Executive Summary: “Social media has become diplomacy’s significant other. It has gone from being an afterthought to being the very first thought of world leaders and governments across the globe, as audiences flock to their newsfeeds for the latest news. This recent worldwide embrace of online channels has brought with it a wave of openness and transparency that has never been experienced before. Social media provides a platform for unconditional communication, and has become a communicator’s most powerful tool. Twitter in particular, has even become a diplomatic ‘barometer, a tool used to analyze and forecast international relations.
There is a vast array of social networks for government communicators to choose from. While some governments and foreign ministries still ponder the pros and cons of any social media engagement, others have gone beyond Twitter, Facebook and Instagram to reach their target audiences, even embracing emerging platforms such as Snapchat, WhatsApp and Telegram where communications are under the radar and almost impossible to track.
Burson-Marsteller’s 2016 Twiplomacy study has been expanded to include other social media platforms such as Facebook, Instagram and YouTube, as well as more niche digital diplomacy platforms such as Snapchat, LinkedIn, Google+,Periscope and Vine.
There is a growing digital divide between governments that are active on social media with dedicated teams and those that see digital engagement as an afterthought and so devote few resources to it. There is still a small number of government leaders who refuse to embrace the new digital world and, for these few, their community managers struggle to bring their organizations into the digital century.
Over the past year, the most popular world leaders on social media have continued to increase their audiences, while new leaders have emerged in the Twittersphere. Argentina’s Mauricio Macri, Canada’s Justin Trudeau and U.S. President Barack Obama have all made a significant impact on Twitter and Facebook over the past year.
Obama’s social media communication has become even more personal through his @POTUS Twitter account and Facebook page, and the first “president of the social media age” will leave the White House in January 2017 with an incredible 137 million fans, followers and subscribers. Beyond merely Twitter and Facebook, world leaders such as the Argentinian President have also become active on new channels like Snapchat to reach a younger audience and potential future voters. Similarly, a number of governments, mainly in Latin America, have started to use Periscope, a cost-effective medium to live-stream their press conferences.
We have witnessed occasional public interactions between leaders, namely the friendly fighting talk between the Obamas, the Queen of England and Canada’s Justin Trudeau. Foreign ministries continue to expand their diplomatic and digital networks by following each other and creating coalitions on specific topics, in particular the fight against ISIS….
A number of world leaders, including the President of Colombia and Australia’s Julie Bishop, also use emojis to brighten up their tweets, creating what can be described as a new diplomatic sign language. The Foreign Ministry in Finland has even produced its own set of 49 emoticons depicting summer and winter in the Nordic country.
We asked a number of digital leaders of some of the best connected foreign ministries and governments to share their thoughts on their preferred social media channel and examples of their best campaigns on our blog. You will learn:
- How social media has become the main driving force for change in diplomatic communication for the European Union External Action Service
- How Digital Diplomacy is a team tester across the Spanish diplomatic network
- How Social media has transformed how the Foreign Ministry of Iceland operates in times of crisis
- How digital diplomacy can influence public opinion in the case of the Brazilian Foreign Ministry
- How the Foreign Ministry of Ukraine is active on eleven social media channels
- How @Canada paints a country portrait one tweet at a time
- How Quality trumps Quantity in Finland’s country branding communication
- How comments and feedback are key measures of success for the Foreign Ministry of Peru
- How the government of Montenegro uses Twitter to reach out to a local and international audience