On Jan. 20, 2017, the 45th President of the United States will gain power, prestige, and 11 million Twitter followers.
As the first "social media president," Barack Obama has traded quips with Bill Clinton on Twitter, gone live on Facebook from the Oval Office, and answered citizens' questions on YouTube. But what happens to his social media accounts once he leaves the White House?
It's uncharted territory, so his administration this week outlined Obama's digital transition. The incoming president, be it Hillary Clinton or Donald Trump, will take over existing social media accounts, which will be scrubbed of all timeline content, but retain its followers: 11.1 million on Twitter @POTUS, 50.4 million on Facebook, and 9.8 million on Instagram. Other official accounts on platforms like Medium, Tumblr, and YouTube will take a similar approach, including @WhiteHouse, @FLOTUS, @PressSec, and @VP.
Before handing over any usernames or URLs, Obama's team will preserve all material published online (tweets, snaps, etc.) with the National Archives and Records Administration (NARA). Sites like We The People (for online petitions) and WhiteHouse.gov, as well as thousands of hours of video footage and millions of photos, will also be archived with NARA.
If you don't want to peruse the NARA archives, Obama's tweets will also be accessible via a new @POTUS44 handle on Twitter, while photos and other content will be on Instagram.com/ObamaWhiteHouse and Facebook.com/ObamaWhiteHouse.
The Obama administration will eventually make its social media content public in a more easily digestible fashion; how best to do that might be up to you. "We're inviting the American public – from students and data engineers, to artists and researchers – to come up with creative ways to archive this content and make it both useful and available for years to come," Schulman said.
Submit your ideas on WhiteHouse.gov now. "We're open to it all," Deputy Chief Digital Officer Kori Schulman wrote in a blog post. "Given the unprecedented nature and scale of the digital transition, we anticipate we'll learn a lot along the way."
"From the very beginning, our mission has been to reach Americans and people around the world on the channels and platforms where they already spend their time," Schulman wrote. "We are working to ensure that the next president and administration—regardless of party—can continue to use and develop the digital assets we have created to connect directly with the people they serve."
See what PCMag's Sascha Segan and Rob Marvin have to say about the transition in this morning's episode of Random Access, embedded above.