Tweeter-in-chief Obama gets own account

President Barack Obama waves before delivering a speech at the Salvation Army, Ray & Joan Kroc Corps Community Centre on May 18, 2015, in Camden, New Jersey. -- PHOTO: AFP
President Barack Obama waves before delivering a speech at the Salvation Army, Ray & Joan Kroc Corps Community Centre on May 18, 2015, in Camden, New Jersey. -- PHOTO: AFP

WASHINGTON (AFP) - "Hello, Twitter! It's Barack. Really! Six years in, they're finally giving me my own account." With that inaugural Tweet sent from a smart phone in the Oval Office before jumping on Marine One on Monday, the President of the United States Barack Obama - or @POTUS - cast off security and bureaucratic chains in place since he was elected.

The account - which already had nearly 150,000 followers in the first half hour and a million followers shortly after - instantly became one of the world's top hacking targets, but will also allow Mr Obama to tweet directly for the first time.

Until now Mr Obama has tweeted through his executive staff @WhiteHouse or the remnants of his campaign staff @BarackObama.

"The @POTUS Twitter account will serve as a new way for President Obama to engage directly with the American people, with tweets coming exclusively from him," the White House said.

The already verified account features the customary headshot of Mr Obama, but also a background photo of him walking over the Edmund Pettus Bridge in Selma, Alabama, in March, when he marked the 50th anniversary of a civil rights march that changed America.

Mr Obama describes himself as "Dad, husband, and 44th President of the United States." He is following 65 assorted alma maters, sports teams, cabinet members and senior staff, as well as wife Michelle Obama.

"It's about time, @POTUS! -mo" she tweeted in response.

Mr Obama's arrival on Twitter was also greeted by Justin Bieber's mother, the Chicago Bears and former president Bill Clinton, husband of 2016 presidential hopeful Mrs Hillary Clinton.

"Welcome to @Twitter, @POTUS! One question: Does that username stay with the office? #askingforafriend," he tweeted.

Mr Obama responded: "Good question, @billclinton. The handle comes with the house. Know anyone interested in @FLOTUS?" - referring to the first lady of the United States account.

If Mrs Clinton were elected, Mr Bill Clinton would become the first American "First Gentleman." Since Mr Calvin Coolidge made the first presidential radio address in 1923, presidents have often tried to speak directly to voters.

Similarly Mr Obama has embraced social media to sidestep the media's filter, appearing on YouTube, posting selfies and hosting question-and-answer sessions on Reddit.