Digital Diplomacy 3.0: Personalized Diplomacy

Digital Diplomacy 3.0: Personalized Diplomacy

From Digital Diplomacy 1.0 to Digital Diplomacy 2.0 When foreign ministries first migrated online, they viewed social media platforms as mass media channels. Much like the radio and television, Twitter and Facebook could be used to disseminate messages among millions of users. The conceptualization of social media as mass media was, in part, the result

From Digital Diplomacy 1.0 to Digital Diplomacy 2.0

When foreign ministries first migrated online, they viewed social media platforms as mass media channels. Much like the radio and television, Twitter and Facebook could be used to disseminate messages among millions of users. The conceptualization of social media as mass media was, in part, the result of diplomats’ previous use of communication technologies. During the Cold War, foreign ministries employed both the radio and the television to transmit information, and propaganda, to foreign populations. Importantly, television and radio are not just mass media but they are also one-way communication mediums that include no interaction between communicator and recipient (Thanks to James Pamment for this insight). Given their reliance on the radio and television, diplomats also envisioned social media as a one way communication tool. Therefore, the focus of online activity was information dissemination and the parameter for success was audience reach. MFAs relied mostly on general engagement parameters such as the number of followers they attracted on social media, the number of Re-Tweets their messages garnered and their overall reach online.

However, foreign ministries soon learned that social media was quite different from the radio and television in that users could react to diplomats’ content and even hijack that content for their own purposes. One notable example was Sweden’s launching of a virtual embassy on Second Life. Sweden’s goal was to open a global embassy that could showcase Swedish art to people the world over. However, some Second Life users saw the embassy as a state sponsored invasion of virtual space and protested the embassy by having a sex party on its roof.

What followed was the realization that social media was a two-way medium that saw constant interaction between messenger and recipient. While some diplomats feared the power of the masses online, others saw an opportunity to better craft diplomatic messages. By using the feedback of social media users diplomats could identify which elements of their foreign policy were contested or negatively viewed. Moreover, diplomats could use online comments to better understand how their nation was viewed in various parts of the world. Diplomats could also identify issues that are of greatest concern to online users.

Thus began the age of digital diplomacy 2.0. What characterized digital diplomacy 2.0, which began circa 2014, was the transition from targeting to tailoring. Foreign ministries were no longer occupied with reaching masses of audiences, but with reaching specific audiences. Moreover, foreign ministries aimed to tailor their messages to the interests, views and beliefs of these specific audiences. For instance, foreign ministries sought to engage with their Diasporas so as to leverage Diasporas as political and financial assets. To do so, some ministries created dedicated social media channels. Others tasked embassies with reaching out to, and engaging with, national Diasporas. In addition, foreign ministries sought to interact with opinion makers such as journalists, bloggers and other diplomatic institutions. Thus, they were no longer occupied with how many followers they attracted online but with how many diplomats and journalists they attracted. By 2016, foreign ministries and embassies were using network analysis and sentiment analysis to identify, reach and interact with specific audiences while adjusting their evaluation parameters.

Yet it was 2017 that has seen the slow emergence of the next stage of digital diplomacy, that of personalized diplomacy.

Digital Diplomacy 3.0: Personalized Diplomacy

The third, and current stage of digital diplomacy is that of personalized diplomacy. It is during this stage that foreign ministries and diplomats will attempt to create a diplomatic experience that is tailored to the individual. Such tailoring may centre on the user’s interests, needs or patterns of use of technology.

One interesting example is the smartphone application of the Indian Ministry of External Affairs (MEA). The MEA is not the first foreign ministry to launch its own application. Both the Polish and the Canadian ministries have launched such applications. However, while the Canadian application focuses on consular aid, the MEA’s application focuses on supplying services and information to users. Moreover, unlike the Canadian application which is relevant for Canadian citizens, the MEA application seems to target both domestic and foreign populations.

The application has seven features. The first is the e-Citizen feature that offers e-services to Indian citizens ranging from telephone directories to employment opportunities at the MEA.

The second feature enables users to track state visits by Indian officials abroad as well as state visits by foreign dignitaries to India. The scope of available information is substantive ranging from images to bi-lateral and multi-lateral documents signed during state visits as well public statements. The third feature enables users to locate the nearest embassy to them, to read updates from embassies and even to hear podcasts by Indian ambassadors posted abroad. The fifth feature is the media centre which consists of a wide array of documents, press releases, speeches and statements and transcripts of media briefings.


The fixth feature is a consular one. It is in this feature that a user can apply for visas, track his application, download forms and even communicate with the MEA. The seventh and final feature focuses on public diplomacy. It is under this feature that a user can hear lectures on Indian diplomacy from former ambassadors, watch documentaries on India or read issues of the MEA’s magazine- India Perspectives.

The review of the MEA’s application thus far suggest that it offers a breadth of information. However, the most interesting feature of the application is its personalization mechanism. Each user can create his own MEA application by selecting the specific issues he wishes to follow more closely. Users even have a notepad where they can write comments on the information they have reviewed.


This form of digital diplomacy offers users a personalized digital experience that is tailored to their interests and needs. Journalists can follow press briefings and state visits while prospective tourists can follow embassy updates and track their visa application. Users can even interact with the MEA through the various modules. By offering users a personalized experience, the MEA increases the likelihood of users returning to the application, engaging with MEA content and sharing what they have learned with online contacts. From a branding perspective, the application is also noteworthy as it contributes to the depiction of India as a rising technological power.


Where to Next?

The practice of digital diplomacy 3.0 will likely continue to take shape in coming years. This process may be facilitated by a host of new technologies. Virtual and augmented reality may soon enable users to virtually travel to other countries and experience their culture and history. Such trips will be personalized and will offer each user an experience that matches his specific interests. Artificial intelligence will be employed to communicate with online users and best meet their consular needs while smartphone applications will send users notifications tailored to their interests. Importantly, foreign ministries should invest in developing personalized forms of digital diplomacy given that online users are already accustomed to personalized online experiences when logging onto Netflix, Amazon or Pizza Hut.

Note: My thanks to a group blog by students studying the eponymous module at London Metropolitan University, 2017-18 who brought the MEA application to my attention. Their own analysis of Indian Digital Diplomacy may be viewed at the following link

Please follow and like us:


  • The Rising influence of Chinese Social Media 16th Jan 2019 image from article source: People Can Say ‘No’: The Rising influence of Chinese Social Media It is worth noting that with the wider use of internet and social media, the social media and its users obtain stronger influence in China, both domestically and internationally. The Chinese social media users, especially the young generation […]
  • Metzgar paper published by USC Center on Public Diplomacy 16th Jan 2019 Associate professor Emily Metzgar (Maggie Richards | The Media School) A paper by associate professor Emily Metzgar published by the USC Center on Public diplomacy [JB emphasis] analyzes the United States’ seven-decade history of government-sponsored international broadcasting.“Seventy Years of the Smith-Mundt Act and U.S. International Broadcasting: Back to the Future?” finds that while the […]
  • The ‘dark side’ of digital diplomacy: countering disinformation and propaganda 16th Jan 2019 image (not from article) from Corneliu Bjola | Head of the Oxford Digital Diplomacy Research Group (#DigDiploROx) | @CBjola Excerpt: Theme The ‘dark side’ of digital diplomacy, that is, the strategic use of digital technologies as tools to counter disinformation and propaganda by governments and non-state actors has exploded in the recent years thus […]
  • State Department’s Integrated Country Strategy for Greece published 16th Jan 2019
    E.Tsiliopoulos, uncaptioned image from entry The State Department’s Integrated Country Strategy (ICS) for Greece recognizing the country’s position in the Eastern Mediterranean as being of key importance to US national security and energy priorities. Excerpt: Below is the full report: ... To combat attempts to destabilize the region, Mission Greece will support democratic institutions, […]
  • A Year in Review: Azerbaijan Optimizes Its Balanced Foreign Policy in 2018 16th Jan 2019
    Rahim Rahimov,, January 15, 2019 Image (not from article) fromExcerpt: Russia has pursued its own active official and public diplomacy [JB emphasis] with Azerbaijan. Bilateral relations seem to be warming significantly, with the two countries’ presidents having met six times in 2018, including two official reciprocal visits (see EDM September 18, October 24, 2018). […]

RSS Diplo Portal Belgrade

Most Viewed Posts

  • Twitter Suspends Hamas Accounts (968)
    By ROBERT MACKEYLast Updated, Sunday, Jan. 19 | Several Twitter accounts used by the military wing of Hamas have been suspended by the social network in recent days, angering the Islamist militants and delighting Israel’s military. #Twitter has suspended the official account of #Hamas, a terrorist group that uses social media to threaten #Israel
  • Brain drain in Serbia today (271)
    How does the Serbian government cope with the problem of brain drain today? The latest OECD publication, SOPEMI 2014 shows that 39 thousand persons emigrated in 2012 from Serbia to OECD countries only. (At the beginning of the global economic and financial crisis, the emigration from Serbia to OECD countries amounted to 27,000 in 2008.)
  • Humanitarian Intervention: Advantages and Disadvantages in East Timor and Kosovo (263)
    Have There Been Occasions on Which the Advantages of Humanitarian Intervention Using Armed Force have Outweighed the Disadvantages? Humanitarian intervention can be defined as the attempts of a foreign state to prevent violations of human rights in another state, often through the use of armed force. The use of armed force to protect human rights,

How Belgrade based diplomats use Digital Diplomacy and Internet 2016

Diplo Portal Belgrade

Please follow and like us:
Scroll Up

Enjoy this blog? Please spread the word :)