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A recent study by global public relations and communications agency Burson-Marsteller on countries branding themselves on Twitter highlights how a majority of the countries have underutilised Twitter's potential to promote and raise awareness about themselves.
Titled Twiplomacy, it reveals how nine out of 193 UN member countries officially own the twitter handle having their country names. Interestingly, India is not one of them. The @india account that describes itself as 'everything about India' is owned by a private individual, who is assumed to be living in China by his tweets. Fortunately, India has not lagged behind in other social media channels such as YouTube (www.youtube.com/india), where the government has its own channel. It is one of the 19 countries to have an official channel (a majority of them run by the tourism department of the countries) on YouTube.
The study data collected this month also states how the Twitter handles of three out of five countries are protected, dormant, inactive or suspended. And, about 50 per cent of the 71 active accounts tweet automated news feeds about the country. However, @GreatBritain, @Israel and @Sweden (a citizen diplomacy initiative jointly managed by Sweden Institute and government tourism agency Visit Sweden) have fared well in branding themselves, the study indicates.
Great Britain's Twitter account is part of its 'Britain is Great' campaign launched in March this year to promote United Kingdom. Israel's (@Israel) twitter account, maintained by the digital diplomacy team of its foreign ministry, is the country's official presence on Twitter. The account has one of the highest follower bases, close to 70,000.
Meanwhile, the Twitter accounts of some countries such as @AntiguaBarbuda, @Barbados, @Lithuania, @Maldives, @SouthAfrica and @Spain are controlled by their tourism ministries.
"Looking at the findings, it becomes clear that few governments and tourism organisations have understood the power of country branding and marketing on Twitter," says Matthias Lüfkens, head of the Burson-Marsteller EMEA Digital Practice. "There is a huge opportunity for countries to use Twitter as part of their communications to engage with a large and growing audience," he adds.
Burson-Marsteller collated the information for the study with the use of Twitonomy, where it analysed the Twitter history and tweets of country name accounts. This is the second part of the Twiplomacy study; the first part looked into the Twitter accounts of 264 world leaders and how they used the social media platform.