Country Promotion 2016

Twiplomacy Countries cover picture take 2Wouldn’t it be great if your government owned the English name of your country on Twitter? You could proudly @mention your country or support your national team with a tweet. Today all English-language country names have been registered on Twitter; however, only 23 governments and state tourism boards have secured their English-language country name on Twitter, up from only nine, four years ago.

The vast majority of the 193 national country accounts are still owned by private individuals, who had the bright idea to register the country names in the early days of Twitter. Between 2006 and 2009, there was a Twitter land grab, similar to the .com domain frenzy in the 1990s, of brand and country accounts. Only 86 national accounts are actively used and all others are either dormant, inactive, protected or have been suspended by Twitter.

Most governments and tourist boards have set up official accounts to promote their country, but they were unable to register their country name. @ThisIsFinland is the highly successful country promotion of the Finnish government. However, the Finnish Ministry of Foreign Affairs was not able to recover the @Finland Twitter handle, which is a newsfeed set up by a Dutch internet company, tweeting Finnish name days and a daily collection with news from Finland. Likewise, Denmark’s gateway on Twitter is @Denmarkdotdk, while @Denmark was registered by an unknown user and is inactive.

Owning your country name on Twitter, Facebook or Instagram is more than just a nice vanity URL to have. By having the country Twitter handle, each government literally ‘owns’ every @mention of its country and is thus part of the digital discussions about its country on these platforms.

Twenty-three governments and state tourism boards have secured their country name in English on Twitter. They are @AntiguaBarbuda, @Argentina, @Australia, @Barbados, @Canada, @Colombia, @GreatBritain, @Ireland, @Israel, @Japan, @Kazakhstan, @Lithuania, the @Maldives, @Mexico, @Peru, @Poland, @Russia, @SaudiArabia, @SouthAfrica, @Spain, @Sweden, @Ukraine and @Uruguay. The Swiss Department of Foreign Affairs was able to secure the French @Suisse Twitter handle and the Polish government also owns the @Polska account.

Most of these governments use the country account for promotional purposes; others have given the handle to the national football team, and in @Sweden and @Ireland private citizens are taking turns to manage the account on a weekly basis in what has become known as ‘rotation-curation.’

Supporting your team


@Argentina is by far the most popular country account and for good reason: It is the official account of the Argentinian national football team and has more than 2.2 million followers. The account was activated on June 2, 2014 shortly before the FIFA Football World Cup in Brazil.


The @Uruguay Twitter handle is also the official account of the country’s national football team and the fourth most popular account with more than 310,000 followers, activated two days after @Argentina on  June 4, 2014.

For the record, the national football squads of @England and @NorthernIreland also use their country names, but neither are UN member states.

Government Communication


The @Canada account was activated on November 26, 2014 and stands out for its fun, quirky, and sometimes tongue-in-cheek tweets. @Canada is managed by the Foreign Ministry in Ottawa and tweets in English, but because of Ottawa’s language laws, there’s also a French version called @AuCanada. The Twitter accounts aim to be “Canada’s voice to the world,” tweeting about the county’s beauty and lifestyle but also fun facts, with the occasional Canada quiz. The accounts also post the occasional political tweet, when Prime Minister Trudeau is on official state visits or to grieve for the victims of the #Orlando massacre.


@Israel is the State of Israel’s official Twitter channel, maintained by the Foreign Ministry’s Digital Diplomacy Team. The account was registered on July 1, 2009 and is the third most followed country account, with more than 325,000 followers and tweets mainly about #startups, the Israeli #tech industry and #innovation, among its most used hashtags. The @Israel account serves as the focal point for Israel’s governmental Twitter activity and maintains updated lists of its missions, officials and government offices on Twitter. The account doesn’t shun political messages and occasionally amplifies selected tweets from the Israeli Prime Minister and other official Israeli accounts and shares weekly #ShabbatShalom greetings with its followers.


The @Russia account is “Powered by the Foreign Ministry of Russia, inspired by Russian people” as indicated in its Twitter bio. The account tweets about #Russia and all things #Russian, its two most used hashtags. The account also posts about #RussianCuisine, celebrates Russian sporting achievements and also includes the occasional subtle political message such as a tweet about the construction of a new bridge between Russia and Crimea which is “going up at lightning speed”. @Russia is following 13 other country accounts including @Poland and @Ukraine, which haven’t reciprocated yet.


The @Ukraine account was activated on June 2, 2016 and has established mutual connections with five other countries, namely @Canada, @GreatBritain, @Israel, @Lithuania and @Poland. But the account is not following @Russia and has posted the occasional political message. When the Russian embassy in the UK tweeted a picture of Crimea, Russia, @Ukraine shot back suggesting the diplomats in London check a world map in a local bookstore including the hashtag #CrimeaIsUkraine.


The Japanese government was able to secure its @Japan Twitter handle in March 2015 from Javier Castaño, an enterprising Spanish graphic designer and shoeshine man in Malaga who had registered several country and city accounts in 2007 to transfer them to their rightful owners. The @Japan account has 63,000 followers and competes with the official @JapanGov account with has twice as many followers. Both accounts tweet governmental news in English but @Japan doesn’t have a cover picture yet.


The @Poland Twitter account tweets about the activities of the Polish leadership, from state visits of President Andrzej Duda to the activities of Foreign Minister Witold Waszczykowski. Ninety percent of the @Poland tweets are retweets from other official Polish Twitter channels. The government has also secured its Polish country name, @Polska, which has 20 times as many followers and tweets similar country news, also celebrating its sporting events.


The @Lithuania account was originally set up on August 4, 2008 by the government, but someone lost the password to the account which had 17,000 followers. A new account was set up on February 24, 2015 and it is now managed by the Ministry of Culture. The account chronicles the activities of Lithuania’s Minister of Culture Šarūnas Birutis and celebrates sporting results and cultural highlights of the Baltic country.


The Foreign Ministry of Kazakhstan was able to activate its national Twitter @Kazakhstan handle in July 2016 promising “to bring you the best of Kazakhstan with colourful photos, videos and interesting bits of information on nature, tourism, business, etc.”

Citizen Diplomacy


Sweden was the first country in the world to give the management of its official Twitter account to its citizens. On December 10, 2011, the Swedish Institute and Visit Sweden, the government tourism agency, launched the Curators of Sweden project with the idea that: “Every week, someone in Sweden is @Sweden: sole ruler of the world’s most democratic Twitter account. For seven days, he or she recommends things to do and places to see, sharing diverse opinions, and ideas along the way. Tweet by tweet, the image of Sweden is built: dynamic, innovative and deeply human. No censorship, no limits.” In June 2012, the experience made international headlines when curator Sonja Abrahamsson sent a flurry of controversial and politically insensitive tweets offending more than one follower.

The curators of Sweden have sent almost 150,000 tweets and are extremely conversational, engaging in direct dialogue with their 95,000 followers. One of its most popular tweets, retweeted 222 times was the injunction to share a picture of a moose “for no reason.”

Despite its mishaps, the initiative is one of the best examples of ‘citizen diplomacy,’ giving a global voice to ordinary citizens, and it has allowed thousands of other tweeps to learn about everyday life in Sweden from the citizens themselves. In April 2016, the Swedish Tourism office went a step further and launched a single phone number connecting callers with random Swedes. During the two-months long campaign, 185,000 calls were made, a third of which came from the USA.


The Swedish experience has inspired numerous Twitter users around the world. The owners of @Ireland have been successful at copying what has become known as rotation-curation, outsourcing the official tweeting to a different citizen or resident each week. @Ireland is a private initiative, managed by IrishCentral, the largest Irish site in North America, dedicated to telling stories about Irish culture, roots and history. The Irish voices tweeting on @Ireland are not confined to the island but come from the global Irish diaspora and have garnered close to 40,000 followers. @Ireland‘s most popular tweet was a picture of “Ireland and Britain from the International Space Station :)” sent on 20 August 2012.

In numerous countries ‘voluntwitter’ groups have formed to promote their country through ordinary tweets. In Australia, France, Germany, The Netherlands and Malaysia citizens are sharing their normal daily lives in 140 character bursts. Attempts to rally Chinese, Danes, Fijians, Russians and Syrians have been less successful. As @We_R_Russia put it: “Unfortunately it’s not so easy to find somebody who speaks English and wants to share his thoughts w the World.”

Tourism Promotion

How do you market a country on Twitter? The obvious choice is to secure your country’s name on Twitter. The accounts of @AntiguaBarbuda, @Barbados, and the @Maldives, although not verified, are all managed by their official tourism authorities promoting their islands’ beauty to a global audience in the Twitterverse. Accounts that engage in tourism promotion generally refrain from any political messages and do not follow other countries.


The @Australia Twitter account is the second-most followed national account with more than 350,000 followers, owned by Australia Tourism which also owns the @Australia Instagram account, the YouTube vanity URL and the Google+ page +Australia on top of the domain. The Twitter account mainly shares stunning pictures of Australian landscapes and its wildlife, including koalas and kangaroos. The pictures are often user contributions from Australia’s Instagram account which has 2.3 million followers.


The Spanish tourism board was able to register the @Spain country name on Twitter, Instagram and YouTube and ranks seventh in the Twitter country rankings. The @Spain Twitter account tweets in English and Spanish to promote travel and tourism and includes the hashtag #VisitSpain in most of its tweets. Every tweet contains a top-quality picture of a major tourist site and the account also posts occasional food pictures with the hashtag #GastroSpain. The account also engages with its 220,000 followers asking them to share their selfies using the hashtag #MyTripInSpain.


Tweets about economic achievements dominate @Mexico‘s Twitter account, which is among the Top 10 most followed national accounts with 160,000 followers. The country also secured its name on Facebook, Google+ and YouTube. The stated mission of the Twitter account is to show “how Mexico is transforming itself” and tweets about export figures, culinary and cultural achievements worldwide, besides the occasional tweets about the country’s natural beauty.


The @Colombia Twitter account aims to “share ‘the best of Colombia’ for the world to fall in love with our country” according to its Twitter bio. The account tweets in English and Spanish, sharing pictures of its tourist attractions and its natural beauty and also celebrating its sporting achievements, namely in football and cycling. The Ministry of Tourism, which owns the account, also owns the Instagram account @Colombia and the website, essential for its country branding strategy.


The @GreatBritain Twitter account is part of the Great Britain marketing campaign, launched in March 2012 to promote the UK as a world-class destination for business, investment and tourism. The account tweets about everything that is great about Britain including the hashtags #FilmIsGreat, #FoodIsGreat, #ScienceIsGreat and #FashionIsGreat. The @GreatBritain account, which has 245,000 followers, is just one small part of the overall campaign which also has a Facebook page with more than 3.1 million fans. While the account also celebrates UK cultural icons and sports stars, it has stayed clear of any political tweets about #Brexit.


The @SouthAfrica account is managed by the South African Tourism board for North America, which also owns the @GoToSouthAfrica account, both of which have more than 100,000 followers. The account promotes tourism in South Africa and generally retweets tweets about South Africa from other Twitter users.


Peru’s Twitter account is managed by PromPerú, which also secured the country’s Instagram handle. The account encourages users to use the hashtag #Peru and promotes everything #MadeInPeru, often sharing pictures of its stunning landscapes.


The Swiss government uses @HofSwitzerland for its country promotion and was able to recover the French country name on Twitter in June 2016. @Suisse tweets in French, translating tweets from its House of Switzerland handle. The account is particularly active during sporting events cheering on Swiss athletes.


The government in Riyadh was able to register the @SaudiArabia Twitter account in the beginning of 2016 but so far the account has been dormant.


The @Nigeria account, which had previously been suspended, was re-activated in June 2016 as the official Twitter account of Nigeria, promising “Sights, Sounds and Sensations”, however nothing has been posted.


The @Tunisia Twitter handle is reserved for the government in Tunis according to its Twitter bio, but so far the account is inactive and without a profile or cover photo.

Other National Twitter Accounts

Half of the 193 country accounts analysed are active and a handful of national account managers are personally promoting their country by engaging with others. They include  @Bangladesh, @Bulgaria and @Portugal.

A number of accounts are active through automated newsfeeds. @Indonesia has been tweeting news about the country gathered from the main international news agencies since March 19, 2007 and is among the most popular country accounts with 280,000 followers. @CostaRica has the second-most popular newsfeed, distributing a daily “Costa Rica Paper” including tweets from Costa Rican Twitter users to more than 100,000 followers. @Mali, @France, @Iran, @Jamaica, and @Turkey have very popular newsfeeds about their respective countries. The manager of the @Switzerland newsfeed account must be a Barcelona fan since that is the only account he or she is following.

Some country names are also first names in English so it is not surprising that Chad Bullock from New York registered the @Chad account and Tampa-based photographer Leslie Montenegro will probably not want to relinquish the @Montenegro handle to the government in Podgorica.

Interestingly the @India account is owned by an Indian person living in Guangzhou, China. The account owner shares pictures from his daily life and has made it clear that his Twitter handle is not for sale.

Forty-nine accounts are dormant and haven’t tweeted in 2016, while 25 accounts are inactive and have never sent a tweet. Nine accounts are protected such as the @Egypt account, which was registered by an anonymous woman in the Bay Area in California, who explicitly states in capital letters in her bio that that she is “NOT EGYPT THE COUNTRY.”

Twitter will not transfer active accounts to their respective governments; however, the company will release Twitter handles if the account has been dormant, i.e., if the account holder has not logged into the Twitter account for more than 90 days.

Continental Twitter Accounts

Looking at continent accounts, it is worth noting that the owners of @Africa, @Asia, and @SouthAmerica are promoting these continents, while @NorthAmerica has been suspended.

The @Europe account registered by Euro Perozzi a consultant who lives in Verbania, Italy, is protected and neither the European Union nor the Council of Europe have been able to contact the account owner.

The @America account is a parody account calling on its followers to “Ask not what your country can do for you. Ask, what did I eat today…” The @Americas account is owned by Brett Riesenhuber, self-proclaimed ‘America’s Top Weight Loss Professional,’, located in San Jose, California offering personal training weight loss programs. Finally the @Antarctica account has been transferred to the Brazilian brewer Ambev, a subsidiary of Anheuser-Busch InBev.

Suspended Country Accounts

Over the years, the accounts of 24 countries have been suspended by Twitter for various infringements of its terms of service. Twitter will hand these confiscated accounts to the official government representatives if they make an official request. The governments of the following countries would be well advised to contact Twitter for their national accounts: @Afghanistan, @Bolivia, @Brunei, @Cuba, @DominicanRep, @ElSalvador, @Ethiopia, @Guinea, @Iraq, @MarshallIslands, @Monaco, @Netherlands, @Nicaragua, @Niger, @Palau, @Panama, @Paraguay, @Rwanda, @SaintKittsNevis, @SaoTomePrincipe, @SierraLeone, @SolomonIslands, @Venezuela, and @Vietnam.

How to Claim Your Country Account

Twitter accounts are literally priceless as Twitter’s terms and conditions prohibit users from selling any Twitter account. It can be frustrating to see individuals ‘Twitter squatting’ a country’s name and using it for private communications. While it is fairly simple to transfer an account to another user, it is often difficult to identify the current account holder, especially those who withhold their identity on the Twitter profile and who do not react to public @mentions.

The Canadian and Japanese governments were able to recover their respective country handles which had been registered by a Spanish shoeshine man.

The government of Madagascar could consider contacting DreamWorks Animation, owners of the @Madagascar Twitter account set up on July 27, 2009, for the eponymous Madagascar movie and which is inactive.

The government of Tunisia could easily get its national Twitter handle by simply following the @Tunisia account, which the owner has “reserved for the Tunisian government” according to the Twitter bio.

Twitter clearly states in its ‘Username Squatting Policy“that we will not release inactive or squatted usernames except in cases of trademark infringement.” Twitter is retroceding suspended, dormant and inactive accounts if the account holder hasn’t logged into the account for more than 90 days.

Vanity URLs on YouTube

On YouTube, 20 channels, namely Australia, Austria, Argentina, Belgium, Croatia, Egypt, Estonia, Greece, Hungary, Malta, Mexico, Montenegro, Poland, Serbia, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden, and Thailand are officially owned by the local tourism office or in the case of Israel and the Vatican by the state.

However, only nine of these channels are officially verified. Of the 193 YouTube country channels, 103 are closed or unavailable, 26 channels have been dormant for the past six months and 43 have been inactive, including the Chad channel, property of YouTube founder Chad Hurley.

@GreatBritain YouTubeThe Cuba and GreatBritain channels have been terminated due to repeated violations of YouTube’s community guidelines and/or claims of copyright infringement. The governments in Havana and London would be well advised to contact YouTube to take ownership of these channels.

Vanity URLs on Facebook

Facebook seems to have been most effective at limiting the uncontrolled registration of country names. There are 45 pages and 25 personal profiles with vanity URLs including country names.

Not surprisingly, the vanity URL for Chad is owned by Chad Little and Georgia is owned by Georgia Hodge. The Turkey Facebook page is in the hands of ‘Pat’s Truly Turkish Travel Tips and Treasures’ based in Victoria, BC, Canada who also caters for Turkish themed dinner parties and has over 1,500 likes. All other 123 pages with country names are not available.

The Facebook page of Tourism @Ireland is by far the biggest page with more than 1.2 million likes, followed by Tourism @Fiji with 560,000 likes and @Denmark with 300,000 likes. @Mexico, @AntiguaBarbuda and @Tonga complete the list of the six country pages officially owned by their national tourist boards. Only two of these state tourism organisations, namely Denmark and Mexico, were verified by Facebook.

Vanity URLs on Instagram

The tourism organisations of only four countries have been able to recapture their country names on Instagram. Australia is the most popular country account, and the only one verified, with 2.3 million followers. Spain (129,000 followers), Peru (110,000 followers) and Colombia with 26,000 followers complete the list of official national Instagram accounts.

All other 189 country names have been registered by private individuals and 11 pages are unavailable and have been deactivated including the United States, Indonesia and NewZealand.

About this Study

Twiplomacy is an award-winning global study of world leaders on social media, conducted by leading global strategic communications and public relations firm Burson-Marsteller.

Burson-Marsteller identified the country names of the 193 UN member states on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram and YouTube. Data was collected on July 19, 2016 using Burson-Marsteller’s proprietary Burson Tools.

Matthias Lüfkens
Geneva, July 27 , 2016

How digital diplomacy can influence public opinion

We have asked several foreign ministries to answer some questions about their #DigitalDiplomacy. Here’s a guest post from the Foreign Ministry of Brazil.

Itamaraty_ENWhich is/are your preferred social media channel(s) and why?

In recent years, Brazil´s Ministry of Foreign Affairs has been diversifying its online presence both through the launching of new profiles on social media platforms and through the establishment of channels in different languages. Our team in Brazil is hard at work to maintain accounts on Twitter in Portuguese, English and Spanish – the latter two were launched only a couple of years ago – and those Twitter channels are the current focus of our digital diplomacy efforts.

Working with a small team in Brasilia that also hold other responsibilities (and supported by other members of the Ministry´s Press Office), we reasoned that our resources would be better spent on Twitter due to its main focus on delivering simple and strong messages to a wide audience, especially considering the possibilities to interact with other leaders, governments and institutions to expand our public.

The Ministry of Foreign Affairs is also very active on YouTube, Flickr, Instagram, SoundCloud and our blog, and we are currently exploring other tools like Storify. But if Twitter is the focus of our attention when it comes to the profiles managed by our team in Brasilia, Facebook is the clear winner when it comes to enhancing the digital activities of our Embassies and Consulates abroad. Besides managing the main online profiles of the Ministry, our team is also responsible for coordinating a wide range of initiatives spanning the online presence of Brazil´s 226 missions abroad. Although the essence and scope of the digital activity carried out by each embassy, consulate and permanent delegation differs a lot from one another – mostly due to resources available and to the nature of its work – over 120 Brazilian missions maintain a Facebook page. For many of them, Facebook has become one of the main tools used to connect with local audiences and Brazilian communities abroad.

Please share an example of your best campaign/engagement on social media.

Brazil has recently taken the center stage by hosting the World Cup in 2014 and the upcoming Olympic Games in 2016. Between those two global events, the country also had to take robust action on several fronts in order to reduce the infestation rate of the Aedes aegypti mosquito, the main vector of the Zika virus. Transparency was key: Brazil promptly notified the relevant international bodies with updates on Zika virus transmission and was always fair and open in regards to our public health concerns. This stance allowed the Ministry of Foreign Affairs to act swiftly on social media worldwide so as to inform and dispel myths and misconceptions related to the problem. This was an interesting opportunity, and 2016 is a moment when our missions became more active on social media and we believe our digital diplomacy has delivered a lot of important messages.

There is also a larger story behind those initiatives: the launch, in 2015, of our “Best Practices for Social Media Handbook”, a document that for the first time established social media guidelines and minimum standards for this vast network of Brazilian missions abroad. This implemented a set of directives that allowed us to build more organized campaigns when opportunities or crises came up.

How do you measure success on social media?

When the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Brazil first launched its social media profiles back in 2009, the main goal was to make the country´s ordinary citizen more aware of the activities carried out inside the Itamaraty Palace. As residents of a country that has 10 neighbors but has not fought a war with any of them in almost 150 years, many Brazilians are not used to seeing world affairs as particularly vital to their interests. International politics and the work of embassies, consulates and permanent delegations are often deemed unreachable or obscure. The solution was to make public the day-to-day work that went on inside the Ministry´s offices, and during much time the success of the social media team could be measured by the increasing number of Brazilians that got interested in foreign affairs. Although this work remains very important to us, we now focus on how our digital diplomacy efforts can influence public opinion in other countries and the public attitudes towards Brazil.

Joseph Nye once said that “Brazil naturally exercises soft power” and that “if you look at Brazilian culture and its impact, you see that the country’s image is originally positive […] the fact is that there is a perception that Brazil coped well with important issues to other countries, such as racial issues. That is, the country upholds values like tolerance. And that’s important”. We agree with Professor Nye on this and believe that spreading knowledge on Brazilian values and worldview is the key to success in connecting with a global audience.

We don’t think we can rely on simple metrics when it comes to social media. Rather than crunching numbers, we try to look more into how well our messages are being received and how fluent is our interaction with our followers – whether through comments, private messages, questions or requests.

Brazil has made a lot of progress on the use of technology in public communication, but it would be wrong to imagine that we have solved the problem of how to best use and measure our success with these tools. There is still much to do and learn. We are currently encouraging our embassies, consulates and permanent delegations to innovate and search for their own ways to serve their public, but also trying to ensure that our core messages are present in every initiative.

By the Digital Media Team at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Brazil (@Itamaraty_EN)

Social media has transformed how we operate in times of crisis

We have asked several foreign ministries to answer some questions about their #DigitalDiplomacy. Here’s a guest post from the Foreign Ministry of Iceland.

MFAIceland Twitter


The year is 2013, it’s early spring and we at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs are about to welcome Carl Bildt to Iceland. Our Foreign Minister has bought him a traditional Icelandic wool sweater and a lot of thought has gone into finding the right fit, the right colours and the right pattern. We take our wool sweaters very seriously.

But we had not given his virtual welcome as much of a thought, even though he was a diplomatic Twitter celebrity, as he was one of the first ones to truly embrace the medium when it came to dialogue between international actors. We had not stepped into the Twitterworld, keeping ourselves busy instead with keeping afloat on Iceland’s preferred social medium, Facebook. But when Bildt tweeted from the plane, saying he was looking forward to his visit to Iceland, we thought; this is the best chance we get to take off on Twitter with a bang. So off we went, without really asking anyone for permission. We were airborne! With considerable more effort put into preparing the sweater than into our invasion into Twittersphere, but hey, you only really learn by doing!

Fast forward to 2016. By now we believe we are doing a pretty good job at tweeting. Being a small state, with only about 330,000 inhabitants, we are never going to be contenders in the most followed category or the ones with the most engagement in the Twiplomacy study. That’s ok though, we’ve come to terms with our size. But that doesn’t mean that we are not playing. We just have to be creative and work with what we have. For the last few studies we have scored high when it comes to mutual connections and been in the top ten of the best-connected world leaders.

94% of our audience on Twitter is based outside Iceland and therefore our tweets are mostly in English. Twitter is therefore our preferred social media platform when we need to get our message across borders.

The ability to connect with other Ministries, Ministers and international organisations directly (and openly) is something that we, again being small and tiny and all that, welcome greatly and will continue to use in all our communication and information related work.

And it’s pretty fun, right.

The Ministry of Foreign Affairs opened its Facebook page back in 2010 and the reason behind that still rings true today, we need to be present where the conversation is taking place. Iceland has one of the highest ratings worldwide when in comes to percentage of the population that is on Facebook. According to Gallup Iceland, the number was a whopping 89% for those 18 years and older. So, if we want to speak to our home audience, we know where to find them.

Facebook is the spine of our social media outreach in Iceland and we currently have two MFA pages, one in Icelandic and the other in English, and in addition all but one of our diplomatic missions now use Facebook as a means to connect with people, home and away. It has also proven the perfect medium to reach our diaspora and those travelling, both with routine information regarding consular services and especially in times of crisis.

Here at the mothership we welcome the opportunity to show a side to us that is different from the view people get from the traditional media, or, if I’m being honest, to finally show A side. We who live and breathe in the world of diplomacy know how clandestine our operations have been in the past. We are more than press releases, bilateral agreements and trade discussions, important as they might be. We can now, thanks to social media, show the more personal angle of what we do, the behind the curtains view and small things that we, like any other workplace, enjoy. It gives the institution a human touch, and in our experience, that agrees with our audience.

Social media has transformed how we operate in times of crisis. It is by far the most valuable tool when it comes to both locating and communicating with our citizens who find themselves in a crisis abroad, and with their loved ones at home.

Recent terrorist attacks in Brussels are a good example. A lot of Icelanders work in the European Quarter where the second bomb exploded. What usually happens in situations like that is that the mobile system crashes and it is impossible for people to reach their friends and family to let them know that they are either safe or in need of help. Before social media, we would set up call centres here in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs for people that can’t reach their loved ones. We register each person that is unaccounted for and then we try to locate him or her. Now, we are looking at a very different landscape. 3G and Wi-Fi are usually working so people can let others know on social media that they are ok. And while a phone call is only between two persons, a Facebook post is there for all your friends to see.

Facebook Safety Check is a great addition and has proven very helpful in our emergency situations. But does that mean that we become irrelevant? Not at all. We still have a huge information role to play, and again, social media is your friend. Through our social media channels and those of the Minister and our Embassy in Brussels we were able to communicate to a larger audience in real time regarding emergency responses, safety measures and transportation. We saw higher numbers in engagement and reach than usually and our Embassy gained a considerable amount of followers. So people were actually coming directly to us regarding official information on what was happening in Brussels and what to do. And we were relieved that we were present, to both talk and to listen.

We are happy that we took the leap a few years back into social media world. It has given us a chance to listen, to step in a discussion, to answer and explain, everything from how to leave a country during civil unrest, to explaining why we are maintaining a diplomatic service in the first place (have you guys never heard of Skype?)

And for Carl Bildt? He’s still following us. Are you?

By Þurý Björk Björgvinsdóttir (@thurybjork), Specialist, Department for Information, Ministry for Foreign Affairs of Iceland (@MFAIceland)

Reaching the world through 11 social media platforms

We have asked several foreign ministries to answer some questions about their #DigitalDiplomacy. Here’s a guest post from the Foreign Ministry of Ukraine.

MFA_Ukraine Twitter AccountWhich is/are your preferred social media channel(s) and why?

As you may know, the Revolution of Dignity in Ukraine (2013-2014) began with a post on Facebook, so there is no doubt that social media is one of our most important communication tools. Currently the Ministry of Foreign affairs of Ukraine is active on 11 social media platforms. Twitter and Facebook accounts were set up in 2010, YouTube in 2012. Since the beginning of the mandate of Minister Pavlo Klimkin in 2014 our digital diplomacy has been consistently enhanced and developed. The Minister personally is highly engaged on social media and considers it as an important way of communication. He held the first ever in Ukrainian civil service Twitter-Interview, Reddit Q&A session and even meeting with his Twitter followers.

Since 2014 we have created Instagram (2014), Vkontakte (2014), Storify (2014), Google+ (2015), Vine (2015) accounts and our 3 blogs Medium, WordPress, Blogger (2015). Ukrainian diplomatic missions expanded their online activity and now nearly 90 embassies and consulates are present on Facebook and Twitter.

We love Twitter for its speed and information content. Recently we have had nearly 2,000 new followers per month with currently a total of more than 63,000, so it is definitely our most dynamic channel. On Twitter news is updated every second so we have to work 24/7 to give timely travel advice, consular help, spread political messages or inform about situation in Ukraine.

Minister Klimkin delivers the most important messages and shares his views on his own account @PavloKlimkin (176,000 followers). We also have a list of official speakers who are entitled to give comments on behalf of the Ministry. They altogether have more than 20,000 readers.

We like Facebook for a unique chance to engage with our followers: we receive the majority of questions and comments on social media via Facebook. Recently our Directorate General for Consular Service has launched its own Facebook page to provide our citizens with travel advice, consular assistance and answer questions in real time. In emergency situations we always update travel recommendations for Ukrainian citizens and publish emergency contacts of Ukrainian Embassies and MFA’s hotline.

Our key goal on social media is not only to inform about important recent developments in Ukraine, but also to interact with our readers and engage the audience. That is why we have launched a number of Facebook-oriented social media campaigns to bring the Ministry closer to people.

We take advantage of different channels to reach our target audience. That is why in 2014 we set up our account on the Russian social media network VKontakte. So in 2014 we decided to make an experiment and try to reach a Russian audience and our page has more than 33,600 followers. So here is one of the most important social media tips from the MFA of Ukraine: be inventive, don’t be afraid to try something new.

Please share an example of your best campaign/engagement on social media.

To succeed on social media – be creative, carry out insightful campaigns

Over the past two years we have launched many different campaigns. But there are some special ones:

  1. International online campaign #MyUkraineIs aimed at promoting Ukraine abroad

We asked our followers on social media to share their views and to tell what Ukraine means to them.

The website allows users to add content by themselves. Anyone may share information about Ukraine and outstanding Ukrainians online using the “Add your story” button. The best suggestions are considered by experts and if approved, added to the website to tell the world about Ukraine in an exciting way.

  1. As the Ministry of Foreign Affairs we have a double task: to reach both the foreign and domestic audiences. To increase engagement with the latter we started #‎BeEuropean campaign aiming to tell Ukrainians more about life, work and rest in European countries.

We invited our friends and colleagues to join this project and to ‎share stories on what surprised and impressed them the most in European countries or write about their volunteer experience, healthy lifestyle or anything else that may be a good example of #BeEuropean.

We want to change our country for the better, but changes in a state cannot occur immediately and without changes in the people’s consciousness. So as a first step, we try to change ourselves and to inspire people around us to make good small changes in daily life.

  1. One of our brightest campaigns is #SelfieWithFlag. We decided to hold it to celebrate the Day of National Flag of Ukraine (August 23). So we just published a post with the motto “Gonna travel abroad? Take Ukrainian flag!” and invited all Ukrainians and friends of Ukraine abroad to take a selfie with the Ukrainian flag near a famous tourist attraction abroad, add the hashtag #SelfieWithFlag and publish the photo on social media. We received more nearly 200 wonderful photos from all over the world and were impressed how people over the globe are ready to engage in social media campaigns.

How do you measure success on social media?

Analyze, monitor and implement

The first thing is the built-in analytics on social media accounts. And we believe it is really a good tool to understand how your audience got interested with your project, what was perceived well and what was left unnoticed. The second tool which we use during some campaigns is monitoring of media coverage. For instance, to measure the success of our #MyUkraineIs online campaign we monitor the number of publications in media as well as dynamics of visits to the website of the project and statistics of new facts about Ukraine generated by users. The third tool to measure success is to monitor how words are translated into deeds in real life:

Our two major online campaigns in support of Ukrainian citizens who are illegally detained by the Russian Federation – #LetMyPeopleGo and #FreeSavchenko – are run in cooperation with NGOs, activists, volunteers and Ukrainians abroad.

What is extremely important is that these campaigns do not stay within the scope of online platforms, they turn into real deeds and actions. It is easy to make people like a post or retweet, but it is much more difficult to make them translate their words or emotions from social media into real life. That is why when we see thousands of people around the globe going out on the streets and urging Russia to free Ukrainian political prisoners, we can estimate the real results of these social media campaigns.

More Social Media Tips from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Ukraine

By Oleksii Makeiev (@Makeiev) , Political Director, Ministry of Foreign Affaires of Ukraine (@MFA_Ukraine)

Prepare to be surprised

We have asked several foreign ministries to answer some questions about their #DigitalDiplomacy. Here’s a guest post from the Foreign Ministry of Israel.

Which is/are your preferred social media channel(s) and why?

Choosing the online platforms on which we are active is based on a few variables: Firstly – Relevance to the Ministry’s target audiences – where those people are most active is where we find it most important to be present. Secondly, as resources and personnel are not unlimited, prioritization of online presence is required.

Facebook is the major platform of activity, being the most popular social network in most countries around the world. In this past year we’ve increased dramatically our use of this platform to distribute our videos, as Facebook seems to continuously provide increased exposure to video content.

A notable example of Facebook’s advantage video-wise is quite a recent one – Our video in celebration of Israel’s 68th independence day reached over 2.5 Million views in the various language versions in which it was produced, the main one, in English got over 1.3 million views within 2 weeks’ time, without any promotion being made

Isarel 60 Facts
Twitter is our fastest growing platform, and the one to which we allocate more and more attention in the last couple of years. Its’ openness and the easy access it allows to influencers in different fields and sectors – mark an opportunity we cannot miss. As a result of this increased focus, our network of Twitter channels (missions + diplomats) has grown from 130 last year to over 180 active tweeters this year, as we use different methods of intensive training and intra-organizational advocacy of its potential for the work of Israeli Embassies, Consulates and Diplomats.

The total number of followers of these accounts has grown by 50% in the last year. While most of the accounts in the network have several thousands of followers, quite a few of them already have a followership of over 50 thousand.

Additionally, we are increasingly developing our presence on Instagram, which like Twitter, allows a great community building potential and a way to access younger audiences with its open platform. Our @StateofIsrael channel showcases both original content and collaborations with guest photographers, which helps us to cope with the ongoing ‘struggle’ for creating and sharing quality content.

Please share an example of your best campaign/engagement on social media.

Social media offers an unprecedented opportunity to get increased attention, with less dependence on traditional media. That time when we used Twitter to raise attention to an official statement we found important (and somewhat unnoticed), exemplifies just that. The Prime Minister of Israel had publicly invited the chairman of the Palestinian Authority to meet. We tweeted the invitation, which did not get much media attention up until then, with a direct call which received over 1,100 retweets:

Following a reply to our tweet by the official Palestinian account that was mentioned in our original post, we used the chance to reply publicly to sharpen our message:

The result of this exchange of tweets was an increased media attention both to the Prime Minister’s invitation and to the lack of attentiveness to the proposal.

Although this chain of tweets was unfortunately not very successful in promoting peace in the Middle East so far, we feel that it did a good job in giving the Prime Minister’s invitation the enhanced exposure we believe it deserved.

Another example for the use of social media to promote a key message, was a tweet posted on National Holocaust Martyrs’ and Heroes’ Remembrance Day. The combination of a clear message, stating the root cause of this national day to people around the world who may not be familiar with it, together with a design which has an immediate effect on those exposed to it – had brought as a result an increased exposure to this message, which was retweeted over 1,000 times, more than ever before.

This example carries a learning experience for us – for how to adjust and fine-tune our message textually and visually to maximize the exposure to a message we find to be extremely important.

In addition to making use of available organic paths of distribution, we have been experimenting with new technologies for the amplification of our message. The campaign, featured in the current Twiplomacy study, is a recent example of building upon Twitter’s API to grant access for a message to a much wider audience then it could have reached regularly.

How do you measure success on social media?

While social media platforms allow us to perform effective analysis of our work, a major goal for us is to impact priming and framing of our message in traditional media outlets. The following basic principles are important in understanding and recognizing success and failure:

Measuring analytics on a regular basis is necessary and insightful: We have made it a habit to measure our activity on a regular basis, in order to see how we did, what did well and what didn’t – and try to understand why. The factors involved in success/failure of contents vary from subject and timing, through phrasing, to choice of image etc. assessing all these factors allows us to draw important conclusions for future posts.

Setting reasonable but ambitious goals in advance: Once we have a better understanding of possible reasons for success/failure, we’re ready to better assess the goals we wish to set. Cumulative experience in social media allows us to have a fair estimate of what numbers can be anticipated when addressing audience X with the subject Y and with promotion budget Z (when paid promotion budget is relevant and available).

Exposure in traditional media due to activity on social media: Beyond the expected numbers, a major goal in a campaign is to have it reach beyond the immediate circles of influence, through exposure in mainstream traditional media, which gets it a much wider distribution.

Prepare to be surprised –Having said all that, after analyzing all available data, creating ‘the best’ content and doing all we can to get it exposed all over, it should be said that sometimes things that we plan do not get the anticipated attention. On the other hand, in other times we are surprised by the success of some contents and messages we deliver, and we try to learn from these successes and failures on the go, but in the intensive, ever-changing world of social media, we know we must always be prepared to be surprised.

By Gal Rudich (@Galtweets), Head of New Media Section, Digital Diplomacy Department, Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Israel (@IsraelMFA)