President Obama is looking for a new first Tweeter to manage his social media presence. It's another sign the party that first embraced online networks is looking to reboot in the face of Republican growth in the virtual world.
Organizing for America -- formerly Obama for America, the grass-roots organization of the president's 2008 campaign that's now part of the Democratic National Committee -- is advertising for a "social networks manager" to maintain Obama's Facebook, MySpace and Twitter accounts. Mia Cambronero, Obama's previous ghost Twitterer, is leaving her post at the end of the month.
The applicant must be able to connect with the president's 7.4 million Facebook fans and 3.3 million Twitter followers through an ability to "craft messages that move people to act."
Alan Rosenblatt, associate director for online advocacy at the liberal Center for American Progress, compared the president's 3.3 million Twitter followers to the 1.4 million monthly visitors to WhiteHouse.gov -- "It would be a waste not to exploit it."
Don Bates, professor of public relations at George Washington University, said that the administration has let its focus on social media slip.
"They could avoid them when their favorability numbers were high," Bates said. "They can't avoid them now."
Long-shot Republican Senate candidate Scott Brown triumphed in Massachusetts last month by relying on the same kind of networking that Obama used. When Brown called for an impromptu rally to counter a presidential visit, his team rallied thousands of supporters using Facebook, Twitter and text messages. The Brown flash mob was said to be twice the size of Obama's crowd.
White House communications director Dan Pfeiffer said the administration is touting the increased use of White House blogs and Obama's efforts to speak directly to citizens online.
Republican political consultant and blogger Jon Henke expressed doubts that a new strategy would help Americans to feel as if they were interacting with the president.
"Politicians and political organizations are professionally uninteresting," Henke said.
Girish Gulati, a social media expert and associate professor of government at Bentley University, said the difficulty with using social networking platforms is that audiences begin to view the new lines of communication as mere public relations releases.
"As the younger people who elected him get older, it can definitely be a disappointment to realize that this is how politics works," Gulati said.