Indonesian Ministry of Foreign Affairs’s Social Media Diplomacy: A Short Review

On Saturday, October 8, 2016, Foreign Minister Retno Marsudi attended a bloggers and social media activists meeting (known as “kopi darat”) at the 2016 Kompasianival event. The presence of Foreign Minister Retno at this event was interesting because this is the first time a senior Indonesian diplomat has spoken about the use of social media in diplomacy.

In her keynote speech Foreign Minister Retno said  “Diplomats now live in an era of real time diplomacy. A diplomat must be responsive and able to interact in social media. Interaction in social media is important because it can be done at any time without boundaries with a very diverse substance.”

From Foreign Minister Retno’s statement, it appears that since the beginning of her leadership in the Foreign Ministry, the Foreign Minister has given priority to the use of social media to support diplomatic activities. The Foreign Minister realized that the use of technology and digital tools has changed the practices of diplomacy. New non-state actors are emerging enough rapidly, reshaping the international landscape and forcing foreign policy practitioners to rebalance their focus to accommodate new priorities, engage with civil society, and open the process.

It also appears that the change of diplomatic practices are necessity, whether the Ministry of Foreign Affairs like or not, diplomacy is changing, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs can change with it, or the change can take place without the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. For that, as mentioned by Foreign Minister Retno at the 2016 Kompasianival event, “It is a big mistake if diplomats do not use social media to support their activities. So we have to join and do our diplomacy.” In this regard, it is not surprising that currently the Foreign Minister is very active in social media. Almost all her activities as a Foreign Minister are always updated on instagram and Twitter.

Not only the Foreign Ministers accounts in social media, the Ministry of foreign Affairs social media accounts are also active. Currently the Ministry has a variety of platforms in social media ranging from Websites, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, youtube, Linkedin, Google+, and online applications. All of these accounts are used together to disseminate information to the public on Indonesia’s foreign policy and its implementation.

With all those social media accounts and all its activities, based on a survey research report called “Digital Diplomatic Ranking 2017” released by the DigitalLife (a research project by the Istanbul Center for Digital Affairs), Indonesian Ministry of Foreign Affairs is considered as the top 50 of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in the world. The report shows that the digital diplomatic rank of the Indonesian Ministry of Foreign Affairs in 2017 is ranked 41 out of 209 countries with a score of 43.34 and CC ++ rating. In ASEAN Indonesia is the best, while in Asia the position of Indonesia is sixth after Japan, India, Saudi Arabia, United Arab Emirates, and Kuwait. Despite being the best among ASEAN countries, the ratings are down 4 levels compared to 2016 which is ranked 37th.

In conducting its review, DigitalLife used a six-model methodology. This method consists of three capacity needs (presence, customization and up-to-dateness) and three competency needs (engagement, influence and digital diplomacy).

From its presence, it is known that Indonesia Ministry of Foreign Affairs has used various social media channels like Websites, Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, Youtube, Google+, Linkedin and Sina. Customization are limited and mostly the information is delivered to social media in Indonesian and English, no others language is used. And related to up-to-dateness, from our further identification, it is unfortunate that many Indonesian Representative websites are inactive or rarely updated.

From its engagement, it is known that the Foreign Affairs Ministry engagement with the social media users is still small. The Ministry have no specific target audience. Not surprisingly, the follower of social media accounts of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs or Indonesian Representative is very small. For example, followers of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in the Twitter is only 126 thousand and followers of Indonesian Embassy in Canada the Twitter is only 1.565. Those amount are still under the twitter account of the United States Embassy in Jakarta which have 347 thousands followers, do not compared with the Departement of States of the United States which have 5 million followers.

Furthermore, countries like the United States and the United Kingdom, the two countries that ranked first and second, beside using social mainstream media accounts, they also use blogs, Flicker, Ipodcast and other channels. They also issued guidance on Digital Government strategy (the United States) and Guidance and moderation information for the Foreign and Commonwealth Office’s social media channels (the United Kingdom).

Learned from six model methodology whic isuse by DigitalLife and observing on how the various Foreign Ministry in the world used digital tools, especially those in the top 10 position, there may be several options that can be proposed to improve the utilization of digital diplomacy of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, namely:

  1. Increase the presence of digital diplomacy by further multiplying social media accounts, customizing and updating periodically and setting specific targets for engagement to social media users. Social media updates are a challenge because they require consistency and passion in disseminating information;
  2. To provide direction for Indonesian diplomats, there should be guidance on the implementation strategy of social media diplomacy.

To close, in order for the Ministry of Foreign Affairs to be able to conduct social media diplomacy more effectively and reach a wider audience, it may be possible to do the following:

  1. The Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the Indonesian Representative increased the use of social media and updated information periodically and setting specific targets for engagement through websites, Twitter, Instagram and other social media accounts using English and other languages such as French, Mandarin, Spain, Arabic, Thai, Japanese, Korean;
  2. Improve the understanding of the Ministry staff on the importance of social media to disseminate information on Indonesian foreign policy. The utilization of social media is not only the responsibility of the Directorate of Information and Media, but also all working units and staffs in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Indonesian Representative;
  3. Increase knowledge and awareness about social media for diplomacy; Therefore, it is necessary to have short courses on media engagement, digital diplomacy, and social media for all staffs;
  4. Prepare guidance on implementation strategy of diplomacy in social media at Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Indonesian Representative.

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