The State of the Union on Social Media

Phil Butler Owner/Partner, Pamil Visions PR

Posted on January 30th 2014

The State of the Union on Social Media

MWW Group, rated by O'Dwyer's the fifth most profitable American PR agency, published yesterday on their Return On Reputation blog a revealing infographic aimed at what Americans found most important about Tuesday's State of the Union Address. What you're about to read takes this analysis of the speech a step further into defining what America expects Obama to do now, and toward understanding this president too perhaps. 

Not Just Another SOTU

President Barack Obama's 2014 State of the Union Address (SOTU) is today being analyzed and characterized in a plethora of ways. This is always the case when the deeply polarized politics of Washington play out over nationally televised and highly pressurized public media. On the one hand the president's remarks are being heralded as new life breathed into American leadership, and on the other he's further vilified, I must say, for obvious political reasons. For me, parts of the Obama speech offered a brilliant chance at supercharging at dimmed American Dream. Before outlining this, let's look at MWW Group's fascinating work into taking the social pulse here. 

The graphic you're looking at measures several Twitter sentiments dispersed across a timeline of Barack Obama's SOTU. As you'll see, issues such as the gender gap, healthcare, and veterans' being cared for register powerfully these days. This is to be expected really. What's more significant than the social graph of this speech is reflected in a quote from a friend and an advisor to the president, the CEO of MWW, Michael Kempner. I asked Michael what I feel is the all important question in all this SOTU hubbub; "What do you think the American people want from their president now?" 

“America wants a President who will fight for all Americans and understands that we build a strong and lasting economy from the middle out, not from the top down. When everyone has a fair chance of success we all benefit…no matter our current wealth or social standing. President Obama put it best when he said in his State of the Union address that - it should the power of our vote, not the size of our bank account that drives our democracy.”

I've known Kempner some years now, even before a 2011 interview with him over social-digital. I consider him a friend, but more importantly he's considered by any measure, as one of the sharpest PR knives in the kitchen of communication - wired, like instantly, to Twitter and the rest of SM. He's also one of Obama's trusted advisors. Before we examine further Obama's speech, take a look at what 670,000 Tweets revealed. 

MWW - What Mattered More

You Are Heard - That's What's Important

One thing I note here is how so many analysts, even MWW, seem to have missed something in the time line. If you look at the volume and tone of Tweets at about minute 00:50 it's as if the world of Twitter stopped to listen. This is the section of the speech attuned to jobs, Americans raising kids in poverty, and where we go from here. It's about 30 minutes into Obama's speech when Twitter seems most quiet, as if listening. Maybe this is just my perception, but having listened to the speech several times, this and other moments bear scrutiny. 

Finally, Barack Obama interjecting in this SOTU address, as in no past one, a forceful and clear challenge to Washington politicians. Given the content and context of the speech was obscured before, and the highly interactive and social nature of the administration's public relations for it, then claims Obama is back to his old passionate self seem viable. Gender inequality, devastating financial distress, the plight of war heroes continuing their lives after serving, the issues that confront us all are more socially shared now than ever in history. This is a very good thing. But as one friend, another high powered PR guru, Ronn Torossian of 5WPR commented; 

"As usual, President Obama delivered an emotional and powerful speech, an ability he has showcased throughout his career. However, as with all presidents, talk is cheap and action matters."

Our measured sentiment, 300 million or more voices raised, as many voices heard and sympathized with, the only thing the American people expect and need is fairness and action. Social Media Today is not a political pulpit from which to beat the policies of leaders to pulp, or is it? Now is the time to test the power of these new communicative tools. Now you and I have the influence and the power to really change things. This is what I glean from the MWW study, from the White House's willingness and synergy to observe social media. Look at it all this way, perhaps: 

"If social media has not empowered you, then why would the President, and all the President’s Men and Women, study and engage with us using it?" 


Phil Butler

Owner/Partner, Pamil Visions PR

Phil Butler is editor-in-chief of Everything PR and senior partner at Pamil Visions PR. He’s a widely cited authority on beta startups, all things social, search engines and public relations issues, and he has covered tech news since 2004. Phil has covered tech and social for ReadWriteWeb, Mashable, Profy, SitePoint, Search Engine Journal, The Epoch Times, Silicon Angle and many others. Check out Phil's Google + profile too. 

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