A U.S. ambassador's use of Twitter during the Ukrainian revolution reveals the value of social media for diplomacy.

February 26, 2014

  1. by Daniel Pitcairn, Research Analyst
  2. Social media has played a significant role in in the Ukrainian revolution, as in other recent mass protest movements. But the volatile events in Kiev and elsewhere in the post-Soviet state demonstrate that social media can be more than just a tool for protesters. Last week, the Department of State and, in particular, Ambassador to Ukraine Geoff Pyatt, used Twitter to clarify and amplify U.S. positions during the erratic and quickly unfolding events of the revolution. While official news organizations could barely keep up with events, Ambassador Pyatt tweeted or retweeted nearly 450 times, often translating important messages into both Ukrainian and Russian (for now the two official languages of Ukraine). Pyatt's tweets did not just inform Ukraine wonks in the United States; 53 percent of his 10,000+ followers have their accounts set officially in Russian or Ukrainian, and a sample of his followers indicates that a majority live in Ukraine or Russia.
  3. Ambassador Pyatt may not be the most well-known tweeting Ambassador, but his active tweeting during the Ukrainian revolution constitutes a potent case study both for how Twitter can strengthen public diplomacy and, more generally, how social media can enhance federal agencies' ability to execute their missions.  
  4. Below is a small sampling of Ambassador Pyatt's Twitter feed from February 18 to 25, 2014.

  5. Ambassador Pyatt engages with an opposition leader's press secretary who has been tweeting about the "Euromaidan" movement since its beginning last November.
  6. Ambassador Pyatt tweets at the accounts of an EU blogger and an independent journalist in Ukraine.
  7. Ambassador Pyatt makes his and the U.S. position known as violence surged in Kiev on the 20th.
  8. The Ambassador records and posts a video appealing to members of the Ukrainian parliament (the Rada) to return to work out a ceasefire.
  9. The State Department tweets out updated U.S. positions as the violence unfolded on February 20th.
  10. A Ukrainian man thanks Ambassador Pyatt for sticking with Ukrainians during this "difficult time."
  11. Ambassador Pyatt lets the Ukrainian people know the U.S. supports the election of a new Speaker on February 22nd after the opposition in parliament takes charge.
  12. The Ambassador re-tweets important State Department messages to help raise awareness of the U.S. stance on the continuously unfolding events.
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