The United States Department of State has just soft-launched its own Tumblr. Both a State Department spokesperson and Tumblr’s Mark Coatney confirmed the site’s legitimacy to Fast Company.
How will the State Department adapt to a wildly popular microblogging site best known for New York media types, 18-year-old Filipinos, funny cat macros and book deals in the making? So far, it’s a collection of YouTube clips, links to Flickr galleries, and press-release excerpts.
According to Coatney, the decision to launch a State Department Tumblr was largely due to the efforts of Jed Sundwall of Measured Voice, a consultant who specializes in the use of social media by government organizations. Coatney notes that there are real-life advantages to the use of Tumblr by the State Department:
I think that Tumblr works particularly well for government because it provides a peer-to-peer model of communication and distribution–it’s a great venue, for example, to let the State Department to talk about its message and quickly respond to people all over the world. It is also important to remember that almost 55% of people who view Tumblr are outside of the United States.
However, we have a few lighthearted ideas on how the State Department can best adapt their public diplomacy to the wild-and-hairy world of Tumblr.
1. Qadaffi Macros: It’s safe to say that Libyan leader Mouammar Qadaffi’s era of favor with the United States is over. So now that Qadaffi is back to being reviled, what better way to celebrate than with funny dictator images? The Libyan “King of Africa” is flamboyant, weird, and off-kilter enough to fuel a million sarcastic internet sites. Plus, Qadaffi can has crazy eyes.
[Image via cheezburger.com user Xtine66]
2. Funky Foreign Foods: Tumblr is a wonderland of microblogs devoted to esoteric foods. Why not expose Americans to culinary treats located near State Department embassies and consulates—like Icelandic hot dogs. Or, better yet, turning foreigners on to American culinary eccentricities like the hot brown sandwich? (Worry not, no relation to the Hot Karl.)
3. Ironic Computer Games: The state.gov website has a secret, under-promoted cache of games starring “Pat, Your Passport Pal.” The State Department is clearly on to something here: targeting ironic, cooler-than-thou twentysomethings in wildly overpriced New York and San Francisco neighborhoods with a character conjuring thoughts of Schoolhouse Rock. (A series that has single hanidedly provoked more bouts of hipster nostalgia than we would care to know about.) Pat here could totally kick it with Bill, who, of course, dreams of becoming a law some day.
4. Pimp That Embassy Architecture: One of Tumblr’s greatest strengths is that the platform is geared towards visual images. The State Department has some legendarily unique-looking embassies which have gained both positive and negative publicity. A few judicious postings of unusual and unique embassy architecture around the world could earn the State Department quick points with architecture geeks worldwide. A note of caution: If there is one subsect of Geekdom you do not want to cross, it’s architecture geeks, so tread lightly here.
5. Fuck Yeah Hillary Clinton: The “Fuck Yeah…” meme, where celebratory blogs embrace everyone’s favorite profanity (see Fuck Yeah Baby Animals, Fuck Yeah It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia), also spawned… yup, Fuck Yeah Hillary Clinton. However, the site has not been updated in a year–meaning it is a perfect target for a State Department takeover. We know what you’re wondering: Is a profanity-laced site an appropriate way to celebrate the wildly popular Secretary of State? Um, fuck yeah.