From the Global to the Local and Back Again: MFAs’ Digital Communications During COVID-19
Recently, scholars have suggested that ministries of foreign affairs (MFAs) use social media to practice domestic digital diplomacy as they interact with national citizens, not foreign populations. In this study, we explore the practice of domestic digital diplomacy during the COVID-19 pandemic. An analysis of the Facebook activities of 8 MFAs suggests that once the pandemic erupted, diplomats’ Facebook posts were locally oriented and targeted the national citizenry. We postulate that MFAs saw the pandemic as an opportunity to develop a domestic constituency that would help safeguard their role within governments. Posts targeting citizens helped them make sense of an unprecedented crisis. A statistical analysis found that as the pandemic progressed and citizens became accustomed to a new reality, MFAs retargeted foreign populations, going from the local to the global. The statistical analysis also found high engagement rates with domestic Facebook posts suggesting that MFAs do attract a domestic, online following.