Two posts I have written recently with Jeanette Gaida for the IPDGC Take Five Blog:
Social media is one of the fastest growing tools of modern public diplomacy. The advantage of social media provides the opportunity to reach citizens of other countries in near real-time. Social media platforms also provide spaces for interaction, increased engagement, and thus furthering the goals of public diplomacy. This research has been conducted by Jeanette Gaida as part of a capstone project for the Masters in Global Communication at George Washington University, working with Ali Fisher at InterMedia.
The potential ease with which social media can be accessed and the low cost in comparison to other methods make it an attractive tool for many embassies, as well as other government offices, that are facing budget cuts and demands to increase engagement. Numerous platforms allow for the use of more dynamic content, such as videos, photos, and links, than traditional methods of giving lectures or passing out pamphlets. In addition, social media are key channels in reaching youth populations, a major goal of current public diplomacy efforts.
However, public diplomacy is not only about reaching a youth audience. It is equally important to listen to and understanding young publics, their thoughts, aspirations, information seeking and sharing behaviors along with the actions they take as a result. With this insight, there is greater potential to engage and collaborate with key communities rather than broadcast to a target audience.
The first post in this series explained how many embassies based in Washington DC are using social media and which platforms embassies most frequently use.
After looking at embassy presence across all platforms, Facebook and Twitter proved to be the two most popular – over 50 embassies in Washington DC were identified as having Twitter accounts and 60 embassies had Facebook accounts.
Of the social media platforms identified in our earlier piece, Twitter makes data most easily available and with least restrictions through their API (Automated Programming Interface). As a result, we have focused on Twitter rather than Facebook for this post, although we acknowledge the total number of DC Embassies using Facebook is slightly greater than those using Twitter.
When social media and twitter specifically are discussed within the context of Public Diplomacy, one of the frequently cited metrics is the number of followers. While this is a frequently stated metric, when stated about a single Twitter account it is at very best a tactical question, rather than an indicator of a successful strategy – unless getting followers is the end goal of using a Twitter account for Public Diplomacy. One way this metric can be a little more useful is to put it in the context of others in the same field, or in this case other Embassies in DC. While this is still relatively limited in its utility, there is at least a comparative element.