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Geneva Engage Awards 2017: Recognising outstanding efforts in social media engagement

Published on 16 February 2017
Updated on 05 April 2024

The second annual Geneva Engage Awards, held on 8 February 2017, have honoured the most effective actors in social media engagement in 2016.

The Geneva Engage Awards, an initiative of DiploFoundation and the Geneva Internet Platform, supported by the Canton of Geneva and Twiplomacy, were awarded to three winners or their effective campaigns, interactive messages, and public engagement, in three categories:

Introducing the awards to an in situ and online audience, Dr Jovan Kurbalija, Director of DiploFoundation and Head of the Geneva Internet Platform, underlined the importance of the Internet as a tool for diplomacy, as an essential topic on diplomatic agendas, and as a channel for communication with communities outside of Geneva.

This point was also stressed by Mr Salman Bal, Chief of Political Affairs and Partnerships at the United Nations Office in Geneva, who added that e-participation can increase the visibility and inclusiveness of International Geneva. He underlined the key role that e-participation has to play in business decisions and its significant role in facilitating new partnerships. Mr Olivier Coutau, Delegate at the Geneva International Service of the Canton of Geneva, stressed the importance of this type of event in particular, because Geneva is not only about the city itself, but also about decisions taken here that have an effect on the rest of the world.

The most effective actors in social media engagement in 2016

In the second part of the event, a Kahoot quiz tested the audience’s knowledge on e-participation. followed by the awards ceremony and speeches by the winners.

Geneva Engage Awards 2017: Recognising outstanding efforts in social media engagementMs Barbara Rosen Jacobson, coordinator of the Geneva Engage initiative, explained that the awards were granted based on several criteria, including a significant presence on social media (Facebook and Twitter), as well as popularity (followers), activity (number of tweets), dissemination (Twitter retweets, Facebook shares), and growth (increase in followers ‒ percent and absolute).

Speaking on behalf of the World Health Organization (WHO), award-winner in the International Organisations category, Head of Social Media and Media Monitoring Ms Sari Setiogi attributed the organisation’s success in social media to knowing their audience to provide the most interesting and most shareable information possible.

With 11 accounts on social media and more than 8 million subscribers in total, Ms Setiogi noted the importance of reaching people everywhere in the world. She also stressed the importance of increasing the  shareability of fundamental information such as simple advice on how to reduce the risk of cancer, advice that has been shared more than 3 million times so far. Acknowledging the importance of knowing what kind of content people are expecting from an organisation such as WHO, in her opinion infographics play an essential role: they are easy to share and to read but they also need to be mobile friendly. Ms Setiogi gave several examples of successful WHO campaigns. The most popular WHO video so far – I had a black dog, his name was depression :

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with more than 7.3 million views on YouTube, will be followed by another campaign on depression called Let’s talk on 7 April 2017.

The winner in the Non-Governmental Organisations and Non-Profits category, the World Economic Forum, was represented by Editorial Director Mr Michael Hanley, who stressed the importance of having a powerful voice with relevant initiatives and projects on a platform which has traffic, followers, and people who understand their work. He emphasised the voluminous content on the website (15 posts a day), and the need to include different partners and stakeholders, including academia. Mr Hanley also focused on the quality and the shareability of the content, both needed to gain traction on social media channels. From this perspective, videos have played an important role, given that WEF publishes 2 to 3 short videos per day which are easy to share. He added that the inspiration for these videos mainly comes from daily news and ideas from the team that then meets to create the content.

The winner in the Permanent Missions category, he United States Mission to the United Nations, was represented by Mr Thomas Pierce, Counselor for Public Affairs. The US mission at the UN has a Facebook and Twitter page and posts a lot about topics of international importance and events. In his opinion, storytelling can be an interesting way of spreading information and ideas to increase people’s interest and the number of viewers. To underline this point, Mr Pierce gave the example of a video shown during his speech entitled Insider’s Guide: Pioneertown, part of a tourism promotion programme:

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Finally, he noted the importance of trusting the audience to understand the message spread through the content.

Other top organisations shortlisted for the awards, which deserved a special mention, included:

Outside-the-box initiatives

The award ceremony was followed by a panel discussion on outside-the-box initiatives moderated by Dr Kurbalija. Mr Matthias Lüfkens from Twiplomacy, noted that most missions today are embracing social media but he does not believe that increasing the number of followers should be the main purpose. Instead, he underlined the importance of making connections and enriching conversations with the followers via social media, prioritising therefore the quality rather than the quantity.

Mr Jon Mark Walls, CEO of GovFaces, explained the extent to which GovFaces has helped enrich conversation between users and their representatives online in special contexts, such as the European Parliament election in 2014. The platform also creates a system where it assists those elected representatives in understanding and effectively responding to concerns of their constituents. He stressed the importance of having a strong community with quality conversations between the users and the elected representatives and noted that the content of these conversations was afterwards picked up and spread by journalists. Mr Walls also highlighted the importance of fostering connections with relevant partners to build up the legitimacy of GovFaces in the debate.   

Ms Aziyade Poltier, Head of the Perception Change Project (PCP), presented the PCP, launched by Mr Michael Møller, Director-General of the United Nations Office at Geneva, and explained that the first idea of the project was to try to gather all the work done in Geneva to better communicate the activities of the UN agencies. As she noted, the idea of this project is essentially to replace the current lack of perception of the work done by the UN to a positive perception of what it does by  better communication and more transparency. She underlined that the PCP engages young people with stories to increase their understanding of the UN’s activities. One of the projects is GVADATA, an Internet platform which gathers all information about the UN organisations in Geneva. 

The panel discussion ended with a Q&A on the importance of the sustainable development goals (SDGs) and on how we can communicate more on this important topic. Ms Poltier stressed the increasing number of campaigns led by the UN and the PCP to engage people and to educate the youth. Mr Lüfkens added that personal engagement is much more important than any international organisation because people can better relate to the actions of a  public figure. He believes that we need to relate more to strong personalities and less to specific UN agencies. Finally, Mr Walls does not believe that we need to stay in an echo chamber but that we can find ways to increase communication between people; there are mechanisms available to improve communication and reach the next level in terms of engagement.

The Geneva Engage Awards are an initiative of DiploFoundation and the Geneva Internet Platform, and are supported by the Canton of Geneva and Twiplomacy. More events are planned for the 2017 Geneva Engage process.Watch the recording of the event:

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read the analysis behind it, and view the photo gallery. Learn more about the Geneva Engage initiative.

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