Summary:

Obama will have a virtual town hall meeting with Twitter Wednesday, as he uses social media to reach out to voters and constituents. But more importantly, the Twitter Town Hall will provide Obama and the White House with invaluable data about what voters are thinking about.

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President Obama has long used the Internet and social media efforts to interact with voters and constituents. His inauguration was one of the most popular live streaming events of 2009, and he’s followed that up with Town Hall meetings held on YouTube and Facebook in order to directly reach out to voters. But the Twitter Town Hall is also expected to present some interesting data and analysis, which could help Obama take the pulse of the nation.

Wednesday’s Twitter Town Hall, which will be live streamed from the White House at askobama.twitter.com, begins at 11:00 am PT/2:00 pm ET, and is intended to focus on questions about jobs and the economy. Twitter Executive Chairman Jack Dorsey will moderate the virtual town hall meeting, with questions being submitted by Twitter users with the hashtag #AskObama.

So why partner with Twitter for this event? In part, the Obama team wants to be where its constituents are, and social media is just one aspect of that interaction with them. The @BarackObama Twitter account has nearly 9 million followers, so it’s clear that people are interested in knowing what the President has to say on the platform. And the nature of the service allows a truly interactive real-time platform for communication.

But what might be especially interesting, especially for a president that used data analytics as a key function of his initial election campaign, is the information that Obama might learn from Twitter about what people are asking, and where they’re tweeting from. Already, the #AskObama hashtag has received “thousands and thousands” of questions for tomorrow’s event. The President and his team expect even more Tweets before and during the meeting, according to White House Director of Digital Strategy Macon Phillips said in a call with press today.

One reason Dorsey is moderating the discussion, according to Phillips, is that Twitter “knows the platform better than anyone.” It will be using algorithms to “search and identify the Tweets that are most engaged with via Retweets, Favorites and Replies,” the company wrote on its corporate blog today. It has also partnered with visualization experts Mass Relevance to identify key themes that are popping up through the Twitter firehose and to expose where those tweets are coming from.

All of which means that the Obama team will be able to use Twitter data to see how the nation is thinking and what its concerns are. On the call, Phillips said that the White House will only have access to the same data that Twitter makes available to the rest of the country. Even so, what info it does surface should prove invaluable as Obama thinks about his 2012 re-election campaign.

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