Digital Diplomacy 2.0? A Cross-national Comparison of Public Engagement in Facebook and Twitter

In: The Hague Journal of Diplomacy
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  • 1 Department of Communication, Tel Aviv University, Ramat Aviv, Tel Aviv 6997801, Israel
  • 2 Department of Communication, Tel Aviv University, Ramat Aviv, Tel Aviv 6997801, Israel
  • 3 Department of Communication, Tel Aviv University, Ramat Aviv, Tel Aviv 6997801, Israel

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Social media holds the potential to foster dialogue between nations and foreign populations. Yet only a few studies to date have investigated the manner in which digital diplomacy is practised by foreign ministries. Using Kent and Taylor’s framework for dialogic communication, this article explores the extent to which dialogic communication is adopted by foreign ministries in terms of content, media channels and public engagement. The results of a six-week analysis of content published on Twitter and Facebook by eleven foreign ministries show that engagement and dialogic communication are rare. When engagement does occur, it is quarantined to specific issues. Social media content published by foreign ministries represents a continuous supply of press releases targeting foreign, rather than domestic, populations. A cross-national comparison revealed no discernible differences in the adoption of dialogic principles. Results therefore indicate that foreign ministries still fail to realize the potential of digital diplomacy to foster dialogue.

  • 3

    Hayden, ‘Social Media at State’, p. 3; and James Pamment, New Public Diplomacy in the Twenty-first Century: A Comparative Study of Policy and Practice (New York, ny: Routledge, 2013), p. 3.

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  • 4

    Michael L. Kent and Maureen Taylor, ‘Building Dialogic Relationships through the World Wide Web’, Public Relations Review, vol. 3, no. 24 (1998), pp. 321-334; and James E. Grunig and Todd Hunt, Managing Public Relations (New York: Holt, Rinehart & Winston, 1984).

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  • 11

    Svetlana Rybalko and Trent Seltzer, ‘Dialogic Communication in 140 Characters or Less: How Fortune 500 Companies Engage Stakeholders using Twitter’, Public Relations Review, vol. 36, no. 4 (2010), pp. 336-341.

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  • 14

    See Brian E. Dixon, ‘Towards E-government 2.0: An Assessment of Where E-government 2.0 Is and Where it Is Headed’, Public Administration & Management, vol. 15, no. 2 (2010), pp. 418-454; Kathleen McNutt, ‘Public Engagement in the Web 2.0 Era: Social Collaborative Technologies in a Public Sector Context’, Canadian Public Administration, vol. 57, no. 1 (2014), pp. 49-70; and Diego D. Navarra and Tony Cornford, ‘The State and Democracy after New Public Management: Exploring Alternative Models of E-governance’, The Information Society, vol. 28, no. 1 (2012), pp. 37-45.

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  • 17

    Dixon, ‘Towards E-government 2.0’, p. 440.

  • 18

    McNutt, ‘Public Engagement in the Web 2.0 Era’, p. 50; and Paul Henman, ‘Governmentalities of Gov 2.0’, Information, Communication & Society, vol. 16, no. 9 (2013), pp. 1397-1418.

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    William R. Roberts, ‘What Is Public Diplomacy? Past Practices, Present Conduct, Possible Future’, Mediterranean Quarterly, vol. 18, no. 4 (2007), pp. 36-53.

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    Nicholas J. Cull, ‘Public Diplomacy: Taxonomies and Histories’, The ANNALS of the American Academy of Political and Social Science, vol. 616, no. 1 (2008), pp. 31-54.

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  • 21

    Hayden, ‘Social Media at State’, p. 3.

  • 22

    Pamment, New Public Diplomacy in the Twenty-first Century, p. 3.

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    Hayden, ‘Social Media at State’, p. 3.

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  • 26

    Heewoon Cha, Sunha Yeo and Bittnari Kim, ‘Social Media’s Dialogic Communication of Foreign Embassies in Korea and Public Diplomacy: Based on Dialogic Communication Theory’, Advanced Science and Technology Letters, vol. 63 (2014), pp. 175-178.

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  • 27

    Rybalko and Seltzer, ‘Dialogic Communication in 140 Characters or Less’, p. 338.

  • 30

    Martin Hilbert, ‘The End Justifies the Definition: The Manifold Outlooks on the Digital Divide and Their Practical Usefulness for Policy-making’, Telecommunications Policy, vol. 35, no. 8 (2011), pp. 715-736.

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    David M. Herszenhorn, ‘In Crimea, Russia Moved to Throw Off the Cloak of Defeat’, The New York Times (24 March 2014).

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    Virginia Braun and Victoria Clarke, ‘Using Thematic Analysis in Psychology’, Qualitative Research in Psychology, vol. 3, no. 2 (2006), pp. 77-101.

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  • 34

    See, for example, Hayden, ‘Social Media at State’, p. 3; and Geoffrey Cowan and Amelia Arsenault, ‘Moving from Monologue to Dialogue to Collaboration: The Three Layers of Public Diplomacy’, The ANNALS of the American Academy of Political and Social Science, vol. 616, no. 1 (March 2008), pp. 10-30.

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  • 35

    Pamment, New Public Diplomacy in the Twenty-first Century, p. 3.

  • 37

    Cha, Yeo and Kim, ‘Social Media’s Dialogic Communication of Foreign Embassies in Korea and Public Diplomacy: Based on Dialogic Communication Theory’, p. 177.

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  • 38

    McNutt, ‘Public Engagement in the Web 2.0 Era’, p. 64; Lee, and Kwak, ‘An Open Government Maturity Model for Social Media-based Public Engagement’, p. 499.

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  • 39

    Hilbert, ‘The End Justifies the Definition’, p. 2.

  • 41

    Shay Attias, ‘Israel’s New Peer-to-peer Diplomacy’, The Hague Journal of Diplomacy, vol. 7, no. 4 (2012), pp. 473-482.

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    Thomas A. Bryer, ‘Designing Social Media Strategies for Effective Citizen Engagement: A Case Example and Model’, National Civic Review, vol. 102, no. 1 (2012), pp. 43-50.

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  • 45

    Hayden, ‘Social Media at State’, p. 3.

  • 46

    For example, see Park and Reber, ‘Relationship-building and the Use of Web Sites’, pp. 410-411; and Dixon, ‘Towards E-government 2.0’, pp. 439-445.

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  • 47

    Macnamara, Sakinofsky and Beattie, ‘E-electoral Engagement’, pp. 625-627.

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