Twitplomacy: Social Media as a New Platform for Development of Public Diplomacy

Twitplomacy: Social Media as a New Platform for Development of Public Diplomacy

Shumin Su (Department of International Politics, School of Law and Politics, Beijing International Studies University, Beijing, China) and Mark Xu (Portsmouth Business School, University of Portsmouth, Portsmouth, Hampshire, UK)
Copyright: © 2015 |Pages: 14
DOI: 10.4018/IJEP.2015010102
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Abstract

Social media, underpinned by mobile devices and smart-technology, is rapidly changing the way how people communicate. In the context of public diplomacy, micro-blogging-based diplomacy, e.g. Twitplomacy is emerging. Twitplomacy has been carried out by not only the central government of a state and relevant organizations, but also millions individuals globally. Twitplomacy has been seen as a new platform expanding the channels of public diplomacy. Its impact on diplomacy policy and international relations tends to be huge but too early to know and difficult to quantify. This paper uses microblogs collected from United States Embassy in China, examined the characteristics and functions of Twitplomacy, the participants and the motivation, as well as the effect of Twitplomacy. The results are insightful to both researchers and practitioners in the community of diplomacy and international relations.
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1. Introduction

Social media as a new platform for information creation and communication has been increasingly used by not only individuals, but organisations in commercial and public sectors. Driven by the latest information technologies – for example, smart end user devices, cloud computing infrastructure, and big dada architecture, social media – Facebook, Twitter, Linkedin, etc. is changing the traditional way of communication in society. One of the notable changes has been seen in the domain of e-government. According to Criado, et al (2013) the existence of social media tools in government is changing the landscape of public agencies and bureaucracies around the world. Public administrations have adopted different tools, such as blogs, microblogging, wikis, social networking, multimedia sharing, mashup applications, tagging, virtual worlds, and crowdsourcing. Another dimension of changes is the impact imposed by empowered individual on political systems and government policies at both domestic and international level, e.g. diplomacy policies and international relations. Digital technologies make it possible for new players, for example, ordinary citizens, to become involved in political decisions (Dubois & Dutton, 2012).

China followed a similar trend (if not frog-leaped) in adopting social media by its citizens. Annual Report (Communication University of China 2010) suggests that micro-blogging has become the third largest public opinion source of China. The major web service providers including Sina, Sohu, Tecent, NetEase, Baidu and Tianya provide micro-blogging platforms. It is estimated that the number of Sina.com Weibo users has already exceeded 400 million and government agencies managed over 176,000 accounts by the end of 2012 (Zheng 2013). Weibo (and the latest WeChat) is the Chinese microblogging standard, which have been used by individual and government and its agencies. On the one hand, Chinese individual uses micro-blogging to express opinion on international matters and relations, on the other hand, governments as well as foreign affairs agencies like embassies in foreign countries have opened micro blogs to interact with the public, with the aim to better convey their diplomatic policies, spread diplomatic knowledge and resolve diplomatic and foreign-related matters. A brand new form of public diplomacy - twitplomacy, has emerged. Understanding how twiplomacy works is vital for formulating appropriate diplomacy policies for the development of international relations.

This paper is organized as follows: the next section review relevant literature in social media in government, the concepts of political influence and twitplomacy. The methodology is introduced –a case of Twitplomacy conducted by United States Embassy in China. This is followed by analyzing the characteristics and functions of Twitplomacy, the participants and their motivation, as well as the effect of Twitplomacy. Conclusion is drawn at the end with recommendation for policy makers and future research.

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