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Twitter Diplomacy

Monday, Feb. 23, 2009

After reading this AFP piece about "State Department 2.0," (which I found via Twitter), I'm now following the department's Twitter feed. The article, which was published on Saturday, pointed out that the dipnote feed (which goes by the same name as the State Department blog), "only" had 1,770 followers at press time, comparing that total with the some 177,000 who breathlessly follow the Tweets of Britney Spears.

Comparing the department's drawing power with the lowest-common-denominator celebrity appeal of Spears is like comparing the ratings of C-SPAN and American Idol. A better comparison might be the Twitter feed of some reasonably highbrow media personality, such as a popular blogger. Measured against that standard, it looks like the department is doing reasonably well. For example, the dailydish Twitter feed, which is connected to Andrew Sullivan's widely-read blog at TheAtlantic.com, had 1,482 followers at last check. And the State Department appears to have gotten a small bump from the AFP piece: as I write this its followers have grown from 1,770 on Saturday to 1,875, according to Twitter.

(WPR's own young Twitter feed has a ways to go to catch up, so follow us Twitter users out there.)

Anyway, regardless of whether their efforts have achieved any real success so far, Clinton and her team should be applauded for exploring the possibilities of these technologies, given that the cost of doing so is essentially zero. This sort of communications technology has particular potential for public diplomacy, an application I have advocated (though, looking back on these writings, perhaps over-optimistically) in the past (see here and here).

The AFP piece was also correct to point out that the Clnton State Department is building on the strides made under Condoleezza Rice. The department's video site, for example, was one of the first and best in government under the previous administration.

After a few days of following State's Tweets, I'll check back in with a review of the department's Twitter prowess.

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