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Obama's Very First Tweet, and Other Haiti Relief Social Media Wins

BY Nancy Scola | Monday, January 18 2010

It seems appropriate to briefly interrupt today's radio silence to take note of the historic fact that President Barack Obama has tweeted for the very first time. Repeat, President Barack Obama has tweeted for the very first time. Those of you reading along in the privacy of your own homes, please make spirited "wooo, wooo, wooo" noises at this point.

Now, some of you are thinking, first time? What tha? What about the hundred-plus tweets on the @barackobama account? Seriously though, it should surprise just about no one that all of those postings under Obama banner during the campaign, transistion, and early presidency weren't actually typed out by Barack Obama. This is what staffers were created for. There is, in fact, a good chance that when you get an email from any politician asking for your support or thanking you for your contribution, he or she didn't write that either. Please break it to the children gently.

Of course, much was made during the campaign over the fact that John McCain described himself as a computer illiterate. But anyone running a presidential campaign -- or country -- is as much a CEO as anything else. And the expectation that a campaign principles are behind each and every online interaction can begin to seem like a unfulfilling target for a hunger for political authenticity. Whether or not a Obama or McCain "tweeted" or texted or blogged himself always seemed to be more an easy way to encapsulate a way of thinking about a candidate's approach the relationship between people and politics than being actually significant in and of itself.

But enough chatter. The big news today is that, while on a visit to the Red Cross mission control center for Haiti, President Obama pushed "enter" on a tweet. If anything meaningful can actually be made of the episode, it is perhaps that it shows how utterly central Twitter, text messaging and other social media has been to the Red Cross's relief efforts when it comes to Haiti. The Red Cross is reporting, for example, that their text messaging program (text HAITI to 90999 to add a $10 donation to the Red Cross to your mobile phone bill) has already raised a remarkable $13 $22 million.

But Obama's first unstaffed Twitter post isn't exactly a demonstration of the President's mastery of the nuanced art that is good tweeting. If the Red Cross's Twitter stream is to be believed, what Obama posted was a tweet written by someone else noting that "President Obama and the First Lady are here visiting our disaster operation center right now." So where we once had other people tweeting for Obama, now we have Obama tweeting for other people. We're getting closer...