Digital diplomacy: Facebook users build good will for Obama Indonesia visit

US embassy Facebook page has more than 430,000 fans

The welcome mat in Indonesia for President Barack Obama and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton this week was partially created on Facebook.

The US Embassy in Jakarta has generated a fan base of 430,000 Indonesians with its two-year-old Facebook page. Embassy staffers have been operating the Facebook site as a base for public engagement, conversation, news, culture and tourism promotion.

The Jakarta embassy’s Facebook Page has more fans than all the other U.S. embassies on Facebook combined, according to the Citizen 2.0 report released on Nov. 3 by Switzerland-based Redcut. The report highlighted 17 examples of government use of social media.


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The Jakarta embassy’s Facebook Wall is popular, with many posts attracting 500 or more comments. The page is written in Indonesian, with English-language translations instantly available with a click.

The embassy’s Facebook page has a fairly loose comment policy and is known for the free interplay of ideas in the comments, according to Redcut. “Light moderation encourages freedom of expression and team interventions are limited to removing disrespectful or hateful comments, or redirecting people who ask questions that are beyond their expertise,” Redcut said.

A State Department team created the embassy Facebook page in 2009, with the goal of reaching Indonesia’s 40 million Facebook users, second in size to the United States’s.

Using Facebook for diplomacy fostered a “ down-to-earth” and community feeling, Redcut said.

When President Obama first visited Indonesia in May 2011, the announcement on Jakarta embassy’s Facebook page quickly amassed over a thousand posts, “likes” and positive comments, the Redcut report said.

“People invited Obama to their home or asked him what Indonesian meal he was going to eat, etc. The overall experience underlined the growing success social media has had as an efficient tool of public diplomacy, enabling a country to improve its perception abroad,” the report concluded.

Obama lived in Indonesia for a period in his youth. His personal ties are believed to have contributed to an uptick in U.S. popularity in the country. According to the Pew Research Center, U.S. favorability in Indonesia rose from 37 percent in 2008 to 63 percent in 2009.

Obama and Clinton were in Bali, Indonesia on Nov. 17 for the East Asia Summit.













About the Author

Alice Lipowicz is a staff writer covering government 2.0, homeland security and other IT policies for Federal Computer Week.

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