Javier Castaño is an enterprising Spanish graphic designer who lost his job in 2011 during Spain’s economic crisis. He is now a shoeshine man having set up his workbench in front of the historic Café Central in Malaga’s old town. But Javier Castaño is not an ordinary shoeshine man. He has his own web site, a Facebook page and a Twitter account frequently sharing snapshots of his most famous shoes.
In early 2007, the former web designer registered several Twitter accounts of countries and cities including @Canada, @Japan, @Madrid, @Malaga, @RioDeJaneiro and @Roma. Since Twitter’s terms and conditions forbid the sale of Twitter handles he is desperately trying to give the accounts to their rightful owners. But this has proven more difficult than expected.
In 2011 Castaño gave @Madrid to the local authorities, in July 2012 he handed the @Malaga Twitter account to his mayor and in November 2012 he gave @Canada back to the Canadian government, which started to promote the country one tweet at a time in late 2014. But the handover of the @Japan account to the Japanese government was stalled due to Japan’s elections and the new government seems to have lost interest in the account.
— japan (@japan) November 21, 2012
— Rio de Janeiro (@riodejaneiro) July 28, 2012
However, his tweets have been left unanswered. Yet all that digital teams in Rome and Rio have to do is follow his personal Twitter account @Xabel to make direct Twitter contact and organize the handover of @RioDeJaneiro and @Roma. The city of Rio could make it’s official Twitter debut and the city of Rome could shorten their current@RomaCapitaleTW Twitter account by ten characters.
With the FIFA World Cup in 2014 and the Olympics in 2016 Rio de Janeiro will be much in the limelight over the next couple of years. The local authorities would be well advised to get their hands on their city’s Twitter handle. Rio de Janeiro and Rome could then join@Paris and @Madrid, the two other capital cities with their proper Twitter handles.
More on country branding and country promotion in our Twiplomacy study.
Since the publication of an article in the Italian newspaper La Stampa, based on our blog post the Mayor of Rome, @IgnazioMarino has accepted the gift from the Spaniard and the @Roma Twitter account is now Italian.
After the publication in early February 2015 in BBC World Portugese Xavier finally relinquished the @RioDeJaneiro account to the local authorities. Meanwhile in mid-February the @Roma account became the official Twitter account of the eternal city. After the publication of his story in the Washington Post and French news agency Agence France Presse, the Japanese government has finally made contact with the shoeshine man in Malaga.