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Hashtag diplomacy: twitter as a tool for engaging in public diplomacy and promoting US foreign policy

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While national governments increasingly deploy digital diplomacy communication strategies to harness the power of social media, political scientists have paid sparse attention to certain aspects of this development. Our study endeavors to address this lacuna by employing content analysis and data-analytic methodologies to examine U.S. Twitter diplomacy. We leverage a robust dataset of tweets posted by leading foreign policy officials in the Obama administration to determine whether Twitter diplomacy exhibited a coherent communication strategy (per the rational actor model of foreign policy), or a more ad-hoc and disjointed practice (per the pluralist and bureaucratic politics models). Furthermore, this study assesses several variables relating to the efficacy of Twitter statecraft, including the formatting of tweets, and the resonance and geographic reach of tweets. We find that Twitter diplomacy under the Obama administration was largely rational; that is, it reflected the rational actor model, as the topic focus of tweets was proportional to stated U.S. foreign policy priorities.

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Fig. 1

Sources Obama (2009), Obama (2013), Slaughter (2009), Foreign Affairs (2015), Maher (2018)

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See Table 14.

Table 14 Twitter and US foreign policy codesheet

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Collins, S.D., DeWitt, J.R. & LeFebvre, R.K. Hashtag diplomacy: twitter as a tool for engaging in public diplomacy and promoting US foreign policy. Place Brand Public Dipl 15, 78–96 (2019).

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