Are We There Yet: Have mfas Realized the Potential of Digital Diplomacy?

Results from a Cross-National Comparison

In: Brill Research Perspectives in Diplomacy and Foreign Policy
Ilan Manor Department of International Development, University of Oxford

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Despite growing interest in digital diplomacy, few studies to date have evaluated the extent to which foreign ministries have been able to realize its potential. Studies have also neglected to understand the manner in which diplomats define digital diplomacy and envision its practice. This article explores the digital diplomacy model employed by four foreign ministries through interviews and questionnaires with practitioners. Results from a cross national comparison suggest that foreign ministries have been able to institutionalize the use of social media through the development of best practices and training for diplomats. However, foreign ministries seem to utilize social media to influence elite audiences rather than to foster dialogue with foreign populations. Results also suggest that both ministries and social media audiences are negotiating their respective roles in the online communication process. Although social media is used to overcome the limitations of traditional diplomacy, and manage the national image, foreign ministries fail to collaborate with non-state actors or use social media as a source of information for policy makers. Thus, while diplomacy is networked, it is still state-centric. Finally, at the embassy level, ambassadors now serve as digital gatekeepers.

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