White House joins Instagram, posts Africa departure

WASHINGTON (AFP) - The White House added Instagram to its social media portfolio on Wednesday, as it posted a picture of a helicopter with President Barack Obama and his family taking off on a trip to Africa.

"The First Family takes off for a three-country trip across Africa #MarineOne #ObamaInAfrica Follow @WhiteHouse for more!," said the caption for the picture of the presidential helicopter leaving the White House.

Within hours, the account had more than 2,000 followers on the photo-sharing service, which is owned by Facebook. The first post generated a number of user comments. One person wrote, "It's about time posting your first pic," and another said "have nice trip and don't go to Egypt." But another user said, "SO HAPPY WE PAY TAX FOR OBAMA VACATION??"

Mr Obama headed to Africa on a long-awaited first major tour on Wednesday, with plans to visit Senegal, South Africa and Tanzania over the next week. He may also visit ailing 94-year-old Nelson Mandela in South Africa.

The White House already uses Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest and Tumblr, and Mr Obama himself uses a variety of social media.

During his two presidential campaigns, Mr Obama relied heavily on the Internet for organising, fundraising and communicating.

Last week, video-sharing was added to the Instagram photo-based social network, in a move challenging Twitter's popular Vine service.

Facebook completed its acquisition of Instagram in September. The original price was pegged at US$1 billion but the final value was less because of the decline in Facebook's share price.

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