Why the White House Joined Snapchat

In com­mu­nic­at­ing the pres­id­ent’s agenda, the White House wants to meet people where they are. And in 2016, that means Snapchat.

On Monday, the White House an­nounced it had joined the pop­u­lar so­cial-me­dia app, which al­lows users to share pho­tos and videos of their daily lives along with news from part­ners such as CNN and The Wall Street Journ­al. In a hall­mark of the app, the shared con­tent dis­ap­pears after 10 seconds.

“There are over 100 mil­lion daily act­ive Snapchat users, and over 60 per­cent of Amer­ic­an smart­phone users between the ages of 13 and 34 use the plat­form,” wrote White House dir­ect­or of product man­age­ment Joshua Miller in a blog post Monday. “In light of the num­ber of Amer­ic­ans who use the ser­vice to con­sume news and share with their friends, the White House is join­ing Snapchat to en­gage this broad cross-sec­tion of the pop­u­la­tion in new and cre­at­ive ways.”

To reach more people, the White House has turned to non­tra­di­tion­al out­lets to dis­sem­in­ate the pres­id­ent’s agenda. It’s the latest ef­fort from an ad­min­is­tra­tion that prides it­self on find­ing cre­at­ive ways to con­nect with the Amer­ic­an pub­lic: Last year, Pres­id­ent Obama got his own Twit­ter ac­count, joined Face­book (though you can’t poke him), and gran­ted sit-down in­ter­views to You­Tube stars. He also took a ride in comedi­an Jerry Sein­feld’s 1963 Cor­vette Stin­gray for a spe­cial epis­ode of the web series “Comedi­ans in Cars Get­ting Cof­fee.”

White House Chief Di­git­al Of­ficer Jason Gold­man de­scribed the ad­min­is­tra­tion’s di­git­al strategy in a Me­di­um post Sunday as “reach­ing people where they are — and mak­ing it pos­sible for them to en­gage, re­spond, and share the Pres­id­ent’s speech them­selves in new and dif­fer­ent ways.” With tra­di­tion­al plat­forms such as print, broad­cast, and tele­vi­sion see­ing de­clines with young­er audi­ences, the White House has tried to keep pace with the me­di­ums that do hold the pub­lic’s at­ten­tion.

Obama’s ad­dress prom­ises to be non­tra­di­tion­al in an­oth­er way. Aides say that it won’t be a policy wish list, but rather an out­line of the pres­id­ent’s vis­ion for Amer­ica through the last year of his pres­id­ency and bey­ond.

The ad­min­is­tra­tion hopes that will last longer than the 10-second-max Snapchats. But after he leaves of­fice, it may just dis­ap­pear.

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