As President Biden completed his transition to the White House, several social media companies were completing their own transitions from highly regarded official accounts.
But the handover wasn’t as seamless as it was four years ago when President Barack Obama handed over the keys to much of his social empire to President Donald J. Trump.
In 2017, Mr. Obama shared official Twitter accounts with Mr. Trump, along with the millions of followers who had amassed the accounts. Since then, Mr. Trump’s digital team has used the accounts as megaphones for his administration’s agenda and has increased the number of followers: Before Mr. Biden’s inauguration, @POTUS had 33.3 million followers, @WhiteHouse 26 million, @FLOTUS 16.4 million and @ VP had 10.3 million. The @ POTUS account alone had almost tripled among followers under Mr. Trump.
But this year Twitter didn’t simply transfer followers on each account as it did before, as Mr Biden took control. Instead, accounts with much smaller followers, most of which were created last week, should be turned into official accounts.
Shortly after noon on Wednesday, @WhiteHouse shared its first tweet under the Biden administration with 1.6 million followers. “Work begins today,” it said. Shortly after 12:30 p.m., Mr Biden posted his first tweet from the @POTUS account. “There is no time to lose when it comes to managing the crises we are facing,” he wrote. “That’s why I’m going to the Oval Office today to get to work delivering bold action and immediate relief to American families.”
The transitions meant that the digital operation in Biden had to build mostly new followers from scratch, rather than having a head start on its predecessor like Trump did. Twitter said it would alert users to the new accounts.
“People on Twitter who have previously followed institutional Twitter accounts at the White House, or who are currently following relevant Biden or Harris Twitter accounts, will receive in-app notifications and other prompts informing them of and the option to do so about the archiving process enter Follow the Twitter accounts of the new administration, “said Twitter in a blog post.
On inauguration day, @PresElectBiden, an account that was posted only once and had fewer than a million followers, became @POTUS, taking as many followers as it had on Wednesday afternoon.
Vice President Kamala Harris should bring her 5.3 million followers from her own account, @SenKamalaHarris, to @VP.
The account for Mr. Biden’s transition, @ Transition46, had 1.6 million followers and became @WhiteHouse.
And @FLOTUSBiden, Jill Biden’s new account with around 530,000 followers, became @FLOTUS.
In 2017, Mr Trump wasted little time using the @POTUS account, sending his first tweet to the new administration just two hours after taking control on the day of inauguration. (He was using his personal account until this month when Twitter banned him.)
The tweets on each account are archived under different names. For example, the Trump administration’s tweets at @POTUS are transmitted to @ POTUS45.
Jan. 20, 2021, 12:58 p.m. ET
Mr Trump regularly used Twitter to make political announcements and fire some of the people who worked for him. It attracted millions of new supporters despite spreading misinformation about the voting process and election security.
The National Archives will maintain all of Mr. Trump’s social media activities, including deleted tweets from @POTUS and his personal account @realDonaldTrump. The personal report, which the President used as an unfiltered platform for political announcements, complaints, and fleeting thoughts, often with significant global implications, remains inaccessible after being suspended for provoking violence.
Mr Biden could still tweet on his personal account @JoeBiden, which has 24.3 million followers.
Rob Flaherty, who will be the director of digital strategy in the Biden administration, told Bloomberg News last week that Twitter’s failure to bypass the followers of the official accounts was unfair.
“They favor the first few days of President Trump’s administration over ours,” he said. “If we don’t end the day with the 12 million followers Donald Trump inherited from Barack Obama, they have given us less than Donald Trump, and that’s a failure.”
Over on Twitter, Mr. Flaherty called the account a “public good” and noted that its followers include “a lot of rando bots and trolls, but also lots of people who aren’t really into politics.”
The transition will be less complicated in other social networks as they would use the same processes as four years ago.
On Facebook, the followers of the White House account should be turned over to Mr Biden, said Kevin McAlister, a Facebook spokesman. The seven million followers on the Joe Biden account would be duplicated to the POTUS page, which has 6.5 million followers and has not been used since May 2018.
Trump’s White House account should be renamed so it can be archived, McAlister said.
The same procedures should take place on Instagram, where the White House account has 6.8 million followers. The Joe Biden account has 15.4 million followers on Instagram.
A YouTube spokeswoman said the 1.87 million subscribers to the White House channel would be turned over to the Biden administration.
Snapchat should transfer the “Whitehouse” account along with its 803,000 subscribers to President Biden at 12:01 p.m. Eastern on Wednesday, a Snap spokesman said.
That means users who signed up to follow news from the Trump administration would soon see news from Biden on these sites, something Mr Flaherty was looking forward to.
“It is valuable to be able to communicate with an audience that disagrees with us,” he told Bloomberg News.