If you follow Barack Obama on Twitter, you’re in good company. With 78.4 million devotees to his @BarackObama account, he’s the fourth most followed Twitter user in the world, with only pop stars Katy Perry, Justin Bieber and Taylor Swift boasting a higher number.
What’s more, he has a separate @POTUS (President of the United States) account followed by a further 11.1 million people, so his total of 89.5 million actually puts him ahead of Bieber into second place, although there are still a few million more interested in Perry’s ‘cherry chapstick’.
As of January 2017, however, it’s bad news for Obama as he’s set to move right back down the pecking order and lose the 11.1 million @POTUS followers he’s built up. Where will they be going? Well, we’ll know this time next week. The polls and bookmakers still suggest they’ll go to Hillary Clinton, but don’t rule out Donald Trump.
According to the White House, the @POTUS Twitter handle is as transient as the title of President and residence in the famous building itself. Once Obama’s term as President ends in January, the @POTUS handle will go with him and he’ll be back to plain old @BarackObama, with just the 78.4 million followers to console him.
Of course, with Obama having been main man in the U.S. since 2009, this is the first time the White House has really had to worry about any of this social media hoo-hah. At the end of 2008, just before Obama was inaugurated, there were a little over 4 million accounts set up on Twitter. Today, 317 million of us are actively using it every month.
As of the inauguration of the new incumbent in January, all tweets will be wiped from the @POTUS account, and a blank page will in effect have millions of followers right from the off. Once the new President starts tweeting from it, it will no doubt leave a lot of users confused as to why the remarks of Clinton or Trump are suddenly cropping up in their Twitter feeds.
Those who want to continue to follow the account under the guise of Obama, whether for posterity or research, should follow @POTUS44, which is where the tweets will be moved to. However, this will merely be an archive of Obama’s tweets as President and will not be updated, so 140-character updates on his post-Presidency life will be better found by following @BarackObama.
So, if you’re one of the 11.1 million @POTUS followers, you might want to either make your decision now or wait for the outcome of the November 8th vote before considering your position. I imagine on hearing this news, a fair few people around the world are making a certain ‘unfollow’ reminder the first entry in their 2017 diary as we speak.