A New Perspective of Diplomacy: Digital Diplomacy

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Abstract 

There has been a massive migration to social media due to the evolution of diplomatic communications of national states and international actors with digitalization. To carry out public diplomacy more effectively and beneficially, Twitter, which is conveniently accessible and provides the opportunity to reach every segment of the society in the fastest way, has become a new diplomacy tool by state leaders and officials. Twitter diplomacy, which entered the modern literature as twiplomacy, is actively used by Dominic Raab, the United Kingdom’s foreign minister, and especially Joe Biden, the head of the US government. In this critical study, quantitative research was conducted in terms of whether the tweets posted by the official accounts of Joe Biden and Dominic Raab contain visual elements. As a result of the research, it was observed that the interaction in the combined number of retweets and favorites changes depending on the tweet format. However, the content, timing of the tweets posted and the number of comments that were feedback was excluded from the study.

Keywords: Twiplomacy, Digital Diplomacy, Joe Biden, Dominic Raab, Non-visual tweets

 

Introduction 

Today, with the unstoppable development of technology, developments are taking place in the cyberspace and technology world. One of the main reasons for the developments in technology is people directly related to the digital world. The intense interest in many social media platforms offered by the digital world has led to changes in the systematic of both people and governments. As proposed by Özlü and Alan, the tense activity of people on social media platforms has accelerated the digitalization of nations (Özlü and Alan, 2020). The concept of diplomacy, which states and state leaders have been trying to maintain for many years, has changed with the activity of communal media platforms and the increase in the trend towards digitalization. This new concept, which entered the literature as digital diplomacy, is different from classical diplomacy. Digital diplomacy derives from public diplomacy, which aims to determine the interests and attitudes of states and to establish bilateral and multilateral relations with the social media tools of countries’ foreign policies. The reason why social media has an important place in digital diplomacy is that digital diplomacy provides new opportunities for the development of public diplomacy by influencing people in the national and international arena. According to the article by Straus,  Kruikemeir, Meulen, and Noort (2015), states can easily communicate with the public mitigating fiscal and authoritarian obstacles. This can be understood that diplomacy which is started to be carried out through collective media platforms, eliminates the economic and bureaucratic obstacles. According to Özdemir (2020), social media-based communication strategies get attracted by states and ministries. The fact that social media platforms are easily accessible, and serve all classes regardless of the class has eliminated the problems that may arise. Twitter stands out as the most widespread and effective social media in which digital diplomacy is carried out in social media used as a tool of diplomacy. It was first established on March 21, 2006, by Jack Dorsey as a social network site (Ovalı, 2020). The concept of Twitter diplomacy has emerged with the intensive use of Twitter by people and institutions that have a say in foreign policy and international studies. Along with the importance of Twitter diplomacy in foreign policy, it has been named twiplomacy by Burson, Cohn, and Wolfe (BCW), the global communication agency working on this issue (Ovalı, 2020). Twitter diplomacy has become a form of diplomacy that is effectively exercised by many state leaders, ministers, embassies, and representatives of the state. With the tweets posted by corporate accounts or individuals representing the state, interactions can be made not only with the relevant addressees but also with all Twitter users.

Terms of leaders Barack Obama, Joe Biden, Donald Trump, and Dominic Raab are among the state officials who have effectively used Twiplomacy as a foreign policy tool in recent years. With the Twitter diplomacy of these state leaders, who are rational actors in the international arena, their diplomatic missions have been transferred to the digital universe.  These leaders have developed their communication strategies in public diplomacy with Twitter diplomacy. This situation has led to the importance of social networking sites in international politics (Collins, DeWitt, and LeFebvre, 2019). Particularly Joe Biden and Dominic Raab are two state officials with high interaction and activity in Twiplomacy. Joe Biden, the 46th president of the US government, and Dominic Raab, the United Kingdom’s foreign minister, tweet on foreign policy and international relations in their Twitter diplomacy. The tweets they send on Twitter can show different interactions according to the total number of retweets and favorites they receive. However, visual elements in their tweets can affect the interaction they obtain. Whether or not tweets sent by their parties are shared with a visual element within the scope of foreign policy or in the field of international relations affects the interaction of Twitter users to the tweet. In this paper, the interactions of the tweets shared with 10 non-visual tweets and 1- visual tweets from Joe Biden and Dominic Raab’s official Twitter accounts @JoeBiden and @DominicRaab will be examined.

 

Literature Review 

Twiplomacy has obtained a prominent role to construct a bridge between national governments and foreign policies. Several government officials, ministries, ambassadors utilize Twitter to carry out the innovative concept of diplomacy which is social media based.  Because of the freshness and effectiveness of the twiplomacy, some scholars have been conducting research about a contemporary perspective of diplomacy. However, studies conducted on this topic, in general, have been focused on embassies, government official offices from a general perspective. These researchers constantly emphasized fundamental questions which is: How twiplomacy influences foreign policy or bilateral relations? Nevertheless, this paper can try answering relations between interaction levels and the formation of tweets from Joe Biden and Dominic Raab. According to the Özlü and Alan article, Twitter diplomacy, which has an important place in public diplomacy, is used by the embassies of states (Özlü and Alan, 2020). Whether twitter diplomacy is typically preferred by the embassies as a digital diplomacy tool and the effects of the posts of the embassies on Twitter on national and international media were investigated. In Haung  and Shahin (2019) research has been conducted within the scope of the diplomatic purpose  of Twitter diplomacy by a superpower like the U.S.A., England, India, and China.

According to Haung and Shahin (2019), twiplomacy can be described as Public Diplomacy 2.0. However, in this research, nothing has been done on the analysis of the posts made on Twitter. It has focused on the position of Twitter diplomacy in bilateral relations in general. The articles of the Eltham tried evaluating the role of twiplomacy in Iran’s 2009 election crisis. He emphasized the importance of Twitter for public diplomacy as proposed by “Twitter’s role in Iran’s 2009 election occurred in a decision context shaped by troubled US-Iranian relations and international Politics” (Eltham and Burns, 2009). Identically, Duncombe’s article investigated the importance and position of Twitter diplomacy in the bilateral foreign policies of Iran and America. Duncombe (2017), evaluated this research within the scope of the triangle of social media, international relations, and the state. While examining the bilateral relations of Iran and America on Twitter, the sharings made from the official Twitter accounts of Ayatollah Khamenei, President Rouhani, foreign minister Zarif, and President Obama were examined. According to the Hughes (2013) articles, The 45th president researched Trump’s Twitter diplomacy. He analyzes Trump’s twiplomacy as a political context and frame of presidential behaviors. Straus, Kruikemeir, Meulen, and Noort (2015) have tried to describe six effective communications strategies that are used by Western embassies on twiplomacy. Its paper mainly focuses on Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) countries, unlike the individuals such as Donald Trump. Likewise, other studies on twiplomacy generally focused on twitter diplomacy of official accounts of embassies and state institutions instead of state leaders and officials. All mentioned studies cannot provide a comprehensive answer to the research question, since these studies only examined the Twitter diplomacy from a general perspective. They did not work on the changes in the interaction and sharing formats taken from the posts.

 

Theory 

With the digitalizing world, there has been a noticeable change in the tools used by states in international relations and foreign policy. The main reason for the change was that technology developed and created a new system connected to social media. Many states around the world have started to carry out their diplomatic relations via Twitter with the concept of twiplomacy. As stated by Straus, Kruikemeir, Meulen, and Noort (2015),  governments support their public affairs officials and institutions alike to integrate social media into their communication practice. Social media based diplomacy is used by many heads of state and officials in order to conduct public diplomacy well. There are important reasons why Twitter diplomacy is used by top officials of the state. The fact that social network sites such as Twitter are accessible and used by all segments of society ensures that the posts of state leaders and institutions receive high interaction. According to Collins, DeWitt, and LeFebvre (2019), Twitter offers states to reach out to a large extent in their foreign policy rather than just interacting with one group. According to Park (2013), “opinion leaders have higher motivations of information seeking, mobilization, and public expression than non-leaders”. Twitter has an important place in diplomatic relations with the US government and other states. Both the Twitter accounts of the representatives of the US government in foreign states and the accounts such as presidents Joe Biden and Donald Trump actively carry out the concept of twiplomacy. The format and content of the posts are also of great importance. The language, structure, visual element diversity, or such factors of the posts, which may directly or indirectly have an impact on foreign policy, affect the interaction received. For instance, as identified by Hughsje, Donald trump uses informal language in his tweets so this situation can influence interaction with the public under the concept of twiplomacy. However, Joe Biden has gained huge popularity from people by carrying out well-organized twitter diplomacy. Joe Biden uses Twitter as a @JoeBiden account with 26,6M followers in 2021 (Biden, 2021). Joe Biden actively shares national and international issues and situations on Twitter. They are tweets with images, videos, or 3-4 sentences. The interaction differences between the posts they make may differ when viewed regardless of the content of the post and the time when it is shared. The biggest reason for the difference in interaction is whether there is a visual element in the post. Likewise, the difference in interaction British foreign minister Dominic Raab received in Twitter diplomacy is due to this. Unlike Joe Biden, Dominic Raab has 286,2K followers on Twitter as @DominicRaab account. The visual element in the posts made by these two state officials does not increase the interaction when conducting public diplomacy on Twitter under the name of twiplomacy. Tweets shared as pictures, photos or videos may have different importance depending on their subject and content scope. However, people show more interaction to the posts that directly affect foreign policy and public diplomacy, which are thrown without visual content rather than a visual expectation. This interaction is considered within the scope of the total number of retweets and favorites. For instance, Joe Biden’s tweet after the elections “it’s a new day in America” interacted with 4.2m favorites and 579,3B retweets on 20 January. However, other tweets of Joe Biden’s “Next stop: Washington, D.C.” with video cannot get much interaction (607b rt, 53b fav) as the previous tweet. The reason for the interaction between these two tweets is that in the first post, the tweet in which the concept is directly evident in Twitter diplomacy. However, the visual element used in the second post was disconnected and the interaction was low. In the case of Dominic Raab, it can be seen that the interaction received in the posts by Dominic raab is different. The visual elements Raab uses in his posts reduce the interaction because they are the same as the posts he shared in writing.  For instance “The UK has repeatedly urged Israel to end illegal settlement expansion in the West Bank. The decision to proceed with new settlements in Givat HaMatos separates Palestinians in East Jerusalem from Bethlehem, and threatens the viability of a two-state solution” (Raab, 2020). The tweet got 52 retweets and 667 favorites without visuals. However, @DominicRaab tweeted that “I thank Ambassador @TzipiHotovely for hosting the annual #HolocaustMemorialDay event today. Covid may have prevented us from gathering in person, but we will never forget, nor end the fight against the scourge of anti Semitism” describing video only got 5 retweets and 144 favorites at 25 January 19:13. In the Light of these, the testable hypothesis is that from the official Twitter accounts of  @JoeBiden and @DominicRaab, those with visual elements received fewer total retweets and favorites.

 

Research Design 

In this research, the categorical independent variable obtains visual tweets or non-visual

tweets in the 10 tweets of each official account whereas the continuous dependent variable is that the total number of retweets and favorites of tweets from @JoeBiden and  @DominicRaab accounts. While determining the independent variable, it was taken into account whether the posts posted from the accounts contain visual content or not.  According to the changing situation in the independent variable, the change in the interaction within the scope of the total number of retweets and favorites, which are the dependent variables, was examined. In this study, the effect of the concept of the tweet on the level of interaction considered as a dependent variable was investigated in terms of visual content, which is considered as an independent variable. Official Twitter accounts of Joe Biden and Dominic Raab, Twitonomy and twiplomacy.com, and other online/offline sources provide data about this study. Besides, the number of articles was examined to support dependent and independent variables and these sources ease connections with interaction levels and visual or non-visual tweets.

 

Non-visual Tweets Twitonomy (2021), Twiplomacy.com (2020)

Visual tweets Twitonomy (2021), Twiplomacy.com (2020) 

 

Findings 

Foremost, 5 visual content tweets and 5 non-visual content tweets of 2 government officials which are Joe Biden and Dominic Raab, and each government official were taken into consideration. A total of 20 tweets were examined. The level of interaction within the content of the shared tweets was examined. The use of visual content of tweets is composed of categorical measurement, and it can be valued using visual tweets as 1 and non-visual tweets as 0. In the case of the independent variable, the median and mean are 0,5 and the maximum and minimum values are 1 and 0 respectively. Moreover, the interaction level is a continuous measurement and this can be divided into a measurable total number of retweets and favorites into five: Firstly 0-1000 (0), 1001-40k (1), 41k- 100k  (2), 101k- 500k (3), 500k Above (4). The median of the data set 1,5 and the mean is 1.95.  The maximum value is 4 when the minimum value is 0.

If we analyzed the tweets of both accounts @JoeBiden and @DominicRaab, there would be a significant relationship between non-using visuals of tweets and its interaction level increase in terms of the number of retweets and favorites. The cause is that tweets shared by mentioned accounts have included prominent concepts and visual symbols would be unnecessary to aim at group and others. To be able to determine that our hypothesis holds or not, data was analyzed by a difference of means test. Standard error, variance, degrees of freedom, and t-score remain requirements to be able to use difference of means test. In the first place, the variance of both data sets is calculated as var(Y1)=2.36 (variance of the total number of retweet and favorite) and var(Y2) = 0.26 (variance of and tweet with a visual and non-visual tweet). Following this, the standard error was calculated, and it is equal to 0.078. After then, calculating the standard error of the data set it was put into the t-score formula to be able to calculate t-score. T- the value of the data set was determined as 2.78 Following, to find the p-value, degrees of freedom needed to be calculated to find the intersection in the critical score of the t-score. According to the t-score table, being degrees of freedom was equal to 18 and t-score 2.78, the probability of observing this association by chance falls under the value 0.01. This can be analyzed that the value checked by the t-score table is lower than our threshold (0.05) so the probability of observing this relationship fortuitously remains a more reduced chance, and this relationship is statistically significant. All things considered, the hypothesis which comprises both Joe Biden and Dominic Raab tweets that do not contain non-visual contents have more interacted on Twitter in terms of a total number of retweets and favorites. Furthermore, this confirmation provides to refute the null hypothesis.

 

Conclusion 

In conclusion, in this research President Joe Biden and foreign minister Dominic Raab’s Twitter accounts can be tried to analyze whether using visual tweets affect its interaction or not. The reason why they chose these government officials is that both are skillful and adaptative on Twitter diplomacy in the current era. Data calculations demonstrate that non-visual tweets are more likely to have huge interactions on Twitter. The conducted study shows that considering both government official’s Twitter accounts, 20 tweets from surveyed accounts included 10 non-visual and 10 visual tweets confirmed at-value as a 2.78. Following this, to be enabled to ensure that the hypothesis of the paper is verified by intersections of the t-table with the t-value of the data set. Finally, the threshold considered as 0.05, our hypothesis comprises that Both conducted Twitter accounts can be more interacted with Twitter users with utilizing non-visual tweets. However, in this research, some variables are not considered in analyzing research topics. These are the important level of content of the tweet and the timing of the tweets. Because these variances are prominent elements to determine the number of retweets and favorites. To conclude, this research paper fundamentally aimed at two government officials who utilized and carried out twiplomacy under the concept of digital diplomacy to analyze and systematically demonstrate how twiplomacy will be developed to gain astonishing interaction whether using visual tweets or non-visual ones.

 

SALİH EFE KAHRAMANER

Siber Güvenlik Staj Programı

 

BIBLIOGRAPHY

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