NEW YORK – As Japan’s presidency at the U.N. Security Council kicked off in July, the communications team at its mission has been hard at work honing its presence on Twitter.
Launched in May, the account @JapanMissionUN has gained more than 900 followers on the social media platform. The first tweet on May 17 had 30,000 impressions — the number of times a tweet shows up on the site.
The impetus to increase outreach through social media came shortly after the mission’s new spokesman, Hiroyuki Mase, arrived in New York last summer.
Settling into the United Nations, the Osaka native quickly realized how pervasive social media was at the international body.
Looking to “giants,” such as the United States, France and Britain, whose followers collectively number over 200,000, the idea was planted.
“I noticed there were a great number of colleagues and diplomats using Twitter and Facebook quite skillfully, and that was the starting point for me,” Mase told Kyodo News in a recent interview at Japan’s mission in Manhattan.
Besides Britain, France and the United States, Russia and China — the other Security Council permanent members — are also active on social media.
Mase pointed to other nonpermanent Security Council members, notably Spain and New Zealand, which frequently used such platforms as well.
There are 88 diplomatic missions at the United Nations with Twitter handles, with Japan being the latest to join after Kenya.
Another driver in opening the account came last fall, when Japan was elected for a record 11th time to take up a two-year seat as a nonpermanent council member.
Beginning in January, it joined Malaysia as the other Asian seat holder.
Japan is set to mark another milestone at the U.N. this year, with its 60th anniversary as a member state falling on Dec. 18.
Mase said social media play an important role in other areas of the international body, including the General Assembly.
Two recently hired staffers, Jessica Wang and Marissa Trierweiler, have been tasked with running the Twitter account and improving the mission’s Facebook account, which was launched in 2012.
Mase described the “trial and error” process of navigating the content and frequency of posts. His team has found that more followers tune in from 1-3 p.m. in New York during their lunch breaks.
They also discovered 6 p.m. in New York was the optimum time to reach morning commuters in Japan who are seeking the latest U.N. news.
After the buzz from the initial launch, the team pointed to other popular tweets. While on a recent trip to Africa with the Security Council, for example, Deputy Ambassador Yoshifumi Okamura’s observations from meetings with Somali and Kenyan leaders were a hit.
Thus far, individual ambassadors or representatives do not have Twitter accounts. This is unlike other Security Council members, whose ambassadors, such as American Samantha Power and British Matthew Rycroft, are adept tweeters with lively online followings.
The communications team provides information to other missions and U.N. agencies, but aims to also attract students of international relations, nongovernmental organizations and the general public in the United States and Japan who look to New York.
“We are in New York and all of my colleagues in New York are attending conferences and dealing with various issues, in negotiations and meetings,” Mase said. “Then there should be a message that we, the permanent mission of Japan, can deliver which cannot be delivered by my colleagues in Tokyo.”
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