Twitter account (@POTUS), that is currently being used by Barack Obama, has over 11 million followers. Once the next president takes over the account, he or she will inherit the following enjoyed by Obama. That is a big step up, considering that Obama is the most followed leader in the world. For instance, Obama was the first president to have an official account on Twitter. He was the first to go live on Facebook from the Oval Office, was the first to answer questions from citizens on YouTube and the first to use a filter on Snapchat. The level of engagement that Obama, his wife Michelle and Vice President Joe Biden have with their followers has, indeed, set a benchmark for the next president to match. It is something that all future presidents would be looking forward to build on. In this era of digital diplomacy, maintaining a healthy level of transparency and digital accessibility is important for a public figure and, even more, for someone at the rank of the US president.
Back home, Prime Minister Narendra Modi has proven to be someone who can use the platform very well. He is one of the most connected politicians in the world and his following on Twitter says it all. The official Twitter account of PM Modi (@PMOIndia), at over 13 million, has more followers than that of the US President. Modi even personally posts from his private account, which he played to his advantage during the 2014 General Elections.
In the last two years since assuming office, PM Modi has ensured that digital diplomacy remains a key tool in his administration and has instructed his ministers to be active on social media. A few ministers from his Cabinet have taken the advice and reached out to those in distress via Twitter. Minister of External Affairs Sushma Swaraj and Railways Minister Suresh Prabhu, in particular, stand out when it comes to quickly addressing problems on social media. And many of the Modi’s flagship campaigns on social media, such as #MakeInIndia, #MannKiBaat, #SwachhBharat, #SelfieWithDaughter, #MyCleanIndia, and #TransformingIndia serve as examples of his Twitter outreach. So much has been the influence of social media in the current administration that many have termed this approach as ‘Twitter governance’.
Much like in the American context, it is important that the next Indian prime minister understands the power of social media in aiding governance. The vast possibilities that social media offers is something that any leader would love to grab head on.