What Should the U.S. State Department Do on Social Media?

So long digital projects, hello social media. The U.S. State Department has quietly abandoned its America.gov site to refocus its efforts on Twitter, Facebook and the like. Call it #USDIPLOMACY, and tell us what you think State should be doing to reach out, worldwide through social media.

So long digital projects, hello social media.  The U.S. State Department has quietly abandoned its America.gov site to refocus its efforts on Twitter, Facebook and the like.  Call it #USDIPLOMACY, and tell us what you think State should be doing to reach out, worldwide through social media.

As first reported by The Hill, the federal agency responsible for representing America worldwide is moving away from its three year-old digital project to focus its efforts instead on social media:

A message on the front page of America.gov informs visitors that, as of March 31, the site is not being updated and will be archived. A notice directs visitors seeking information on U.S. foreign policy to the U.S. embassy and consulate websites or to State.gov.

The manpower once devoted to the site, provided through the State Department’s Bureau of International Information Programs (IIP), is being redirected toward the department’s “social media assets,” which use Twitter, Facebook and YouTube. IIP Deputy Assistant Secretary Duncan MacInnes called it a shift to a “more proactive” Web engagement strategy.

Although MacInnes said the department’s official site of record, State.gov, would still serve as a resource, a “static website” like America.gov is no longer the best way to promote understanding of policy.

America.gov was launched by then-Secretary of State Condoleeza Rice during the Bush administration in early 2008.

Showing how quickly social media has evolved, the site at the time was seen as an “exciting” use of multimedia by the typically stuffy State Department.

Three years later, America.gov is a “static website,” per MacInnes, who further explained the reasoning behind the move:

“The new paradigm, particularly for reaching youth, is you have to go to where people already are on the Web. People don’t visit you, you have to go to them,” said MacInnes.

Also revealed by MacInnes is the social media mantra now ringing through the halls of State.

“Chunky; chunk the information down,” he said, referring to the need to keep messages short and sweet to engage users.

No specifics were given on what the State Department’s social media efforts will include beyond possibly including “photo albums, polls and discussion points to stimulate discussion,” and the ability to translate “social media and mobile content into six major languages.”

With only that as a guide, the virtual doors of State seem wide open.  So tell us what you think.

What should America’s agency of diplomacy do to maximize its use of social media?  How do you interact with the government online?