I love that the French Embassy here in D.C. is (slowly) embracing social media and I love this new project they’re doing: a twitter Q&A about France. The Internet is a great public diplomacy tool to connect with new audiences. Like any tool, it has limitations and its own set of challenges. For one, the language issue is tricky and diplomats have to strike the right balance between communicating in their own language for the audience back home and the expat community as well as the language of the country where they are posted to reach “the locals”. Immediacy is a huge challenge as well. Social media, twitter in particular, strives on the right now. Diplomacy, on the other hand, is more about carefully crafting an appropriate response. It can be hard to balance the two and a simple mistake or mispoken word, especially if you’re trying to write in a language that’s not your native language, can start a whole crisis. Finally, one of the biggest challenge of ediplomacy is to remember that social media tools are, well, just tools in the diplomatic arsenal. Twitter, facebook, pinterest etc. are great for cultural outreach, but as Robert O. Boorstin, Director of Public Policy at Google recently explained at a “Power to the Tweeple” panel on Digital Diplomacy during D.C.’s Social Media Week: “no amount of tweets can change the nuclear program in Iran.”
There’s no arguing with that 😉 Luckily, changing the nuclear program in Iran is not the goal of tomorrow’s Twitter Q&A with the French Embassy. The online chat, which will lead by Arnaud Guillois, press counselor and spokesperson of the Embassy of France in the United States, just wants to answer some of the questions that you might have about the Embassy (I’d like to know how I can get into the secret embassy store!!? I need good cheese…), France, France in the US and the relationship between the two countries. So if you have a question you’d like to ask to @franceintheus, use the hashtag (or should I say mot-dièse as it is officially supposed to be called in French?) #askfrance on twitter and ask away. You can also post your questions ahead of the chat on facebook on this thread. Then tune into the chat tomorrow, Thursday March 14 at 12:30PM EST to read Arnaud’s answers.