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Foreign Office Blunders On International Twitter Relations

Foreign Office Twitter Training Debacle

The Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) has spent close to £100,000 training its staff on how to use social media. Compared to most government spending this seems somewhat frugal, but more training may be required with regard to social media etiquette after yesterday’s Twitter blunder that left many Americans cheesed-off and the FCO a little red-faced.

The training was given to consular staff around the world, press officers, web editors, senior management and policy makers to help them use social media effectively in times of crisis and to improve transparency and understanding with the public on matters of complicated foreign policies. Social media is also used to track British nationals abroad and keep them safe and up to fate with changing or potentially dangerous situations.

According to the department, the Twitter account does not use any automation and promotes news and press releases for public consumption, as well as photos, speeches and live event coverage. The request into the FCO’s spending was lodged last September but became public on Monday, in a case of very unfortunate timing.

These lessons may need some reinforcing after staff at the British embassy in the US, @UKinUSA, posted a tongue in cheek joke to mark the 200th anniversary of the Burning of Washington, the first and last burning of the White House, a feat that some Brits may harbour a secret pride for? However, in a classic example of mismatched senses of humour, many US citizens did not take the post so light heartedly and were enraged by the inflammatory photo. The tweet depicted a large White House cake with sparkling candles, accompanied by the caption: “Commemorating the 200th anniversary of burning the White House. Only sparklers this time!”

A number of Twitter users responded angrily to the tweet saying it was in poor taste. Three hours later the embassy apologized, insisting that staff simply “meant to mark an event in history and celebrate our strong friendship today”. This was followed up with an unconvincing distraction tactic, a link to a lengthy essay entitled ‘The Torch of Friendship’ which details the history of the 1814 siege.

Since 2010, over £5,000 has been dedicated to training three MPs on how to give “effective TV and radio interviews in a variety of contexts”, but unfortunately the training is no longer in use as the three ministers have now left office. Mark Simmonds resigned from his post earlier this month over the “intolerable” strain on his family life, Alistair Burt faded from the limelight in last year’s reshuffle and Henry Bellingham was also moved two years ago.

Katie Rowley 

Recent graduate and now interning as content editor, when she's not writing articles Katie can quite likely be found festival-ing, holiday-ing or reading a book (dedicated English student that she is). Follow her @KatieAtSMF.

Contact us on Twitter, on Facebook, or leave your comments below. To find out about social media training or management why not take a look at our website for more info http://socialmediacambridge.co.uk/.
Foreign Office Blunders On International Twitter Relations Reviewed by Anonymous on Friday, August 29, 2014 Rating: 5
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