Digital Diplomacy Around the World

Canada launched its new “voice to the world” on Twitter this week, with the creation of the @Canada Twitter account.

The account, which will be managed by Foreign Affairs, Trade and Development Canada (DFATD) seeks to “capture the interest of audiences beyond our borders.”Since launching on Wednesday, more than 69,000 people have already followed. The French equivalent, @AuCanada, has garnered less than 2,000.

Foreign Affairs Minister John Baird announced the new Twitter accounts at a DFATD event on digital diplomacy, an initiative that Baird has personally advocated for over the past two years.

This summer, Canada was praised for its efforts to set up Twitter accounts for its embassies, high commissions, and missions around the globe in a study by public relations firm Burson-Marsteller. Canada has over 100 missions connected, Baird said at the event.

The “humble brag”

The new Twitter account offers a unique way for Canada to promote itself to the world, in a way that doesn’t need to fit underneath the various branches of DFATD.

For a short period, it seemed like the account would offer a more relaxed voice than other government Twitter handles. They started with a joke about Canada’s reputation as great apologists, some discussion of using a Simpsons picture as the profile picture, and showed some love for the CFL.

From those early messages, it felt like the account may fulfill a role to engage with Canadians, and those interested in Canada. Perhaps an outlet that would allow the government to use the “humble brag” to highlight all that Canada has to offer.

In the (few) days since, the account has moved away from that. Instead, it’s starting to fall into more of a one-way broadcast medium, creating more “in your face” promotion.

Taking to BuzzFeed

DFATD has also expanded their digital presence onto BuzzFeed. They’ve established a BuzzFeed community page, which allows users to upload whatever they’d like, as opposed to the main BuzzFeed page.

There, DFATD has published a listicle titled “12 Ways Iran Is At War Over The Internet.”

As the Ottawa Citizen points out, this outlet appears to use more lax language than the government language we’ve grown used to, including a line that says Iran wants to go “full North Korea.”

Obviously, these signify an attempt to reach people (particularly young people) in ways that are new to governments. However, Canada is not the first to expand their online reach in this way. So while they continue to find their voice and plan their strategy, here’s a quick look at how other countries are using Twitter to engage.


The @Ireland account, managed by, runs on a neat concept. Each week, access to the account is handed off to a different Irish resident. This person then becomes the official curator for the account, and is in charge of tweeting original content and sharing anything of interest.

Basically, this allows users to see Ireland through the eyes of a different person each week.

There are fourteen rules that a curator has to follow when they take over the account, which include not defaming anyone, not changing the password, and not actively advertising any one company. Other than that, things seem completely open.

This week, the account is being led by Declan Cashin, editor with BuzzFeed’s UK edition. He’s been posting links to the Star Wars trailer, photos of after-work beers, and a Seinfeld GIF, for example.


Sweden operates on a similar structure, though with even more relaxed guidelines, it seems.

Managed by the Swedish Institute, a government agency, the account also gives a different curator control for a week. It was heavily reported on in the summer of 2012, when they made the decision to hand-off the account to everyday Swedes, with a number of media outlets asking why they’d do such a thing and pointing to some of the questionable content that’s gone out since.

Two years later, the account is still going strong, and has become a model of true free speech on social media.

This week, the account is being managed by Tanja, who’s focus is on, “On being Russian in Sweden, sex, psychology, dancing, clothes she wears and student orchestras.”

She’s posted photos of a candelit anniversary dinner, questioned attitudes towards immigrants and people of colour, and most famously, talked about her favourite time to have sex outdoors.


The Spanish government has used their official Twitter account to promote tourism, exclusively. Each day, a number of photos showcasing stunning landscapes and decadent cuisine from across the country are posted by the account.

Alternating in English and Spanish, it provides excellent advertising for the country about the wonders one can discover while traveling there.

South Africa

South Africa has also used their account for tourism purposes, though catered it directly at North American users.

Unlike Spain, this account doesn’t rely on photos but instead links users to stories and features about things to do and places to see in the country.

Of course, they’d be remiss to not show some of the beauty of the country, but photos are much rarer and outnumbered by links.


Another country that uses their Twitter account for tourism purposes, Australia shines as a great example of boosting engagement.

They use relaxed, conversational language, and respond to trending topics. For example, this week they shared a photo from the Australia cricket team after the death of Phillip Hughes. On Fridays, they share common sentiments about the end of the work week.

Like Spain, the Australia account finds its success through photos, sharing snapshots from across the beautiful settings.

They also have a kangaroo as their profile picture, and the bio reflects that: “Official tweeter for Tourism Australia. I don’t have fingers, only paws. I’m also @Australia on Instagram”


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