Obama’s Facebook Townhall: Innovation Or Gimmick?

I don’t know if it’s smart for non-political entertainers or companies to hitch their wagon to politicians. General Electric’s cozy relationship with the Obama administration has earned them no small amount of scorn, and the “government motors” jokes will be with GM for generations to come. Even Oprah saw a ratings plunge during the election when she endorsed Obama.

Some are now saying Obama’s Facebook townhall could be damaging to the social networking giant.

Political consultants and brand managers says politicians and companies put themselves at risk when they become linked in the public eye. Think Dick Cheney and Halliburton. George W. Bush and Enron. Hillary Rodham Clinton and Wal-Mart.

Obama’s Facebook event is “political product placement — with the president seeking to leverage Silicon Valley’s innovation, future, entrepreneur brand and the companies seeking to benefit from being associated with the most powerful office of the most powerful country,” said Chris Lehane, a political consultant to Democrats and unions who worked in the White House in the Clinton years.

“Of course,” Lehane added, “the perils of such a mutual leveraging for the president is if a company does something that turns it into an Enron or BP and for the companies if they become defined as partisan in the way Halliburton or Koch was closely linked to the Bush White House and Republican Party.”

This is more gimmick than anything else, I think. Remember when it was all the rage for presidential candidates to open up headquarters in Second Life? Remember when the presidential candidates were fielding questions from animated snowmen on YouTube?

Social media is a powerful political tool, but campaigns and politicians have long struggled on how best to deploy it. The idea of using something like Facebook to hold a national townhall is a quaint one, and certainly comes off as hip and innovative, but ultimately it’s the same old same old. A candidate taking carefully screened questions and reciting back well-rehearsed answers.

Rob Port is the editor of SayAnythingBlog.com. In 2011 he was a finalist for the Watch Dog of the Year from the Sam Adams Alliance and winner of the Americans For Prosperity Award for Online Excellence. In 2013 the Washington Post named SAB one of the nation's top state-based political blogs, and named Rob one of the state's best political reporters. He writes a weekly column for several North Dakota newspapers, and also serves as a policy fellow for the North Dakota Policy Council.

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  • DopeyDem

    It would be funny if somebody stole his identity or set up a date for him with a transgender prostitute. You know, just like everybody else does on the social sites.

  • Jimmyop

    good cal on barrys part. its no lose deal for him.

    facebook will not be affected one bit.

  • JustRuss

    I don’t think Facebook will be tainted. Having Palin and Bachman all over facebook hasn’t forced any lefties to abandon the site, having the President’s town hall on there won’t drive righties away. Facebook is a medium and I think a very fair and unbiased one at that. It is not a valid comparison to use BP, Koch or GE as an example. Apples to Apples.

  • SigFan

    For all the substance that he will convey in this he could probably just do it on Twitter – in one not entirely full message.

  • http://twitter.com/RoyJacobsen Roy Jacobsen

    What has this man done that isn’t a gimmick?

  • Spartacus

    More fodder for failbook

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