On Wednesday, when President-elect Joseph R. Biden Jr. completes his transition to the White House, several social media companies will complete their own transitions from highly regarded official accounts.
But the handover won’t be as seamless as it was four years ago when President Barack Obama handed over the keys to much of his social empire to President Trump.
In 2017, President Obama, along with the millions of followers who had accumulated the accounts, gave official Twitter accounts to President Trump. Since then, President Trump’s digital team has used the accounts as megaphones for the administration’s agenda, increasing the number of followers: @POTUS has 33.3 million followers, @WhiteHouse has 26 million, @FLOTUS has 16.4 million and @VP has 10.3 million. The @ POTUS account alone has almost tripled among followers under Mr. Trump.
But this year, Twitter will not simply transfer followers on each account as it has done before as Mr Biden takes control. Instead, accounts with much smaller followers, most of which were created last week, are being converted to official accounts.
The transitions mean that the digital operation in Biden will have to build mostly new followers instead of having a head start on its predecessor like President Trump. 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.
@PresElectBiden, an account that was only posted once and has fewer than a million followers, becomes @POTUS and takes as many followers as it had on Wednesday afternoon.
Vice-President-elect Kamala Harris will bring her 5.3 million followers from her own account @SenKamalaHarris to @VP.
The tweets on each checking account are archived under different names. For example, the Trump administration’s tweets at @POTUS are transmitted to @ POTUS45.
Jan. 20, 2021, 6:41 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, followers of the White House account will be forwarded to Mr Biden, said Kevin McAlister, a Facebook spokesman. The seven million followers on the Joe Biden account are duplicated on the POTUS page which has 6.5 million followers and has not been used since May 2018.
The Trump White House account is being renamed so it can be archived, McAlister said.
The same procedures will 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 will transfer the “Whitehouse” account along with its 803,000 subscribers to President Biden at 12:01 p.m. Eastern on Wednesday, a Snap spokesperson said.
That means that on these websites, users who signed up to follow news from the Trump administration will soon see news from Biden, which 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.