public diplomacy

Snapchat, Livestreaming and Digital Diplomacy

Bond 007 snap by UK FCO

UK FCO using James Bond in Snapchat! (source:

From a personal perspective, it has taken a while for me to see the point of Snapchat and live-streaming apps like Periscope.

First the ephemeral and live trends have some crossover, but they’re also a little different (which might be worth another future post), but both are so new that they’re worth talking about together.

One of the issues with both ephemeral and live social media is that it can be hard for an organization to measure engagement in the traditional sense.  Some have suggested that this can be a major hurdle for the adoption of these new technologies, but I disagree that it’s an engagement issue.  It’s simply more that for marketers and communication staff, there is not yet any real way to measure the engagement yet in the traditional sense and link it to expectations such as “bottom line” or to traditional KPIs such as “conversions”. Although even on that, there are some indicators–and just like 10 years ago with twitter, the US government might be leading on this as the US government has recently jumped onto Snapchat.  In announcing their entry onto the platform, they even shared how they were going to :

  • Followers: We’ll measure our audience size after six months and assess growth. Are we seeing new followers being added or are people unfollowing us?

  • Views/Completion Rate: Snapchat lets you see how many people are watching your story and where they drop off in the process. We’ll measure those numbers to determine if people are watching the whole story or giving up halfway through. We’ll also analyze what kind of content performs best so that we can deliver more of what our audience wants.

  • Engagement: We’ll look at the number of people who send Snaps back to us to help determine how engaging our content is.

  • Screenshots: Snapchat notifies you when someone takes a screenshot of your content. We’ll use screenshots to help us determine if we’re sharing important information that our audience thinks is worth keeping. We’ll look at what kind of content is screenshotted the most to learn what’s important to our followers.

(The UK’s foreign ministry also uses Snapchat well in their international outreach, although I preferred how simply the above example crystallized how they were going to measure results. However, the UK blog post which is well worth reading, explains some of the challenges of using Snapchat very well.)

Many of these products are integrated into larger platforms – Facebook Live with Facebook; Periscope with Twitter;  upcoming YouTube Connect with YouTube.  So these snaps or live broadcasts can be repurposed and shared elsewhere. This means you’d possibly then see engagement from there.  The hurdle is not the newness of the platforms, but getting your content right and doing your due diligence as with any other social platform. See very often organizations simply jump onto new platforms without assessing their resources, thinking about the demographics their targeting and keeping in mind the pecularities of the platform.  I’d imagine that this is still mandatory even if you are jumping onto a new platform!

The last thing I’d say is that the potential long duration (Periscope and other live apps) of video should not be intimidating. It’s actually ok if viewers jump in and out of videos and this is not necessarily that new. It’s just not how people consume even traditional media like television, think of how often the TV is on in the background at your house!  Think of any broadcast or video you’ve seen before, for example, in 2014, the United Nations streamed their entire UN Social Media Day which if I recall correctly, I followed on livestream.  I obviously did not sit all day watching it, but I remember sending in tweets in their Q&A that were responded to, so I was able to “engage” and derive value without watching the whole thing.  And now the video is available on YouTube as are experts from it.  Basically, I don’t think all types of live streams necessarily require ones full attention from beginning to end.

Very interesting to see how all this develops.


Twitter scuffle, Russia vs. USA: Is diplomacy 2.0 finally here?

Typically, state government involvement in Social Media has been either:

1. In the form of public diplomacy, with a state sponsoring or endorsing activities in which it’s citizens engage with those of others such as student exchanges.
2. Glorified news-feeds, with the “news blast” style of using twitter
3. Governments co-opting social media to monitor and quell uprisings and activists (like Iran during the Green Revolution).

There’s very direct tit-for-tat engagement between official state players though, which for me is what piqued my interest reading the reuteurs release of diplomats going at it on twitter.  Shorter version; US Ambassador to Russia, Micahel McFaul, tweeted concern about the arrests of peaceful demonstrators, and the Russian Foreign ministry replied on twitter.  Seems mundane I know, and perhaps it’s because I’m not on twitter enough, but my sense is you don’t (yet) see this kind of engagement on social media between diplomats.

See the Reuters story here:

Public Diplomacy…2.0 or 1.x?

Disclaimer: My questions of Public Diplomacy in this blog post are within the context of use of New Media communication platforms.

One reason that I remain skeptical about use of Web 2.0 and new media by large organizations, is that I wonder how much actual interaction is going on versus how much of it is what I’ve seen referred to as a “glorified news feed”.  By that I mean, yes an organization has a facebook page, yes “they’re on twitter” and yes, they have a blog.  However, how much actual interaction is going on?  I’d posed a similar question as a comment on a blog post a few weeks ago that I read and I think someone from the state department said something to the effect of “they have people monitoring”.

Here are some twitter feeds by public organizations or state governments.  I’m not really seeing interaction (i.e. responses or retweets).  I picked random ones:  UNICEF , NATO , and Russia Ministry of Foreign Affairs  .

I’m not trying to be obtuse here, but I’m hoping to shed more light on this.  Now perhaps it is not appropriate or possible for an organization to be talking to random citizens in public because of messaging issues…..but if that’s the case, there shouldn’t be the self-congratulatory vibes off of having a twitter account or a YouTube channel.

In his speech on Public Diplomacy in 2008, then Under Secretary for Public Diplomacy and Public Affairs, James K. Glassman in arguing against Al-Qaeda quoted an analyst that said, “…If Web 1.0 was about creating the snazzziest official Web resources and Web 2.0 is about letting users run wild with self-created content and interactivity, Al Qaeda and it’s affiliates are stuck in 1.0″    But as I’m harping on ad infinitum here, I’m not really seeing ” users runnin gwild with self-created content and interactivity” with public institutions.  Perhaps calling use of new media as it exists is more appropriately charecterized as minor 1.x update rather than an entire 2.0 transformation since that aspect is lacking? To be fair, in some cases, like the State Department for example, they do have a blog and they actually allow commenting on it (I’m assuming comments are not censored other than for national security issues/secrets), though I don’t know if the comments are read–many high profile blogs are notorious for (ghost) authors that don’t read the feedback received.  Nonetheless, all of this might be an inherent dilemna faced by public institutions, and as social media expert Clay Shirky says in the recent article Innovating Public Diplomacy for a New Digital World, it is problematic to imagine use of social media platforms like say twitter, due to conflicts between the type of transparency expected of social media and the inherently secretive nuanced nature of international diplomacy.

This is not just an issue with public institutions by the way.  I’ve seen similar issues with large corporations in the private sector.  Or is my skepticism misdirected, and is it audiences/consumers or the technologies themselves that are the problems?

crosspost from a student blog that I put up at on 11/29/11.