Image by Brian Giesen via FlickrOn April 19, 2010, Thomas Crampton who covers social media in China and Asia had a post about US Embassy Jakarta's Facebook presence. Yep, our embassy in Indonesia has more Facebook fans than all the US embassies worldwide combined. And if you put together US Mission Indonesia's Facebook presence in Jakarta, Medan and Surabaya, they'd have more fans than all US embassies and the mother ship combined! That's pretty cool, guys! Tristram and his team can probably teach that class at FSI on social and new media.
The US Embassy in Jakarta built a fanbase on Facebook larger than the US State Department and larger than all US Embassies combined, according to the man behind the site. The effort has been driven by Tristram Perry and his team out of the Jakarta embassy, Surabaya and Medan. Tristram agreed to take a few questions on his team’s efforts.
First, the stats:
Total fans of the US Embassy and consulates in Indonesia: 161,000
Embassy Jakarta: 128,732
Consulate Surabaya (run by Andi DeArment): 30,800
Consulate Medan: 2,700
U.S. State Department: 36,000
All other consulates and embassies: 102,000
When and how did you start?
We started our Facebook Fan Page in January of 2009. Basically, we established static beachheads on a number of social media platforms and developed them based on interest and time available. We use several different tools, but our efforts are driven by the fact that we are trying to find a way to connect to new audiences, in this case, an urban and suburban 18 to 34 year olds who do not get news and information from traditional news sources. That’s who is online in Indonesia. There’s only 10-12% internet penetration here, but that’s over 25 million people — roughly the equivalent of five Singapores. But the process was pretty organic — the more we worked on the page, the more fans we got, and it had a certain snowball effect.
What advice would give to another embassy or gvt trying to repeat what you did?
That social media is not a second website, it’s a community. Make sure that the people who are assigned to work on it are users themselves. Spark discussion and a sense of community, and give people a reason to belong to it. Know your market and customize your information for your audience. Develop unique, engaging content. Distribute the work, so that it across a group of people and not just personality driven, but matches your institutional strategy and feel. Post regularly, but not too much. Set goals and reassess them periodically.
How do these efforts fit within the broader diplomatic efforts?
Again, everything we do is designed to compliment our traditional public diplomacy and existing programs, whenever possible. There is a big push in the State Department to use social media for public diplomacy. We have an administration that was elected in part through their use of social media is in our own democratic context. If social media can affect a U.S. election, then logically it can be a force for democratic
reform worldwide and empower people to express themselves.
In social media, are there concerns about “losing control”?
For us, it’s not really about control so much as it is about direct, two-way interaction. Since, we are up front about the fact that we do set ground rules and enforce them fairly, I think our fans respect that. People are going to talk about us online, criticize us, disagree with our policies and positions, with or without our efforts in social media. We can choose to join this conversation and give them a chance to express themselves directly to us, or not. Listening to others’ views is also important, not just pushing our own side of the argument. That is the point of having a Facebook page or a Twitter account — the real strength of using social media for public diplomacy is the discussion happening on both sides.
Read the whole thing here.
Thomas Crampton is the Asia-Pacific director of 360 Digital Influence for Ogilvy Public Relations Worldwide. He heads a team stretching across 23 cities in 15 Asian territories that helps companies conceive, develop and execute strategies in Social Media. He was a correspondent for the International Herald Tribune and The New York Times for more than a decade, reporting from five continents, writing a column on Asia and covering Asian politics, economics and culture. Currently based in Hong Kong, he writes here about China, the Internet and New Media seen from Asia, while also advising companies on digital communication strategies. He blogs at http://www.thomascrampton.com
UPDATE: I applaud the efforts US Embassy Jakarta put into their online outreach. But I also recognize the nature of the US missions overseas and the inevitable rotations of FSOs in and out of embassies and consulates worldwide. This usually has an impact on post specific programs and priorities. As an example, one post spent FSO time and resources to obtain ISO standard certification. After partially completing the requirements, the lead FSO and the Front Office sponsors rotated out; the succeeding front office management had other priorities and dropped the entire effort. And that's only one example. I have similar concerns at the back of my mind so I sent Tristram additional questions including what happens when he transfer this summer to a new assignment.
Tristram Perry, a PD-coned Foreign Service Officer on his third tour first stressed to me that US Embassy Jakarta's Web 2.0 engagement is a team effort. "Our Facebook and overall social media outreach efforts -- YouTube, Twitter and active Blogger engagement, are a team effort, and that while I'm responsible overall for the strategy, without the talented team Jakarta has, we could not achieve the results we do."
He also said that "I'm sure the page will be fine without me, as long as we continue adhere to the editorial standards and strategies we've developed over the past year and a half."
I inquired about his social media background and this is what he wrote back:
"[A]lthough I did not have a social media background, I do have a background in public relations and marketing, working in the field for 7 years before joining State. I'm a recent social media junkie, but have learned to recognize the differences between how it works differently than a traditional website or newspaper is the key to success or failure. It also helps to keep up with the latest technologies and developments, as it changes so rapidly."
Other posts also get special mention:
"Other Embassy Social Media sites I admire are of course, the Facebook page for Surabaya, run by Andrea DeArment, and both Embassy Colombo's and Embassy Macedonia's Facebook efforts, and on Twitter, Embassies Ottawa and Pretoria are doing great things."
I was curious about knowledge management and information sharing with other posts and he said, "We've worked closely to develop best practices and case studies that are on the State Department's Social Media Hub, which is available to all Posts on the State intranet."
So if you're responsible for social media engagement for your post and not quite sure where to start, check out US Embassy Jakarta's materials in the Social Media Hub.
I'm sure there was something else I forgot to ask him. It will come to me in a while. Sorry, juggling too many balls right now -- I sometimes forget where I park my brain.
But thanks Tristram for answering our questions!!