The pundits define the use of Twitter for diplomatic communications as “twiplomacy”, clever, certainly and much better than “twerking.” Based on our past and current research, Twitter is the primary, international social media channel of choice and engagement by diplomats, senior government officials and all the other various groups that engage in eDiplomacy, including the dark side of terrorists and hackers. While using Twitter is key for these purposes, those engaging in digital diplomacy however, will have to start thinking beyond 140 characters and the odd blog off their foreign relations website. Getting local will count in the future.
Deeper Local & Cultural Engagement
While Facebook may be the world’s largest social network, there are many others. Hundreds in fact. And a large number are specific to a culture, region or country. For example, CaribShout which is one of the key social networks for those in the Caribbean. In Russia, Vkontakte is the preferred choice over Facebook. It is these more focused social networks that foreign governments will find better for deeper engagement and outreach.
The Value of Forums
One of the oldest forms of social media that grew out of the bulletin boards of the late 1970’s and early 1980’s are forums. They remain massively popular around the world for everything from hobbies to political discussions and beyond. For foreign diplomats this may get them deeper into the “trenches” than they might prefer, but in some cases it may be necessary, especially if they are trying to reach out to areas torn by conflict or a natural disaster when trying to reach ex-pats living in that country.
Macro or Micro Strategy
Embassies, consulates or missions will at times be faced with developing a micro engagement strategy; that is, developing a presence within these smaller social networks. Establishing a presence now can help them in times of crisis when outreach will be critical. Or if they just want to develop a deeper dialogue with citizens in another country. Our view is that they should be more aware of local social media preferences and at least have a presence, if not full engagement, which can be of value at certain times. Especially if they want to reach the non-elite members of society.
More Choices Are Coming
It doesn’t help of course, that new social media apps are coming. It’s hard to predict what they might be, but they will all have a mobile version and some may only be designed for mobile devices. Foreign services will need to keep an eye on these technologies as they develop.
What do you think? Is it even possible for foreign missions or ministries to be able to engage more deeply than just Twitter?