The Social #SOTU

The dominance of the @WhiteHouse social media team during this year’s State of the Union can’t be ignored. Ink has already been spilled in advance about their revamped approach, but their success is clear.  By reviewing their strategy there are clues for how any live event can benefit from a similar comprehensive approach.

While the State of the Union itself does favor the President that doesn’t mean the opposition party should be unable to shape the online response. 

First, the facts:

  • Livestream + Additional Content
  • 81 Content Items Loaded and able to be shared via Twitter / Facebook / Email during the Address
  • 137 Posts to Twitter from @whitehouse and @barackobama during the address
  • 172,028 retweets from official accounts

  • Livestream + Additional Content
  • 3 Tweets Approved During Broadcast

Conversational Impact:

@whitehouse provided their own hashtags throughout the night and these were adopted and amplified by both sides of the aisle. Of all the Tweets associated with #SOTU the only non-administration ones to break the Top 25 were #breadbags and the phrase “magic wand”. The former being a viral response to Senator Joni Ernst’s official rebuttal and the latter from an off the cuff Tweet from Sen. Rand Paul in response to #freecommunitycollege.

The @whitehouse team had first advantage with providing the speech (and in an unprecedented move, released the speech in it’s entirety on Medium ahead of the event), but that doesn’t mean that the GOP couldn’t have had a stronger showing on social media. The Republican embrace of the phrase “magic wand” shows an appetite for content that wasn’t available.

The following tactics all could have given the GOP base clear alternatives to the administration and strengthened their narrative during #SOTU.

Alternative Hashtags

Republican leadership should have prepared their own hashtags and distributed them to the members of their party. This would have provided a clear difference at the policy level for the conversations online.

Content Library

On the Republican live-stream there were slides presented that offered alternatives to what President Obama was saying. These slides were prepared in advance and could have been made into easily sharable images during the Address. Every piece of media that was shared the most came from @whitehouse or @barackobama. 

Social Hub

While they did offer their own stream and fact checking the party did not provide a single source for the opinions of its members. By aggregating this content it would be easier to point to a single narrative for their base to amplify. This would also be useful during the traditional rebuttal speech.

A more concerted and cohesive strategy would have made it easier to shift and direct the online debate rather than being responsive.

Want more information about the social state of the union? Watch our CMO Jim Rudden recap the social highlights of the evening with Wall Street Journal’s Tanya Rivero.

Jason Smith's picture

Jason Smith

Jason Smith is a Senior Analyst at Spredfast and works to find the underlying story the data is trying to tell. When he isn’t breaking APIs and making charts he can be found playing music around Austin. Follow him on Twitter for general nonsense and various complaints.