“I’ve got to admit, in all honest, when this started a couple of years ago, I was a skeptic. I thought, how can I responsibly speak about or conduct foreign policy in what seemed to me haiku?” Susan Rice told Mashable CEO Pete Cashmore over the weekend.
“I thought it sort of might cheapen the coin,” she said. “But I was so wrong. I have gotten really into it because I realize it’s a whole different way of connecting with a whole different set of voices around the world.”
She added that it has helped her and colleagues “distill messages to their very essence.”
She also had high praise for other forms of social media, including Facebook and YouTube.
“When it comes to foreign policy, this is not the most necessarily modern and agile aspect, traditionally, of American government. But under President Obama’s leadership and Secretary [of State Hillary] Clinton’s, the State Department has harnessed social media to be a much more effective tool of our outreach,” Rice said.
The State Department shifted significant resources away from static websites in favor of social media outreach starting early last year, and began pushing out content formatted for use on the various social networking sites. A study from the Sunlight Foundation released in May found that the majority of U.S. embassies now use Twitter, many tweeting in the language of their host country.
As an example, she said U.S. Ambassador to Syria Robert Ford has used Facebook to post information in real time about where tanks are massing using overhead imagery.
She emphasized that social media is a “tool that can be harnessed in many positive ways, but it’s also a tool that can’t by itself bring the sort of change that many of us seek, and it can be used in negative ways by those who are so inclined.”
Rice was speaking at Mashable’s Social Good Summit on Sunday in New York City, ahead of a week of United Nations events. President Obama will deliver remarks to the U.N. General Assembly on Tuesday.
Rice tweets as @AmbassadorRice.