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White House Rolls Out Obama's Immigration Speech with Hashtags and House Parties

BY Nancy Scola | Tuesday, May 10 2011

White House photo by Pete Souza

Where once it was Glee ...

What was the deal with this week's episode of Glee? And we're not talking about Will Schuester's questionable math skills or Holly Holiday's take on Adele. Nope, we were wondering about that bug at the bottom of the screen that read "#Glee" throughout the entire show.

Get used to it. Although the TV screen is already crowded — with network logos, news crawls and promo messages routinely popping up throughout a program — broadcast and cable networks are now starting to add Twitter hashtags to the bottom of their shows.

It's now the Obama White House. Former campaign manager and current presidential senior advisor David Plouffe emails this morning on plans in the works to engage people around Obama's big immigration speech happening in El Paso at 3:30pm EST today. Here's Plouffe:

In his speech today, the President will lay out his vision for an immigration system for America's 21st century economy and will call on Americans across the country to join a constructive conversation on this issue. We know that folks are already discussing this issue around their dinner tables, with their friends and neighbors and through social media communities like Twitter. 

Here are just a few ways you can get involved in the conversation, and tell us here at the White House what you think:

  1. Twitter. During the President's speech today, I'll have a screen up next to my TV to watch the conversation on Twitter using the #immigration hashtag, so make sure to use #immigration to share your thoughts.
  2. Advise the Advisor. Cecilia Muñoz, one of the President's senior advisors on immigration issues, just posted a new Advise the Advisor video asking for your feedback on this important issue. Visit WhiteHouse.gov/Advise to see the video and tell us what you think.
  3. Roundtable Discussions. In addition to all the ways you can join the conversation online, we're encouraging Americans to host roundtable discussions in your own communities over the next few months, and let us know what you talked about and what issues matter the most in your community. Visit WhiteHouse.gov/Immigration to get started.

In encouraging folks to rally around a hashtag, the White House is engaging in a technique that many people are looking at as one key part of the future of participatory media -- fostering a real-time water cooler effect by getting people to contemporaneously chat about video-streamed events; see Fast Company's cover story from November on what's being invested in the concept of 'Twitter TV.'

One interesting logistics bit: I asked White House new media director Macon Phillips why the White House is promoting the generic #immigration hashtag already in use, rather than trying to claim something more proprietary like, say, #WHimm. "We're joining a conversation," wrote Phillips, "not starting a new one."

Item 3 is also worth noting, for the fact that setting up people to host roll-your-own house parties was a technique that the 2008 Obama campaign used widely and regularly but that hasn't been part of the White House's regular rotation. The tools here, though, lag behind what BarackObama.com was capable of. People who want to host a house part around Obama's immigration speech are asked to download a PDF toolkit and report back via one-way web form.

Note: Updated with White House comment.