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The White House Joins Facebook, MySpace, Twitter (And Makes Friends with the Rest of Government)

BY Nancy Scola | Friday, May 1 2009

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Today the White House took a big step towards recreating the ubiquitous Internet presence that the Obama campaign created with the simultaneous launch of profiles on three major social networks: Facebook (Facebook.com/WhiteHouse), MySpace (MySpace.com/WhiteHouse), and Twitter (Twitter.com/WhiteHouse).

In creating the new social media pages, the White House endorsed the Internet maxim that no matter your prestige, power, or stature, it often makes more sense to go to where people already are than to wait for them to come to you. "Technology has profoundly impacted how -- and where -- we all consume information and communicate with one another," reads a post on the White House blog titled "WhiteHouse 2.0" in which the White House announced the new sites. "WhiteHouse.gov is an important part of the Administration's efforts to use the Internet to reach the public quickly and effectively -- but it isn't the only place."

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To get the sites launched, the White House new media team has had to learn to work within a number of limitations that didn't burden the campaign -- from White House computer systems that block certain social networking sites to legal concerns over how the Presidential Records Act applies to new media.

An important point: The White House seems to appreciate their unique -- and potentially powerful -- role in the new media ecosystem. Being the chief executive (and the current high popularity of Barack Obama) gives them the power to attract eyeballs and online attention far more than is the case for the rest of the executive branch. In many ways, that's the inverse of the potential to actually create valuable online content and tools, as the agencies and departments often enjoy more staff, more money, and greater freedom to innovate online than the White House does.

And, so, the White House is acting as a good Web 2.0 friend to the rest of the executive branch. They're borrowing a page from Jeff Jarvis, in doing what they do best and linking to the rest. The White House's brand new Facebook page, for example, is given over to the latest information on H1N1 (nee "Swine flu") from the Centers for Disease Control.

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