A well-crafted branding strategy from a fast food brand can change your perception about its burgers. But can effective branding change your point of view about a country? Nation-branders hope so.
Nation-branding — a field of branding that extends beyond tourism into highlighting a country’s competitive advantage, whether infrastructure or culture — isn’t a new thing. But the pervasiveness of social media has allowed governments to take ownership of their own social feeds and engage in niche and real-time conversations online, with most countries’ governments having dedicated social media accounts on Twitter and Facebook.
As Joshua S. Fouts, the former director at USC’s Center on Public Diplomacy said in a Council on Foreign Relations interview: There are plenty of benefits for countries that successfully embrace branding techniques.
“Nation branding is all about ‘getting your story out’ so that at a minimum you have a say in the shaping of the narratives about your country, your leaders, your decision-making, your policies, your actions and so on,” said Thomas Cromwell, president at nation-branding consultancy firm East-West Communications. “The best way to do this currently is for governments to use social media which provides vehicles for instant, global distribution.”
“People are already posting what they think about a country,” said Efe Sevin, a professor who specializes in public democracy at Turkey’s Kadir Has University. “Being on social media helps countries to engage with these people and sometimes to handle negative posts.”
Others, like Simon Anholt, independent policy adviser and founder of the political platform “Good Country Index,” don’t think it makes a lick of a difference.
“All my research over the last 20 years shows that people hardly ever change their minds about countries, so the idea that tweeting a bit more or less can possibly have any impact on a nation’s image is pure fantasy.”
Yet, there is no dearth of official government accounts on Twitter with different focuses that share posts on everything from history to current news. Here are five countries making a splash on social media when it comes to branding themselves.
Israel’s official Twitter handle is maintained by its foreign ministry’s “digital diplomacy team” and boasts of over 223,000 followers. It has been up and running since July 2009, and often has an average of five posts a day highlighting myriad topics from archaeological discoveries to technological breakthroughs in the country. Apart from this official account, Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, its foreign ministry as well as its the Israeli Defense Forces all have their own Twitter accounts. The latter two actively post on Facebook too.
— Israel ישראל (@Israel) February 1, 2015
— Israel ישראל (@Israel) February 2, 2015
Russia’s renewed bid for neo-imperialism is reflected in its government’s official Twitter account in English, with one of its latest posts celebrating the 72nd anniversary of the Red Army’s victory in the Battle of Stalingrad in World War II. On the same account, it paints a rosy picture of the struggling economy, in a bid to attract more foreign investment. The account has over 66,500 followers, while its Russian-language version has over 237,000 followers. The accounts also frequently post about activities of the Russian Duma or state assembly and policy updates.
In 15 years, Russia’s GDP nearly doubled, poverty fell by 63%, industrial production grew by 75% – 1st Deputy PM Igor Shuvalov
— Government of Russia (@GovernmentRF) January 30, 2015
Social media played a big role in the election that brought Narendra Modi to power as India’s Prime Minister last year. In fact, according to the Times of India, nearly 90 percent of Modi’s ministry was already on social networking when he assumed power in March 2014. Twitter and Facebook continue to be an ongoing focus in his tenure, with a separate handle for his office with approximately 4.73 million followers and 273,000 followers for the Ministry of External Affairs on Twitter. The Prime Minister’s Office account keeps the rhetoric alive, quoting Modi from his various appearances several times a day whereas the latter touches upon heritage, culture and foreign diplomacy topics. India often amplifies cultural cues: posting a picture of the menu at Obama’s banquet dinner on his recent India trip, for example.
With over 341,000 followers, the official Twitter channel for the U.K. government established in November 2008, aims to be the source of all government services and information for its citizens. Its foreign office arm, @ForeignOffice, tweets links to what Brits are doing all over the world in the fields of human rights and medicine, showcasing a friendly face to the rest of the world. It also often tweets out what foreign officials are up to abroad.
— Foreign Office (FCO) (@foreignoffice) February 1, 2015
U.S. According to the U.S. government, it uses its social media accounts to connect with people and relay official information. The USA.gov handle has over 277,000 followers on Twitter and tweets about a broad range of topics: healthcare, energy and environment — and recipes. Its Facebook page is modeled the same way, with video tutorials accompanying links to important resources.
Homepage image courtesy: Ministry of External Affairs, India.
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