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January 05, 2012

US State Department Expanding Use of Social Media

by Scott Stearns

U.S. diplomats are expanding their use of social media during what the Obama administration is calling 21st Century Statecraft Month.

U.S. State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland stood at the same podium she uses every day in the Carl Rowan briefing room. But the questions Friday came not from the State Department press corps. They came from users of the social media site Twitter tweeting to the hashtag #AskState.

Nuland's answers were compressed, translated, and tweeted on the State Department's 10 official Twitter feeds in Arabic, Chinese, English, Farsi, French, Hindi, Portuguese, Russian, Spanish and Urdu.

It is part of what she says is Secretary of State Hillary Clinton's drive to expand U.S. diplomatic outreach.

"Secretary Clinton has made the use of new technology and innovation a key part of our foreign policy agenda around the world. So here at State and at [US]AID, we are adopting new approaches to meet the diplomatic and development challenges that we see,” said Nuland.

Nuland said the State Department has 193 social media accounts, about 100 of which are associated with specific embassies.

"Part of this effort is making sure that we are making full use of digital networks and technologies to more quickly and more directly engage people and audiences at home and abroad,” said Nuland.

Next week, the U.S. Embassy in Port-au-Prince will hold a Twitter question-and-answer session about recovery efforts two years after the earthquake there, and the U.S. Mission to International Organizations in Vienna will hold a virtual town hall about nuclear nonproliferation, nuclear security, and nuclear safety.