Digital Diplomacy in the Gulf: An Analysis of Embassies, Foreign Ministries and Foreign Affairs Ministers’ Twitter Accounts

Principal Investigator:
Banu Akdenizl, CPD Research Fellow 2016-18

The purpose of this proposed research is to study how Twitter as a social media platform is being used in the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) countries as a form of digital diplomacy. Three types of Twitter account will be analyzed for a period of 12 months: (1) official ministry of foreign affairs accounts of each country, (2) the official personal account of each foreign minister, and (3) the official embassy accounts in the US and the UK for each GCC country included in this project.

This study will be focusing on four of the six GCC countries, the fastest growing economies of the world (Qatar, Bahrain, United Arab Emirates (UAE) and Saudi Arabia). The reason why Oman and Kuwait are not included is as follows: (1) The official Twitter account of the Oman foreign ministry at the time of this proposal was only tweeting in Arabic, and Oman did not have any US and UK embassy Twitter accounts; (2) while Kuwait has an English tweeting official ministry of foreign affairs account, it also at the time did not have US and UK embassy accounts on Twitter.

With the premise that social media offer new ways to develop relationship with publics, this study will be using Kent and Taylor’s framework of dialogic communication principles in analyzing the Twitter accounts. Dialogic communication theory has been developed as part of the public relations field, but this theory gives valuable insight into how governments can build relationships with its citizens and communicate interactively. Agenda-setting as the ability of media to influence the importance/salience of certain topics will also provide a theoretical framework.

Photo by Esther Vargas | CC BY-SA 2.0