Twitter is one of the most well-known social media, social networking platforms. The famous, the infamous and the not-so-famous use it to express their hopes, dreams, wit and wisdom, their breakfast and other habits and their grievances with an interested public. Many accounts on the service are also automated, driven by software known as bots, whether for spam, scam or legitimate information dissemination. Then, there is the curiosity that is the account known as @sweden.
As the name of this account would suggest, it’s Swedish. In fact, it’s a vehicle of the Swedish state. But, unlike many other official national Twitter feeds, the reins to @Sweden change hands regularly, with a different Swede curating the account each week; the account has been online since January 2009. The website associated with the @sweden Twitter account says:
“For seven days, she or he tweets about life in Sweden, love or work, sharing opinions and ideas along the way. Then, someone else does the same – but differently.”
Writing in the International Journal of Diplomacy and Economy, Helen Hoffmann of the Euroculture Programme, at the University of Uppsala, Sweden, describes @sweden in more detail and discusses in what way the account is an “organ of the state”, how it contributes to the ephemeral notion of “digital diplomacy, if it does at all. Indeed, Hoffmann has undertaken a thorough media analysis and carried out interviews with those involved in the project and compares the theoretical demands on the account with the reality. She explains that, “Curators of Sweden does not fulfil the criteria for digital diplomacy but instead is part of well-concerted nation-branding.” Additionally, the existence and operation of this account also highlights the digital divide between the connected public and the unconnected or disconnected members of society.
Hoffmann concludes with some advice for would be digital diplomats: “Social media will continue to play a role in all parts of people’s lives and thus in the realm of state-to-citizen interaction as well. In order to remain relevant to their audiences, diplomats should re-examine the advantages and disadvantages of Twitter for their particular organisation and employ the medium only where it is applicable and used optimally.”
Hoffmann, H. (2015) ‘Digital public diplomacy on Twitter? The case of @sweden‘, Int. J. Diplomacy and Economy, Vol. 2, No. 4, pp.278-298.