LeWeb: The age of Twitter diplomacy is here

Adam Tinworth
Adam Tinworth

Matthias Lüfkens

Liveblogged notes from Matthias Lüfkens’ talk at LeWeb 2014

There are now hundreds of accounts of political leaders and foreign ministers on Twitter. Very few world leaders actually do the tweeting themselves. Those that do are normally in northern Europe, on the shores of the Baltic Sea – the Estonian President, and the Finnish Prime Minister, for example. The president of Malaysia is very good at selfies – which are far more engaging than the traditional handshake shots:

My selfie with President Obama ! pic.twitter.com/mr94wZtmuA— Mohd Najib Tun Razak (@NajibRazak) April 27, 2014

Foreign ministers – in Europe in particular – will use Twitter to make concessions. They @reply each other, they follow each other, and it appears that they direct message each other. Laurent Fabius is the best connected minister at the moment – but it’s his team doing it. Kudos to them, as they’re reaching out to other leaders.

Tweets by @LaurentFabius

In the last year we’ve seen the rise of Twitter diplomacy – people attempting to use Twitter to gain influence. It’s becoming a digital battleground. How did the Russians respond to western allies using #unitedforukraine? They co-opted the hashtag.

In September things turned belligerent with NATO tweeting pictures of Russian soldiers in Ukraine, with a mocking response from Russian accounts. #RussiainvededUkraine led to the most retweeted tweet from the Ukraine government.

Some of the behaviour is trolling. Thomas Hendrik Ilves gets heavy trolling. The Latvian foreign minster came out on Twitter:

I proudly announce I'am gay… Good luck all of you…

— Edgars Rinkēvičs (@edgarsrinkevics) November 6, 2014

Most response were supportive, but one Russian one mocked. We’ve come perilously close to declarations of war on Twitter – and we’re clearly seeing political posturing.

The age of Twitter diplomacy is here.

Further reading

You can follow Matthias’s digital diplomacy work on Twitter:

Follow @twiplomacy

Matthias himself:

Follow @luefkens

Burston-Marstler has a Twiplomacy site
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culturediplomacyMatthias LüfkensPoliticsX (Twitter)world politics

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Adam is a lecturer, trainer and writer. He's been a blogger for over 20 years, and a journalist for more than 30. He lectures on audience strategy and engagement at City, University of London.