If you watched the events of the weekend unfold in the U.S., you’ve no doubt found this whole debt ceiling debacle to be surreal (#runforcash). It’s almost unbelievable that the richest superpower in the world (at one time, anyway) might not be able to pay its bills (#joininggreeceonthefoodline). We all should have seen this coming, but what’s even more shocking than America’s possibly being a debt dodger is the circus that surrounded everything as our government scrambled to figure out what to do in light of such dismal circumstances.
We elected President Obama on the platform of hope (yes we did), yet while watching this crisis unfold in the media I’ve felt a little hopeless, and I assume I’m not alone. How did we get here, and how are we going to get the hell out? As reported on Friday by a multimedia cavalcade of onlookers, the prez took to Twitter to vent about the crisis, and his social media team has been tweeting the handles of Republican lawmakers in all 50 states. Though the aim was to get Obama supporters to tweet GOP reps and encourage them to play nice with the Democrats, that intent was lost as an overzealous day of twitter-twatter led many followers to call foul—and disengage.
In a frantic effort to restore the nation of hope, Obama’s social media team tried to rally with what felt like an amphetamine-laced attempt to regain our trust. And it was an epic failure. The Twitterati got fed up, to the tune of 40,000 lost followers within one day. That’s a lot of pissed-off people. As PR folks, we know this is nothing short of social media genocide. The twitterverse simply got fed up with the deluge of partisan tweets and in a sweeping statement unplugged (#gopurpleorgodark).
Even our leaders are not immune to the effects of what many perceived as spam. Though President Obama is still among the most followed personalities on Twitter (only young Mr. Bieber and Lady Gaga claim more followers), the nation and the social media world’s discontent for such a desperate attempt at support goes beyond the digital realm. Amazing how a president who was partially elected on his social media savvy would take such a misstep, and how oversharing rubbed so many the wrong way (#bieberfeveroverdebt?).
It’s still smart to choose your words wisely, and that goes for tweets and other thoughts and views over social media—we simply don’t have the patience for an overindulgence in anything. Tweeter Nancy Lennert wisely noted: “Permission marketing doesn’t give you permission to spam, @BarackObama! Next time send a link to a webpage w/all the info you want to share!” And Anna Jeffrey summed up the feelings of many: “@BarackObama is being pretty annoying on twitter today.”
Of course, lots of people would not remove Mr. Obama from their feeds; he still has many supporters in his midst as voters weigh the choices coming from the right for the 2012 election. (As of Sunday night, the president was back to 9.39 million followers, which means two-thirds of the people who left—or maybe new ones?—began following @BarackObama over the weekend.)
But maybe all this overload has shown us something, as a nation and as marketing and PR professionals: Do actions still speak louder than tweets? When a tweet or post or comment can affect an election, give power to a brand or boost one’s status as a thought leader, shouldn’t putting your money where your tweets are still top the list in terms of one’s approval rating? With the repo man threatening to take Lady Liberty away in handcuffs, 140 characters or a pithy hashtag (#betchatheyfindafix) is not going to save a nation, let alone the American presidency.