Not only did the transfer of power take place today, but a transfer of Twitter handles.
The first transfer of power
The most recent time a transfer of the U.S. Presidential Twitter handle happened was also the first. On January 20, 2009 Barack Obama assumed control over George W. Bush’s Twitter account and @POTUS (a.k.a. President of The United States) was born.
A new responsibility for 21st century presidents
Since Facebook and Twitter popped up in 2006 and 2007 respectively, social media account management was added to the list of assets, channels and procedures for entering, executing and exiting the office of President of the United States. Twitter played an especially influential role for Trump in contrast to the other social networks which is why I’m focusing more on that social network from the others. Also, the handle was made famous with Twitter before Instagram, Snapchat and the other social networks adopted it. With Facebook, there can be a million John Smiths, but on Twitter if your name is taken as a handle you have to settle for whatever you can get.
The means by which the President of the United States communicates and interacts with the public becomes more digitally sophisticated with each passing year, and each President brings his own personality to the social media account of @POTUS et al.
From @POTUS to @POTUS44
The switch between President Obama and Trump seemed to have happened overnight. As an active Twitter user I uncharacteristically didn’t think about what would happen to Barack Obama’s Twitter handle until today, Inauguration Day.
Interestingly, this time around our new President either elected or was instructed to create a brand new Twitter account. President Obama retains his followers and has changed his Twitter handle from @POTUS to @POTUS44 so that President Trump could assume the @POTUS. It could be a security measure given that providing login information would be involved in a total Twitter account takeover. Depending on whether the outgoing President was a regular social media user before entering office also plays a role. Either way, it’s just easier to change Twitter handles.
Social media post-President
Even when a president leaves office, they must be cautious and continue to manage their image and reputation as a public figure.
A once active President doesn’t have to use social media after he’s left office, but they should still have a PR or communications advisor at hand. Making sure the message you want comes across the way you want is the key of a politician’s career after all.
Bill Clinton and George H.W. Bush have active Twitter accounts, Jimmy Carter and George W. Bush have less hands on Twitter accounts with handles named after their Library and Center.
As time goes on it will be interesting to see how tweets become a part of how history is written. As print, radio and video were methods of archiving what our Presidents said, thought and did, so too shall social posts and tweets I think. Do the Twitter and other social accounts of our deceased Presidents become like monuments, a place to look back at their legacy? Crazy to think that we’ll have moved from stone to screen in preserving our Presidents.