Diplo Foundation: e-Participation Day - 19 June 2013

Twitter in International Organizations

Break-out session organized by the Office of the Delegate for International Geneva, Republic and State of Geneva.  Based on Twitter Interview Series.



Most international organizations (IOs) and NGOs use Twitter to communicate. A significant part of their staff members are also tweeting in their official capacity, under their own name or both.

For these actors, Twitter has now become a key part of their communication toolbox. The Twitter series published on the Geneva international cooperation website highlighted the following issues:

  • The communication landscape has changed, and the global audience is looking for a more transparent, immediate, relevant, and personalized communication.

  • Twitter creates opportunities for organizations to interact directly and in real time with the general public and key audiences.

  • With Twitter (and more broadly with social media) organizations can increase awareness on the issues they deal with and impulse real conversations with people. Instead of just pushing out messages they can get feedback from users and encourage them to share their knowledge, and engage in their cause.

  • Compared to other communication tools, Twitter allows to communicate in real time to a wider audience and to mobilize people to take action.

  • Twitter is a useful tool to communicate during emergencies where the situation in the field changes quickly. It also allows to communicate with people impacted by emergencies and to learn about their needs.

  • Twitter allows organizations to know what audiences think of them or of a particular issue and to follow and maintain conversations on a specific topic.

The Twitter Series also highlighted some challenges faced by IOs and NGOs when using Twitter in their communication:

  • Contents launched on Twitter have a relatively short life span.

  • IOs and NGOs have to take into account opinions on their organizations and whatever pops up on Twitter and react.

  • Organizations wonder if and how they should store tweets for the record and add to their institutional memory.

  • Twitter is not a stand-alone tool: it should be integrated in a coherent communication strategy.

  • How to measure impact?


The breakout session will last one hour, from 2:15 to 3:15 pm. The objective is to discuss and have a conversation around the use of Twitter as a communication tool.

Participants will mainly include diplomats from Permanent Missions, Representatives of international organizations and NGOs, journalists, and scholars.

Claudia Gonzalez, Head of Marketing and External Relations, Global Fund; Florian Westphal, Deputy Director of Communication and Information Management, ICRC; Monika Gehner, social media Team Leader, WHO; and Kate Kahle, CERN will say a few introductory words on how their organizations are using Twitter.

Their address will be followed by a discussion around the following issues:

1. Every organization wants to engage with its target audiences through social media:

  • Does Twitter really allow IOs and NGOs to truly engage with a larger audience?

  • How to manage it in a world of proliferating channels?

  • Can we identify best practices in the use of Twitter as a way to reach out larger audiences around a specific issue/topic?

  • In a context of limited resources, can organizations really afford to maintain conversations and regular exchanges with their followers via Twitter and other social media? Do they have proper resources to do so?

2. Official Twitter accounts of IOs and NGOs are often managed by Communication departments:

  • How to ensure that the discussions on Twitter are being relayed to other parts of the organization (thematic programs, country offices, etc.)?

  • Are those organizations that are using Twitter doing a better job in involving their staff (professionals) in their overall communication? How?

  • Has Twitter changed the way organizations control their communication? Has communication become more decentralized?

3.  Measuring the impact of communication via Twitter is not limited to counting Followers, Mentions or Retweets:

·    How to measure the impact of Twitter on an IO/NGO communication?

·    What evaluation tools can be used?


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