Social media has proved to be great for engagement with foreign audiences. It allows for two-way conversations and the possibility to engage on a variety of topics. However, it also has its limitations. Some public diplomacy practitioners see social media platforms as dumping grounds for information. They believe Facebook and Twitter are there as information holders. This is not an effective use of social media. Social media requires a strategy. Yes, it might be an instant form of communication, but in order to make an impact and engage with your audience, a plan is needed. I think that before social media, people put more thought into their campaigns. This care and attention to detail also needs to be applied to social media.
Another limitation is the overload of information that now exists on the Internet. Audiences are spending less time reading materials online and less time exploring webpages. This allows people to pick and choose what they want to read. When print materials were more popular, people read everything from front to back. However, now you decide which Tweet you will read and which one you will ignore. I think this makes it harder for public diplomacy practitioners to spread their message. They are in competition with Lady Gaga and Britney Spears. Governments need to get more creative and innovative in order to hold their audiences’ attention.
I do not think that critiques outweigh the advantages. Today’s audiences are used to receiving their information directly from the source and not from secondary sources. People want the ability to go on Twitter and see what the U.S. government has to say about a certain issue. This direct engagement allows governments to be in control of their message by controlling which images are shown and what content they place on their sites. Social media also holds governments accountable. People are free to express their thoughts – good or bad –and governments are expected to engage back. Social media has in many ways brought government back to the people.