Don’t think for one second that the high profile status of US diplomacy is too high-brow for Twitter. Instead, the U.S. Department of the State boasts upwards of 360,000 followers and has tweeted an astounding 25,980 times. The State Department is anything but shy on social media. But given the often confidential and internationally-sensitive duties of the State Department, its remarkable use of Twitter is also a giant fire hazard in a room filled with potentially explosive issues. Consequently, a study of the State Department’s use of Twitter provides a valuable insight to navigating social media for businesses and other government agencies as well.
Providing more than just content
So what does the State Department Tweet about? With its 25,980 Tweets, it certainly is not only talking about what Hillary Clinton had for lunch. Instead, the State Department’s Twitter acts as a central disseminator of the different operations and events in which the State Department is involved. It routinely announces the daily press briefing, provides updates about the status of different US embassies, all while interacting with its employees. For instance, the US embassy in Haiti has been of recent interest lately due to its erratic schedule. Consequently, the State Department has retweeted the Haiti US Embassy’s updates.
The State Department does not shy away from the tough issues, although it does handle them with extreme care. It retweeted the US Embassy in Kabul’s tweet, condemning a bombing of a mosque, while reiterating the US’s commitment to Afghanistan’s future.And on a (much) less explosive issue, the State Department wished Secretary Hillary Clinton a happy birthday (which is today, the 26th!).
What can we learn from the State Department’s handling of Twitter? First, no business or agency is too high-profile for social media. It provides a valuable way to disseminate important information, and the State Department remarkably illustrates this. Second, the State Department recognizes the importance of building a true social network. It simply doesn’t Tweet its own information, but it interacts and retweets employees and other sub-departments to create a conversation as well as a cohesive front. Finally, the State Department is personable. It wished Hillary Clinton a birthday, and, interestingly, in its Twitter bio, it lists who is “currently on duty.” Giving a face to the State Department, while also instilling a sense of accountability, this Twitter bio addition is a novel approach for such large institution. So, if your company or agency is debating its adoption of social media, or wondering how to improve it, one option is to look to the State Department. If the most high-profile national diplomacy agency can take advantage social media, than so can you.