There’s been a lot of talk about Twitter’s troubles over the past year, what with the trolls, the declining users and the questions about a viable business model. Still, they have their fans….like a certain enthusiastic user who just moved in to the Oval Office. Along with his new job, Donald J. Trump can now use the verified @POTUS handle.
There was a hand-off plan in place even before the election. Former President Barack Obama’s tweets would be moved @POTUS44 and archived digitally, and the incoming Trump administration would take over all official social media accounts.
Sounds simple, right? It should have been. Then the scripts went wrong.
Users found themselves following the incoming @POTUS, @FLOTUS and @VP accounts, even if they had deliberately unfollowed them in the days before. Since it was social media, users immediately started sharing their unhappiness. Since it’s politics, the commentary got heated. Wired went so far as to call “a bug pregnant with political meaning.”
The official explanation is much less dramatic: that scripts still take time to run, even in our fast-paced world. Twitter cloned the @POTUS account before it moved
Barack Obama’s tweets to @POTUS44, and then it created a fresh, clean @POTUS handle using the cloned info for President Trump. A script then reconciled any follower changes that happened between the time when the clone was made the current moment, which takes time to execute.
So if the clone was made at 9 a.m. on Friday, but a user didn’t unfollow the account until 11 a.m., the script would have removed them again eventually. Users were looking while before it happened, though.
President Trump is still tweeting from his @RealDonaldTrump. The @POTUS handle is being managed by his Director of Social Media, @DanScavino, who mostly seems to be automatically posting tweeting things from Facebook. Barack Obama has moved back to his original @BarackObama handle, and Michelle Obama is now using @MichelleObama.
About the author:
Tara Saylor Litzenberger is a communications manager by day, grad student by night and curious all the time. She is also a web nerd and recovering copywriter. Tara focuses on the channels that enable communication and using metrics to improve communication effectiveness. She tweets about communication and combines as @AnokheeTara.