The Internet-savvy White House went directly to social media Tuesday night – a deft move analysts say that could change the way politicians convey their big news to Americans.
Breaking with years of tradition, the White House released a copy of the entire text of the State of the Union speech to the public before the speech actually began.
The text of the speech was posted on Medium.com, and in a brief introduction, the White House wrote that the public usually “remains in the dark” until the speech is actually given.
“For the first time, the White House is making the full text of the speech available to citizens around the country online,” he introduction read. “By making the text available to the public in advance, the White House is continuing efforts to reach a wide online audience and give people a range of ways to consume the speech.”
The resulting buzz led to some widely shared social media posts. Twitter, for example, said there were 2.6 million tweets about the speech and the Republican response.
Facebook told the USA Today newspaper that 5.7 million users engaged in 13.8 million interactions about the State of the Union.
Janet Johnson, a researcher at the University of Texas at Dallas who live tweeted the State of the Union last year, said the move to publish the speech was very clever.
“It was a way to magnify messages and create a buzz,” she said citing that the White House has been trying to get people more involved in the State of the Union as television ratings for the annual event continue to decline.
Johnson said social media has made a huge impact on how the speech is delivered and consumed.
“Now we have the president releasing the speech early and not just giving this to the press, but to the American people so they can discuss it,” she said “Instead of being a speech it becomes a conversation.”
Johnson said people interested in different topics addressed in the speech were able to home in on relevant passages and tweet them or post them on Facebook.
“People were talking about community college before the speech,” she said.
The hashtag #FreeCommunityCollege was trending nationally on Twitter.
“The White House is trying to pull us in and say ‘you should care’ no matter which side you’re on,” Johnson said.
The move to release the speech to the public proved an effective end around congressional Republicans.
“The White House didn't want to cede the first two weeks on the new Congress to Republicans, and so it dispensed with suspense and began rolling out policy proposals as if off an assembly line,” CBS chief White House correspondent Major Garrett, wrote on the networks web site. He called the event “the first pre-meditated Twitter State of the Union.”
The release of the speech also deprived journalists of their usual first peek at the speech.
Yet again, the White House goes around reporters...— Zeke Miller (@ZekeJMiller) January 21, 2015
Despite the pre-speech release, there were compelling moments the White House could not pre-plan, including television shots of some in the audience.
And it was an unscripted moment of the speech that garnered tremendous social media attention.
In the prepared speech, the line, “I have no more campaigns to run” became “I have no more campaigns to run. I know because I won both of them.”