Comments to Brian Fung on Why It’s Tough for Embassies to Get Social Media Right

Thank you Brian for a very interesting thought provoking contribution to the discussion.

How you come to the conclusion that “Even then, a diplomat’s public Twitter profile is more likely to be run by a public affairs officer than by the appointee herself.” ? This is perhaps true for some political leaders, but I do not think any of the diplomats I follow are not who they pretend to be, but of course for all I know… they might as well be a dog. (…

I would not recommend people to use social media analytic tools like Klout to “identify and engage “influentials” in a given network.” Analytic tools are still crude tool only as good as their algorithms and the data they take in. I would rather organically discover via #hashtags, RT’s and who others are following. Even if that does leave me vulnerable to being inside my own “Filter Bubble”.

We should not worry about being left behind, but we should worry about being forgotten. We need to engage. We need to go where people are. I believe that you are right, about much of what ends up being touted as “innovation” in digital diplomacy is actually just a digital twist on one or another page from the old-style diplomacy playbook.” But I see that as a challenge to do more not less.

I have used what you describe as one of the great advantages of digital diplomacy is that it enables open-source intelligence. But not only for representations, also useful at home. You can fit it around your needs and it is much faster than traditional media. It is bespoke from the outset.
Yes, one of digital diplomacy’s challenges is “how much information do political leaders need before responding to a crisis?” This is discussed by Philip Seib’s “Real-Time Diplomacy: Politics and Power in the Social Media Era” published earlier this year.  I like his expression of the cushion of time that used to protect diplomacy.

Success of social media are and probably will remain, when they happen “spontaneously and organically, without any precedent or prior protocols to follow.” This is the challenge for systems such as Foreign Ministries who are used to work according to protocols, by precedents and following prior approval. I see this as one if not the major challenge for diplomacy as we engage with social media and the digital world. There is a collision between the organised hierarchy and the networks. Yes it is messy, but that is the way the world is, and we need to be able to navigate it. As Philip Seib says in his post this all need much more studying than it has received so far.

(By the way, if you are looking for examples of digital diplomacy successes, I tried to outline dealing with the Danish Marmite “ban” story both in my post in the  Canada International Council‘s series Diplomacy and Twitter but also with a few more links here


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