Preaching to the Choir

The Russian embassy in London tweeted me an article they posted. A few things caught my eye and I will be writing about them in posts to come, but one thing that stuck out like a sore thumb was that according to the article, the Russian (600) Embassy’s following is the 3rd largest in the UK after the USA (21,000) and Israel (7,200). I find that interesting, especially due to the size of the countries, Diasporas, trade ties and of course relations and interests.

But how accurate is that? Do we measure only pages that state that their belong to the embassy or consulate? What about pages created for niche markets, festivals or other events?

With this thought in mind, I took a brief look at many of its affiliated pages and I realized that while it is remarkably active in social media, Israel doesn’t fulfill its potential, and stays preaching to its own choir.

After successfully establishing Facebook pages for the embassies and consulates around the world, the Israel foreign ministry and staff, as well as affiliated advocacy groups have turned to setting up unique pages focusing on specific aspects they want to amplify in an attempt to reach out to a broader audience through what would be their own fields of interests such as art, fashion, technology etc. The pages are filled with colorful images, messaging and useful information.

After the initial fan drive effect wears off, their fan base remains pretty much stagnant and they find it very hard to expand. Why? I believe it is rooted first and foremost in their very first step: naming the page. The names they choose are almost always directly indicative of Israel – either including the word Israel or a Hebrew word in English lettering.

The content too, is restricted to Israel, and thought there might be abundance and variety of content the country has to offer, it is very limited and consequentially limiting. The direct affiliation with the country, as well as the lack of local content, deters, to my belief, many potential fans.

I bet that if we take 5 of those pages, averaging in 1,500 fans, and cross them, we will find a 70% overlap in both fans and content, leaving only a few of the fans following purely out of niche interest.

Excluding a few, only people who are actually looking for information about Israel will end up finding and possibly liking those pages and will be exposed to the information the country is trying to share with the world in order to broaden the conversation about it and improve its overall image. That leaves the true target audience – the unaware, the unconvinced unengaged.

Understanding this very basic point can easily give them more for their money, which is invested less in Facebook ads and more in the people who are paid to maintain the pages. By the way, those people have many other responsibilities and are not fully minded and geared towards this task. Most of the time, it is a task they picked up on the way, and they don’t all have marketing or PR backgrounds. In many cases, the job is left to interns who do their thing and leave after 3 months; therefore the very important strategic element, tone and continuity are left behind.

This is of course not restricted to Facebook.

I think that breaking out of the paradigm of Facebook + Twitter = social media is imperative. But I’ll get to that in later posts on this blog. But as I said, first things first. If you have an image problem, why the hell would you name a page that is supposed to attract those who wouldn’t normally flock to you, after yourself?


An Introduction

Every diplomatic mission has an ultimate goal based on their country’s strategic interest. Simply put – it is all about making friends.

The challenge for any representative is to get the message across. However, a successful diplomatic effort gets others to convey the message for you.

Diplomatic missions all over the world have recognized social media as an efficient tool to achieve their goals, but I feel that they are using new tools, old school style, failing to understand and utilize the very essence of social media marketing.

Diplomatic missions – embassies, consulates and delegations are still preaching to their own choirs with very little success in reaching out to new audiences which are and should be their top priority.

One can argue that the choir’s broader network does get exposed to the content, but is that really the case and if so, how effective is it?

The initial fan drive’s importance lies first and foremost  in beefing up your following so that you, as a government don’t look pathetic… I found that the easiest way to do that is by asking your friends and relatives who you left behind at home to like your Facebook page or follow you on Twitter. They won’t all do it, of course. Not everyone wants to show that they LIKE something that the government is doing. But I told people it would be a great way for them to keep track of me and what I’m doing. Who would have thought that they would be interested? Lucky for me, they were!

Cultivating your natural audience is important, especially when you are at an early stage of building your following. But once you have done that, the real hard work begins, and that is keeping your audience engaged and motivated to share your content out of interest, and eventually branching out to new audiences who you would have never thought possible to reach.

As we progress in this blog, I will be examining as well as sharing mine and other professionals’ insights on this matter as well as the many issues and challenges not only in building a following but also engaging and fulfilling strategic goals via digital diplomacy.