India's Public Diplomacy division at the Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) recently started its own twitter account - @IndianDiplomacy. The first tweet appeared on the morning of July 10:
“Official twitter account of Public Diplomacy Division of Ministry of External Affairs, India @IndianDiplomacy”.
News reports quoted Mr Navdeep Suri, PD division's top guy that the ministry is testing social media as a tool to conduct PD. He said everybody is using social media hence it is important for MEA to have a presence there. On content, he was of the opinion that depending on the response received, the twitter account and other social media usage will evolve. It shows Mr Suri understands the importance of engagement, interactivity and content creation on a platform like social media and also the dynamism of the medium.
The PD division has, since then, posted its MEA's bi monthly magazine - India perspectives to twitter.The number of followers are growing everyday and in 20 days it has nearly 2000 followers and been listed 82 times as well. The approach to experiment with social media shows in the twitter account which is laudable There are also prompt responses to messages from other 'tweeple'. A recent interesting tweet was:
"Visit facebook page of PM Dr. Manmohan Singh http://tinyurl.com/39ltgj9"
However, a majority tweets are either responses or information on MEA activities, visits of foreign dignitaries, information on summits and agreements etc. Then a tweet on July 15th attempted to define PD's objective as
"PD seeks to engage directly with the public in India and abroad to foster better understanding of Indian foreign policy"
This reflects a very reactive approach to using social media for PD. I hope the twitter account doesn't become another platform for information dissemination. As the MEA website is already there why would we need another platform for the same. This is a fundamental question I encounter as a communication consultant regularly. The trick is to build interactivity and creating content for engagement.
We are serious about our effort to build a platform that not only disemminates information but also receives feedback, listens and attempts to respond wherever we can. We can't become a grievance redressal cell for government as a whole but we promise to engage actively on foreign policy issues and to participate in a more informed debate on these issues. I have communicated through a couple of tweets that this is work in progress and we are still in the process of building our Web 2.0 capabilities. Give us a bit of time and we hope we won't disappoint. Meanwhile, please keep sending your feedback.
Dear Mr Suri:
Thank you for your comment. Its encouraging to see the ministry's efforts and we wish you all the best. It is indeed amusing to know that there is the danger of it becoming a grievance redressal cell!! It can be quite a challenge to integrate all communication efforts and social media is still nascent. Its always good to hear from you.