public diplomacy

#PublicDiplomacy: Creating social media movements to make government initiatives more engaging

It’s easy to scroll past social media posts, barely reading what the words say. Even while trying to be attentive, the massive amounts of existing information make it hard for people to tell which information is worth paying attention to. This influx of information makes it more important than ever for the government to be creating engaging content. There needs to be something separating the information the government is providing from the sea of social media content, so that the public is motivated to get their news directly from the source.

There are many ways to create engaging content. For example, statistics show that people are 18% more likely to click on tweets with images than without images. Another way to create engaging content is to simply add a hashtag, so that social media users can track what others are saying about the topic, as well as participate in the dialogue.

Picture1.pngHere, we see President Barack Obama tweeting.

To create more long term effects, however, the government should be creating more social media movements that people can participate in over time. These movements are meant to be means of achieving government initiatives, as they provide people an easy way to be a part of whatever the government is talking about, rather than simply discussing the information. Below are three examples of successful social media movements.

  1. Find Your Park

This campaign was created to encourage more people to visit the national parks in the United States. The website allows users to search the national parks they can visit, links to get involved through volunteering or donating, a store, and a #FindYourPark link where the posts of the hashtag are all proudly displayed for the site users to see. The website itself is extremely engaging, and has links to many videos encouraging people to be a part of the initiative. Here is an example of one of those videos:

  1. #ReachHigher

The Reach Higher initiative was created to encourage students to pursue higher education degrees. To be a part of this movement, students share a photo wearing their new school shirt or colors using the hashtag #ReachHigher, as the promotional video of First Lady Michelle Obama explains. The twitter for the page can be found here, and it features #ReachHigher hashtags as well as the hashtag #CollegeSigningDay. Both are meant to celebrate students’ pursuit of higher education. There are videos available to watch as well, such as this one.  Finally, to expand this initiative, the Reach Higher career app challenge was created. This was a part of the initiative to support career and technical educations, recognizing that the typical college experience is not right for everyone. The app challenge provided $225K to the winner who designed the best app.

  1.  Government Challenges, Your Solutions

This is a website that allows citizens to solve the problems that the government is working on. Participants create a account, and from there, can participate in whichever challenges they want. There is also a way for agencies to list what challenges they are having to then be posted on the website, allowing the users to work on the issue. People compete for the best solution, which awards them a monetary prize. This connects people who normally wouldn’t be connected to create results.

Now, it’s important for these domestic social media successes to lay the framework for international examples of similar things. The public diplomacy field should be creating similarly engaging social media movements that will create long term, trackable results, and that people will enjoy being a part of. Below are three examples of potential international social media movements.

  1. #GiveLove

One of the objectives of the state department is to provide humanitarian responses to reduce the costs of displacement, natural disasters, and conflict. To involve everyday citizens in such initiatives, a website could be created in which people have easy access to different organizations supporting different causes around the world. In a format similar to the UNICEF website, people would be able to learn about different causes around the world and choose which causes and organizations they want to donate to. This could include any event the state department recognizes as needing humanitarian response, such as raising money for materials for refugee camps and sending aid to areas struck by natural disaster. After donating, the website could encourage people to share their involvement online through the use of the hashtag #GiveLove. The idea would encourage people to feed into positive interactions as an opposition to the negative nature of today’s news.

  1. #OurKitchen

To increase positive outlooks on cultures around the world, a website could be created in which people submit their favorite recipes. The website would include countries all over the world, and would be available in different languages. There can be a section for community discussion if people have questions about the recipe, tips about how to make the dish, or thoughts on how it was after making it. As a subsection of this, social media accounts such as Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter would be created. Here, users would find images from people trying out the different recipes. Pictures would be found by the people in charge of those accounts by looking through the OurKitchen hashtag. This brings light to new cultural experiences while connecting people to one another.


Above is a picture of a meal from the Philippines.

  1. Alternative Energy Contest

In an effort to achieve the United Nations’ goal of creating a world with more clean and sustainable energy, a worldwide contest could be created to see who can come up with the best idea and design for an alternative energy source to be put into place in different cities around the world. Not only does this work to better the health of the planet, but it fosters the connection of the scientific community, as well as supporting up and coming entrepreneurs in their ideas. These ideas could all be submitted to a website, where there will be different rounds of the competition, until a winner is chosen.

Social media campaigns like these real and hypothetical ones provide global connections, solutions to problems, and potential positive attitude changes that encourage people to be hopeful about the future of the world, while taking part in the shaping of it.



7 thoughts on “#PublicDiplomacy: Creating social media movements to make government initiatives more engaging

  1. I thought that this blog was well-written and displayed, through clear examples, how the U.S. government should reinvent its social media platform. This blog is also going to be increasingly relevant in the upcoming years as new forms of social media replace Twitter, Facebook etc. I was wondering though, how the U.S. government can move from initiatives that are “more engaging” to initiatives that are both engaging and sustained? For instance, social media hash tags are great but they are temporary and are easily replaced by ‘cooler’ initiatives. Look at the Ice Bucket Challenge for ALS, which is now replaced by the Lime challenge for Lyme Disease. Here is a an article of what I am talking about:

    Posted by lolaflomen | April 30, 2017, 1:19 pm
  2. Social media is an indispensable tool that should be utilized in order to carry out effective public diplomacy. The article definitely captures the methodology of social media and how to make it produce real results. I believe that social media, and the campaign examples listed here, could be one way to solve the problem I pose in my own blog. There are several different routes the US government can take to win back the Greek people’s public opinion from Russian influence, and I believe social media could be one means to that end. To see my thoughts on my other recommendations, my blog can be found here:

    Posted by pervoideleo | April 30, 2017, 12:54 pm
  3. I like that a lot of the recommendations and examples you used were of contests. I think that the power of contests or challenges in engaging audiences cannot be understated. Contest make the audience much broader because now people will try to get friends involved and engaged and the message can spread much further than it could through other forms of communication. What immediately came to mind when reading your blog was the ALS ice bucket challenge and how rapidly that went viral, here is a link on how to duplicate its success

    Posted by Logan Botts | April 30, 2017, 12:13 pm
  4. I’m really glad you brought up Michelle Obama’s #ReachHigher campaign in a discussion on engaging content. She really championed a lot of far reaching social media movements including not only #ReachHigher but also her Lets Move! campaign and #BringBackOur Girls. It seems that engaging content relies heavily on the messenger and one of the best ways for the U.S. government to attract followers is to have specific diplomats and government officials to better develop more personal, charismatic content. This idea falls in line with your suggestion to create anticipated, consistent social media moves. For more context, here’s an article all about the First Lady’s use of social media:

    Posted by Vanessa Bajko | April 30, 2017, 11:17 am
  5. Jenna – very interesting read and intriguing hashtag campaign proposals. I definitely agree that the power of hashtags is that they create a community of people that are talking about the same thing. I have been apart of my fair share of twitter diatribes because of the hashtags that I used. If the goal of the Department of State is to reach younger audiences, then I do believe that hashtag communities can be a way for alumni of programs to stay engaged with each other.

    Posted by Anthony Abron | April 30, 2017, 1:47 am
  6. I think part of the brilliance of hashtags is that it can be difficult to track down their origin. Thus, they are an effective public diplomacy tool. While research could easily show that they originated with a US department, they are also very malleable and open to interpretation by the audiences they reach.

    Posted by brettm17 | April 29, 2017, 2:01 pm
  7. This article brought to light the importance of social media campaigns in relation to different Public Diplomacy program initiatives. This piece from the Huffington Post provides a unique perspective on the importance of visuals on social media:

    Posted by sarinakaplan | April 26, 2017, 9:49 pm

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