Meet with millennials in new places online


U.S. President Barack Obama shakes hands at Sloopy's diner inside the student union of the Ohio State University in Columbus, Ohio in this August 21, 2012 file photograph. (KEVIN LAMARQUE/REUTERS)
January 20, 2013

This piece is part of a roundtable centered around innovation prescriptions for the new Congress and President Barack Obama’s second term. Read more about the roundtable here.

Much has been made of President Barack Obama’s social media savvy, but he did a poor job communicating with millennials, the generation in their twenties and thirties, during his first term. Despite the fact he was elected twice with overwhelming support from young voters, Obama has been unable to mobilize this generation to support his agenda. Obama set up a new program to help 5 million young Americans with their student loan payments, but as of Feb. 2012, only 630,000 people had enrolled. The biggest innovation which could help Obama is a new communication strategy that meets young people where we are: online.

While the President mastered platforms such as Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr, and Flickr during his campaigns, he now needs to harness social media to govern effectively. Getting millennials to participate requires treating social media as a mechanism for sparking honest conversation, not as a method to win followers.

We respond to authentic dialogue.

That means explaining during Google+ Hangouts what the administration is doing. It means soliciting feedback on Twitter, not just broadcasting photos and calls for support. It means hosting crowd-sourced competitions on Facebook. We acknowledge that there are too few platforms appropriate for this kind of outreach, which is why we created PolicyMic. And President Obama was spot-on to answer voter questions on Reddit in the 2012 election. But his strategy of engaging young voters has to consist of more than a one-time stunt. An innovative communications strategy will empower our generation to participate in the looming battles over entitlements, immigration, and education, instead of sitting on the sidelines.


Christopher Altchek (left) and Jake Horowitz (right) are the founders of PolicyMic, an online news platform geared towards millennials. (Duncan Wolfe)

Jake Horowitz and Christopher Altchek are the co-founders of PolicyMic, a news and media platform for millennials.

The Roundtable:

Shirley Ann Jackson | Invest in what is next

Ramez Naam | Fuel energy innovation with a carbon price tag

Peter Diamandis | Keep your eye on the prize

Read more news and ideas on Innovations and follow us on Twitter and Facebook.

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