Last week US President Barack Obama held the first White House Twitter Town Hall event, taking questions from tweeters on the US economy.
This event followed similar Facebook and YouTube events the President hosted earlier in 2011, and generated a colossal amount of discussion on Twitter. Over the course of the one-hour event, 70,000 tweets were recorded, averaging over 1000 tweets a minute, with #askobama trending in large cities across the US (Washington, DC recorded the most questions).
Probably intended as a domestically focused event, questions came from all over the world, and it was pleasing to see Sydneysiders so engaged in the discussion.
The US Government is miles ahead of any other country in its use of new media tools for public engagement, and its unmatched expertise in e-diplomacy is paving the way for other countries to capitalise on their successes (while passing over the odd failure). Many aspects of the US Government's e-diplomacy strategy, and those of other forward-thinking states, could easily be replicated or tweaked for use down under.
Australians are the most prolific users of social media in the world, clocking 6 hours 52 minutes on social media every month, according to 2010 Nielsen data. Australians have truly become social media addicts, led of course by the fickle, technology-obsessed Generation Y. More recently Australians have taken, in growing numbers, to tweeting during some of their favourite TV shows, from ABCs Q&A (#qanda) to MasterChef, and then of course, there was 'Go Back to Where You Came From' (#gobacksbs) on SBS, which became the top trending topic in the world.
Without a doubt, we are the ideal captured audience for social media engagement. The Australian Government needs to give in, catch up and allow itself to be transformed by the potential these digital tools offer.