APRIL 28, 2015
Twitter is the language you must speak
We have asked several foreign ministries to answer some questions about their #DigitalDiplomacy. Here’s a guest post from the Foreign Ministry of Slovenia.
How big is your social media footprint?
Slovenia has 51 diplomatic representations (37 embassies, 6 consulates, 7 permanent representations) across the globe. Out of these, 29 are present on Twitter and 23 on Facebook. Our multilateral missions seem to attract more followers on Twitter, while our embassies are much more active on Facebook. The Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Slovenia has one Twitter account (@MZZRS) and two Facebook accounts.
It has been our goal from the start to have as many diplomatic missions as possible use Twitter and/or Facebook as their primary digital diplomacy platform. This strategy also made it easier to develop the right skills among our staff as well as internal policies and good practices.
Also, the reach of different missions differs depending on objectives of our foreign policy in different countries. In some places, social media are mostly used to keep in touch with Slovenians living abroad; elsewhere, our digital presence is predominantly focused on communicating with local audiences.
How big is your social media footprint?
In general, Slovenia’s diplomatic missions are very small and this often means that only two diplomats and two local employees comprise the entire team. At every diplomatic mission that uses social media, one of them is responsible for managing the accounts. That, however, only represents about 10 percent of their responsibilities. In the early stage of building our social media infrastructure, we decided that we only want people who have the desire to deal with social media to actually be involved. Today, that means that at some missions, Twitter is updated by an attaché, while in some other places, the ambassador herself/himself is the one posting updates.
Four people from the Ministry communications team update @MZZRS. Altogether, that means there are about 35 people dealing with social media as part of their responsibilities in Slovenian diplomacy.
What are your main objectives and challenges?
Our objectives are twofold. Over the past few years, social media became quite an important outlet of our public diplomacy. We aim to use Twitter to portray Slovenia abroad from a wide variety of angles: from straightforward foreign policy topics to culture and innovative ideas such as success stories of our start-ups and athletes. I agree with the British Ambassador to Lebanon Tom Fletcher, who said that “the most important thing social media does for us is that, for the first time, it gives us the means to influence the countries we work in on a massive scale, not just through elites.”
But to do that, you need to be able to send the right message at the right time at the right place. And this often presents a challenge for us. Over the past few years we were able to equip many of our staff with the right skills to use social media in an effective way, but there is still a long way to go. Quite limited human resources at our diplomatic missions and at home often prevent us from using the potential that social media have for a country such as Slovenia. Moreover, we don’t interact enough with our followers, but that would again require additional live support, establishment of more advanced guidelines and internal policies as well as additional human resources. Hopefully, we can do something about this very soon.
What is the key achievement you are most proud of?
About a year and a half ago, we decided to run a few hashtag campaigns to be more vocal about our fight for universal respect of human rights. The first one of these was about ending violence against children and it was really a big success. It was even showcased in the 2014 Twiplomacy study. After that, we ran a few others and recently joined the #HeForShe campaign on gender equality, which was again a huge success.
Our male ambassadors took a group picture with #HeForShe hashtag signs together with the President of the National Assembly and the Foreign Minister on the occasion of their annual conference in January 2015. This was also our most successful tweet to date.
Now, we are taking a step further with a music video of 16 established Slovenian musicians of different genres who have gathered to support and promote Slovenia’s International Development Cooperation and Humanitarian Aid. As part of the European Year of Development 2015, Slove’n’aid recorded a song called One World (En svet in Slovenian)
It has been a huge success in social media. The online premiere of the video, published on Facebook and Twitter, had an unprecedented reach of more than 72,000 users in just two weeks. It gathered 2,431 likes, 526 shares and 149 comments. The actual numbers were most likely even higher, as many users shared links to the video on several websites independently from our posts.
What advice would you give to other ministries and governments to make a lasting impact on Twitter?
Much advice has already been given on this topic, so I will keep my answer short. Twitter should be treated as a language, not a technical tool. It is a social tool for communication. It has its own ˝grammar rules˝ including the exceptions, and cultural particularities as any other language.
This is especially relevant for diplomats: wherever you are posted, there is a good chance that between 25 and 65 percent of the population in your country ˝speaks˝ Social Media. No matter how good your French, Chinese or Lebanese may be, without speaking Social Media; you will limit the reach of your messages merely to elites. In a nutshell, if you want your voice to be far-reaching, Twitter is the language you must speak.
By Timotej Šooš (@TimSoos),Digital Diplomacy Coordinator at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Republic of Slovenia (2012 – 2014) @MZZRS, now posted at the Slovenian Mission to the OECD in Paris (@SLOtoOECD)