Obama’s Twitter Town Hall: Questions in 140 Characters or Less

Obamas Twitter Town Hall
Then-Democratic presidential candidate, Sen. Barack Obama, D-Ill., checks his BlackBerry in St. Louis, Missouri. Photographer: Jae C. Hong/AP

President Barack Obama will take questions today in what White House officials are calling his first Twitter town hall, complete with a “Tweetup.”

Users of the social networking service can post questions for Obama before and during the event, which starts at 2 p.m. Washington time. Questions should fit Twitter’s 140-character limit and include the hashtag #askObama.

Promoted as a focus on jobs and the economy, the question-and-answer session already has attracted posts on topics as diverse as small-business incentives and tax rates, women working in math and science, marijuana legalization, and Libya. Obama’s 2012 campaign Twitter account encouraged followers to submit questions.

So did Republican National Committee chairman Reince Priebus, who in a Twitter posting yesterday made clear what issue he would focus on: “With 9.1% unemployment, what would you want to know?” he asked, referring to the nation’s jobless rate.

Representatives of San Francisco-based Twitter Inc. will determine which questions to pose to the president, White House director of digital strategy Macon Phillips and communications director Dan Pfeiffer said during a conference call yesterday.

White House officials described the in-person audience for the event in the White House’s East Room as a Tweetup -- an informal meeting of people who use Twitter.

Mass Relevance, an Austin, Texas-based company, is working with Twitter on aggregating and filtering questions. Radian6, a Canada-based company acquired this year by San Francisco-based Salesforce.com, will analyze Twitter posts and conversations related to the event.

Twitter Moderator

Jack Dorsey, Twitter co-founder and executive chairman, will be the moderator.

Dorsey, Obama and those following the event will be able to see what topics and trends are driving the conversation in which regions of the country and which individual questions are generating the most interest, said Adam Sharp, manager of government and political partnerships at Twitter.

That could trigger follow-up questions if there is a significant response to the president’s answer on any one issue.

“If there’s any message that comes out of this for the campaigns and the parties, it’s the opportunities it presents to have real-time conversations with their constituents,” Sharp said.

Pfeiffer said Americans increasingly are looking beyond traditional news outlets to social networking and interactive media sources to get information. “A growing percentage of people are getting their information entirely through mobile devices,” he said. The White House has 2.25 million Twitter followers.

The event will be live-streamed via the White House website or the website askobama.twitter.com. Twitter users can monitor the event by following @townhall.

The Twitter event follows earlier Obama town-hall-style formats with Facebook and Google Inc.’s YouTube.

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