The State Department’s social media presence vastly dwarfs that of other countries using internet-based tools for public diplomacy efforts, according to a new report by a Canadian think tank.
The 39 U.S. ambassadors with a digital media presence — including Twitter, Facebook and blogs — pack a significant punch, based on an analysis published by the Canadian Defense and Foreign Affairs Institute. U.S. Ambassadors with Twitter accounts have a combined 538,942 followers, with more than 16,000 followers on average per account.
One hundred and sixty-five U.S. embassies “operate at least one digital media stream,” and more than 6.4 million people “like” embassy Facebook pages, according to the report’s analysis.
“Social media are critical to this task because they are useful not only for identifying members of such networks, but more importantly for shaping the evolution of existing networks and for building new ones,” the report said.
The report compared the Canadian approach to social media and public diplomacy to those taken by the U.S. and the United Kingdom. It criticized the Canadian foreign affairs ministry for falling behind with its use of social media.
“Users of social media who do not engage in substantive, real-time exchanges are
unlikely to make their voices heard,” the report said. The report cited Sweden’s foreign minister, Carl Bildt, as an example of a foreign affairs official who understood the nuances and mechanisms of social media.
State has pushed to incorporate the latest social media networks in its public diplomacy efforts. Recently, the General Services Administration agreed on a deal to allow agencies to use video-sharing service Vine. Many embassies have begun posting videos showing off different elements of American culture.