Page 40 - Foreign Service Journal - June, 2010

This is a SEO version of Foreign Service Journal - June, 2010. Click here to view full version

« Previous Page Table of Contents Next Page »

38 F O R E I G N S E R V I C E J O U R N A L / J U N E 2 0 1 0

Note blog and featured it on the www.state.gov Web site. The line began receiving calls moments later.” Similarly, in the aftermath of the Air France Flight 447 crash in June 2009, PA immediately tweet-ed the latest developments as they were reported.

“Tweeting is extremely valuable,

particularly given the fact that the main means of access-ing the Internet worldwide is via mobile phone,” says Schaub. “Twitter is ideal for that platform and allows us to quickly reach and engage the widest possible audi-ence.”

State has even used social media to avert a potential crisis. During the March 2009 Madagascar coup, PA staff monitoring Twitter noticed rumors that the country’s pres-ident had taken refuge in the U.S. embassy. The bureau responded to the tweets immediately after confirming this was false. Those who were calling for protests in front of the embassy noticed the tweets and thanked the depart-

ment for setting the record straight. No crowd gathered, averting a po-tential crisis.

The Jan. 12 earthquake in Haiti clearly demonstrated Facebook’s potential in the aftermath of a dis-aster. Within hours of the quake, a Haitian-Canadian created an “Earthquake Haiti” Facebook page to help those seeking information on loved ones. CA monitored the site and posted contact information on how to reach our task force. It was fascinating to see the number of fans grow exponentially as the crisis con-tinued (the site currently has more than 300,000 follow-ers) and to watch people learn via Facebook that their relatives were safe.

I saw a posting from someone searching for her brother, who works at the U.S. embassy in Port-au-Prince. After scanning the e-mail directory, I located the brother and sent him a note informing him that his sister was look-ing for him. Although it took a few days to receive a reply from the employee, the example illustrates the potential of social networking in welfare-and-whereabouts cases. Embassy Santiago utilized Facebook following the Jan. 28 earthquake in Chile, posting updates for U.S. citizens and answering inquiries from its fans. Once again, the key element that Facebook brought to the equation was interaction via a two-way conversation. The embassy did not just post information, but also responded to com-ments and inquiries.

Friend Us!

The Department of State has many resources available for posts who are considering the use of social media. The bureaus of International Information Programs and In-formation Resource Management have developed a “So-cial Media Hub” site on the Communities at State Forum intranet site. The hub provides practical training manu-als, best practices, a discussion forum and a section on re-sources and research. It is important, for example, to make sure that privacy rules are always followed when putting information in the public domain.

Folks in the Office of Public Affairs and Policy Coor-dination are always prepared to give advice and guidance for those interested in using social media for consular outreach. E-mail us at CA-P-Outreach@state.gov. Or become friends with CA on Facebook! ■

F O C U S

CA uses Twitter to disseminate travel alerts and updates on country-specific information notices.

Page 40 - Foreign Service Journal - June, 2010

This is a SEO version of Foreign Service Journal - June, 2010. Click here to view full version

« Previous Page Table of Contents Next Page »