As Spokesperson for the United States Diplomatic Mission to South Africa, Elizabeth Kennedy Trudeau has the job of managing one of the most robust new media platforms worldwide. From the US Department of State headquarters in Pretoria, Elizabeth engages American visitors, students and professionals alike, and has become a trusted news source for expatriates living abroad.
Twitter has become one of the primary mediums of communication for the US Mission allowing for interaction and personalizing the diplomatic corps. Elizabeth has top news stories from around the world waiting for us every morning and as an ex-pat myself, I turn to the Embassy to learn what is happening at home and around the world.
I took some time to chat with Elizabeth about her use of Twitter to create an online community of Americans living in South Africa.
How do you use Twitter to engage your audience?
As a US embassy, we use our stream as a platform to share information and answer questions. While we have a corporate account, @USEmbPretoria, we do share links and items that we think would be of interest to the Twitter community beyond a flood of US Embassy press releases. Sometimes we succeed, other times, not so much, but we’re still learning.
How frequently do you use Twitter?
Every day. We post links and news, and answer questions as we come across them. Social media is 24-7. If you are part of the conversation, you need to be in the space and as responsive as possible.
How does Twitter fit in to the overall social media strategy of the US Mission to South Africa?
It’s an important tool. New media in South Africa is a rapidly evolving sphere, and individuals and organizations use Twitter in different ways. We use it to link to our official site, to answer questions, to engage. The DM feature is fantastic, too, to contact people on a deadline.
How does Twitter compare to other social media platforms in online community building?
Twitter users reflect a microcosm of South Africa – we’ve heard estimates of about 60,000 in the country. That said, it’s an opinionated, smart, highly networked group.
What do you think makes a successful online community?
Humor. Interaction. Diversity.
What is your best advice in 140 character to build a community via Twitter?
Be in the space. #CharacterstoSpare
Any extraordinary ex pat stories learned through Twitter?
Lots of great stories during the World Cup – Americans who traveled to South Africa for the Cup had a chance to communicate with South Africans directly, received advice, recommendations, guidance and then shared stories throughout the event. Fun to watch.
To learn more about the US Mission to South Africa find them of Facebook at www.facebook.com/USinSouthAfrica, on Twitter at www.twitter.com/USEmbPretoria or check out the official website at http://southafrica.usembassy.gov/.