One of the main rules any company should keep in mind when engaging in social media is that whoever is responsible for the blog posts/tweets/status updates/re-tweets/likes etc. should enjoy working with social media. Enjoying to work with this type of media will make the posts more authentic and believable.
When I read Comentez’ article I wondered if the people at the State Department responsible for all tweets etc. actually enjoy what they are doing and if they are truly aware of who their readership is.
When the article talked about how people had to learn how to write shorter reports and make shorter videos I could not get stop thinking that these people are old-school trained marketing folks (at best, at worst their training never involved marketing and outreach) to whom the idea of social media does not come naturally. It is true, every organization or company needs to adapt when a new marketing strategy is adopted (and the public diplomacy campaign is nothing but that). However, these tweets are not intended to sell more yogurt or advertise a Black Friday event. These tweets are supposed to represent the United States and it’s mission in the world. Can you really do that in 140 characters? Can you really create an interest? Spark a change? If you do not know who your readership is (exactly), aren’t those tweets and status updates just a feeble attempt in trying to reach anyone who is willing to listen?
A company knows who they are tweeting for (consumers with their special demographics, and maybe employees). A country tweeting for potentially everyone in the world? I’m not sure I see the overlap in the audience. Social media is great, but I think that for a nation it is not the way to do diplomacy.
What I do think will work better is what was mentioned in the article, the provision on wifi or cellphone net alternatives. This way the people themselves are engaging. They are required to come up with their own ideas and content. It is, in a way, helping people to help themselves. This is where the future lies and this is what “21st century statecraft” a.k.a. public diplomacy should be about.