It wasn’t that long ago that social media wasn’t even in the lexicon but, in just a few short years, it has made a mark on practically our entire way of life. In recent years, social media has been at the forefront of major social upheavals all over the world, relaying news as it happened and indeed allowing for the kinds of social activism the likes of which we have never seen. Social media is news at the speed of light and is being used more and more in the cause of giving a voice to people everywhere.
With that in mind, we’d like to present the top 10 reasons on why we think embassies should be on social media.
It’s an important question. The people who staff a foreign embassy are oftentimes at the very forefront of social change. They are privy to information that is often not only classified but also could be considered inflammatory, able to push buttons and possibly cause an escalation of already high tensions. On the other hand the speed of communication that social media allows connected to an influential embassy source could both be considered a blessing, allowing the type of communication that calms nerves and stabilizes situations.
1) Social media is raw, unfiltered and closer to the truth than most of the ‘news’ that people are fed from their embassies every day. Yes it may sometimes be off the mark and yes occasionally someone may be misquoted or something taken out of context but more often than not the information given out by embassies on social media will be truthful.
2) Social media connects the people to the embassy. This is no mean feat as traditionally it’s been very hard for the common person to have any sort of platform to air their concerns or grievances. With social media the collective people now have a way to communicate with the decision makers.
3 Analytics of social media enable embassies to identify influential people among the populace and, once found, engage them in a dialogue. In fractionated societies this can be extremely helpful in making sure that all voices are heard and all opinions considered.
4) Social media can be a powerful force for swaying public opinion and, if used by embassies, can be very influential in bringing democracy talks to a people or swaying the minds of the populace. The power of social media is that it connects people instantly and can be used to quickly inform and influence large amounts of them.
5) When catastrophe strikes embassies use social media to quickly notify the local populace and then, to get help, the rest of the world. In 2010 Haiti proved this when diplomats there organized a ‘digital relief’ effort that collected tens of millions of dollars in aid for the impoverished nation. It happened fast too, with little of the usual ‘red tape’ to slow it down.
6) Social media allows an exchange between interested parties that in the past was much harder to facilitate. Embassy staffers can talk more freely to the people who influence the people, getting their ideas and opinions in an almost unbiased surrounding.
7) Embassies that use social media have a direct connection to one of the most important demographics; young people. Exchanging ideas is all good and well but, if you’re exchanging them with citizens who are unlikely to change their opinion you may just be wasting your time. Connecting with young people who are still open to new ideas on the other hand can be much easier and lend to much more change.
8) Social media can be used to calm public fears, especially in places where the people may be highly concentrated. This can literally save lives.
9) Many of the staffers at embassies are highly intelligent people. Social media gives them a platform on which to broadcast their ideas, morals and values to a public that sometimes sorely needs them.
10) Social media improves communication. Between a people and her leaders or between decision makers from different countries it can never be said that too much interchange of ideas and opinions is a bad thing, and social media allows embassies to have that interchange.
Yes the world is changing and yes social media is far from perfect but, in the end, it gets people talking and has been the impetus for real changes in a world that needs even more. If used correctly social media may well be the perfect way to disseminate information and bring about positive change no matter where in the world it’s used.