The Position of Twitter in Digital Diplomacy

Elif CANTENAR

With the rapidly developing technology and the digitization of countless fields in the world in
this century, diplomacy has become one of the fields that keep up with this. The main aim of
diplomatic activities is to secure their own foreign policy interests. Digital diplomacy, on the
other hand, aims to create an impact on the public on digital platforms. It breaks the boundaries
of traditional diplomacy. While social media takes a significant place in the digitalization of
diplomacy, heads of state try to shape their images in a positive way by representing their
countries on these social media platforms. Twitter is by far the most popular platform, especially
in terms of formality and diplomacy. In this way, the communication of international relations
has also been reshaped. Most heads of state now have a Twitter account where they can share
their thoughts and approaches to events, and they actively use it to reach their audiences. Within
the framework of this developing order, new terms are also emerging.


The Concept of Twiplomacy


The term Twiplomacy, which basically means Twitter Diplomacy, is the common ground of the
Twitter platform, traditional and digital diplomacy. In this social media, which brings together
the world leaders and the public in the same environment, the tweets of politicians are seen and
shared by the citizens of the relevant country and even other countries, and opinions are
expressed with reaction. World leaders respond to each other’s tweets, shaping the public,
creating a dynamic environment of diplomacy online. However, being social becomes a necessity
and information is seriously fast, easy to access. Twiplomacy also concerns foreign policy.
Twitter emerges as the social media platform that plays the biggest role today, especially for
states to shape their national branding, that is, to shape their images using the digital
environment. Many state leaders and diplomats have Twitter accounts, and they use these
accounts for diplomatic purposes to reach communities, their own citizens, international
audiences, create a positive image by representing their countries, express their reactions to
global events and strengthen their diplomatic relations. According to the information in the
Twiplomacy Study 2018 Report, 97% of 193 United Nations (UN) member states officially exist on Twitter. As the number of heads of state, government agencies and diplomats increased,
diplomatic interactions on Twitter increased noticeably. It would not be wrong to attribute the
emergence of a new term, Twiplomacy, to this.
Twitter, which has created its own diplomacy sub-title by gaining a solid place in digital
diplomacy in recent years, has many benefits in international communication, but also has
potentially harmful and risky effects. Twiplomacy, which brings many benefits such as creating a
global society, making being a world citizen accessible, making international cooperation
accessible, providing control in national branding, facilitating international communication and
access to information, and many other benefits. It can lead to stigma, dangerous communities
quickly accessing and misusing accessible diplomatic information, and even technophobia.
Twitter, which has a huge audience, used by serious numbers of people from almost every
country, has made very positive contributions to countries and heads of state when used correctly,
but its risks should not be underestimated, and all necessary precautions should be taken.


How World Leaders Use Twitter


According to BCW Twiplomacy data, Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi, President of the
United States Joe Biden, and President of the Republic of Turkiye Recep Tayyip Erdogan are in
the top three in the list of 2022 world’s 10 most influential leaders, respectively. These leaders
have been analyzed according to the number of followers, geography, age and working time. The
rest of the list includes Colombia’s President Gustavo Petro, Brasilia’s former President Jair
Bolsonaro, Venezuela’s President Nicolas Maduro, Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelensky,
Canada’s Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, El Salvador’s President Nayib Bukele and Chili’s
President Gabriel Boric. In digitalized diplomacy, these heads of state, especially to represent
their countries, have shared their feelings, thoughts, how they approached problems and even
what language they use in the digital world with the tweets they shared on international issues. At
the same time, they tried to promote their political identities and to convince the public. It is clear
that Twiplomacy has an emotional side here. In general, all of them actively use their accounts to
inform their citizens and international audiences on local and international issues. However, each
leader’s use of the platform and its detailed purpose differs.
Although each head of state has a similar presence on Twitter, what he likes or retweets, what
topics he tweets more, how transparent information and thoughts he tweets, the level of formality

is similar to a point, they are different from each other. Surely, tweet sharing has also increased in
global special situations such as COVID-19.
The language of choice when using Twitter as a head of state or leader is also fairly important. In
the end, it is clear who wants to reach, and the audience size is revealed accordingly.
If we take a look at the Twitter usage of the leaders, India’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi
generally prefers to share the events he attends and the necessary information for the citizens,
naturally he uses English and Hindi almost equally in his account. Modi, who has been using
Twitter since 2009, uses the platform very efficiently and effectively, especially the number of
video sharing. He shares many videos in which he calls out to the citizens about the topics on the
agenda and only himself is included. Therefore, it has received great interactions with these
videos. The account, which also contains a considerable number of birthday celebrations, national
and religious holidays, and official congratulations, provided the necessary information firsthand
and did not hesitate to reflect his feelings in his tweets. It can be said that there is a sincere use of
social media. At the same time, he also shared on issues such as violence against women, gender
equality, COVID-19, which take into account current, global issues and demand sensitivity from
citizens. He emphasized the seriousness of the situation with tweets calling on citizens to take
precautions almost every day in the fight against COVID-19. The importance it attaches to its
diplomatic relations and cooperation with other countries is also evident in the Twitter
environment. However, the most obvious thing to say about Modi’s use of Twitter is that he is
quite transparent and shares every step he takes diplomatically, so to speak.
If we take a look at the Twitter usage of the leaders, India’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi
generally prefers to share the events he attends and the necessary information for the citizens,
naturally he uses English and Hindi almost equally in his account. Modi, who has been using
Twitter since 2009, uses the platform very efficiently and effectively, especially the number of
video sharing. He shares many videos in which he calls out to the citizens about the topics on the
agenda and only himself is included. Therefore, it has received great interactions with these
videos. The account, which also contains a considerable number of birthday celebrations, national
and religious holidays, and official congratulations, provided the necessary information firsthand
and did not hesitate to reflect his feelings in his tweets. It can be said that there is a sincere use of
social media. At the same time, he also shared on issues such as violence against women, gender

equality, COVID-19, which take into account current, global issues and demand sensitivity from
citizens. He emphasized the seriousness of the situation with tweets calling on citizens to take
precautions almost every day in the fight against COVID-19. The importance it attaches to its
diplomatic relations and cooperation with other countries is also evident in the Twitter
environment. However, the most obvious thing to say about Modi’s use of Twitter is that he is
quite transparent and shares every step he takes diplomatically, so to speak.
President of the Republic of Turkiye Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, who has a Twitter account since
2009, mostly uses his account to inform about domestic politics, domestic situation, and
developments. The president’s English tweets, which focus more on domestic politics, are in the
minority. Erdoğan also draws attention with the number of media and links he includes in his
tweets, such as photos and videos. He also showed his stance by criticizing unfiltered content
such as fake news and smear campaigns and kept the emotions at a local level with his tweets that
often contain explicit statements in the field of domestic politics. Basically, his account consists
of press conferences, opening ceremonies, welcoming ceremonies, policy talks, official visits,
calls for cooperation, congratulatory messages, new year messages, good wishes, condolences to
the relevant people and tweets about the meetings related to the Party. In the light of these, the
tweets he posted about the fight during the COVID-19 period are generally tweets that use
religious expressions based on faith. He did not remain silent in the events that made a lot of
noise and expressed his approach. Examples of these are his call to stand against the racist and
fascist mentality that led to the death of George Floyd, and to fight terrorism after Turkiye’s loss
of soldiers on May 30.
Pakistan’s Prime Minister Imran Khan, who has a very active Twitter account, targets tweets
about political problems. The level of using English and Urdu in his account is almost equal. His
tweets mostly contain tweets about political struggles, calls to stop violence and prejudices
against some communities – such as Muslims – efforts to eliminate state terrorism, posts that
support human equality. Like other leaders, Khan also shares messages of support, condolences,
good wishes, health wishes and warning messages when necessary. In addition, his ideas were
supported by the opinions of academics and his tweets were written in a relatively official
language. In general, his approach is to share the country’s problems and the threats that the
country is in, and then seek a stable solution.

Certainly, in some cases, heads of state may have to take a different approach on Twitter.
Venezuela’s President Nicolas Maduro made more defensive posts when confronted by Juan
Guaidó, who used Twitter as a tool of political activism against him to overthrow his rule. As
another example, Brasilia’s former President Jair Bolsonaro handled communication on Twitter
with an analytical approach, using populist, argumentative, polarizing, and discursive strategies,
and national symbols. It is possible to observe the conservative strategies he used in his election
campaigns from his tweets. Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelensky took an active role in social
media by sharing videos and tweets to explain that they would not bow down in Kiev’s resistance
against Russia. In this way, he showed how useful social media – especially Twitter – can be in
difficult situations. As for Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, he aimed to establish an
emotional bond with his citizens with his tweets, which he stated that Canada is different and
special. Although the interaction rates of his tweets in both English and French varied, Trudeau
had a more positive impact on his English tweets. It would not be wrong to say that the president,
whose approach to events is quite obvious with his tweets on Twitter, uses a transparent and more
emotion-oriented communication strategy with his people.

Result


Digitization is an inevitable concept in the developing world. Digitization in diplomacy is
provided through many social media platforms. Twitter is the leader of these platforms. The
active participation of many heads of state on this platform has brought the term Twiplomacy to
us. While each head of state is in Twiplomacy, they follow different methods and strategies while
trying to exist in digital diplomacy. Accordingly, the interaction rates and the number of
followers vary. Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi is quite active on Twitter, tweeting
everything he does politically and diplomatically. President of the Republic of Turkiye Recep
Tayyip Erdoğan continues to share his stance against domestic politics and domestic situations.
Thus, he prefers a more local approach. Pakistan’s Prime Minister Imran Khan, on the other
hand, talked about his attitude towards the problems concerning the country on the agenda and
possible solutions in his Twitter posts in a relatively official language. As can be seen, even the
three leaders’ use of Twitter, their targeted audiences, and the topics they share with are quite
different from each other, however, the mentioned heads of state use their accounts actively and

stay in contact with their citizens. All leaders who want to get a foothold in diplomacy today
must have some form of Twitter presence. In this way, they can control the image of themselves
and the country they represent and benefit from Twiplomacy.

References


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