Sweden gives its Twitter account to citizens

PR Suicide? Sweden Hands Its Twitter Account Over to Citizens

Posted by Amy Peveto on December 19, 2011

How much do you trust your customers? If you’re Sweden, apparently it’s a lot — it’s giving its citizens access to the @Sweden Twitter account. Each week as part of Curators of Sweden, a single citizen will be given exclusive access to the account, with carte blanche for posting. Is this a recipe for success, or disaster?

How it got started

Like any other brand, Sweden wants to have a good reputation. It wants customers, and it wants those customers to leave satisfied. And who better to speak for Sweden than their current customers — those who are happily living and working there? The people tweeting as @Sweden have unique perspectives and stories, and will present their home country in different ways; what experiment creators VisitSweden are hoping is that those ways bring more people into the country.

So who’s going to be tweeting? Turns out everyone from an editorial writer to a priest, a teacher and a coffee-loving trucker lesbian. The first participant, Jack, started things off with a healthy dose of colorful language, humor and (to some) a total lack of respect for the project.

How’s it going to end?

I’m torn between shudders and admiration. Not many would have the...ahem...courage to hand over the social media reins, and here’s Sweden placing their entire tourism industry in someone else’s hands. And some people aren’t happy about it.

One blogger calls the experiment “a disgrace,” although she seems to take issue with Jack, rather than the experiment as a whole. This is the biggest danger of the project: that the people chosen as curators will curate badly, and will be a negative reflection on Sweden.

I wish I could share in the enthusiasm shown on the Curators of Sweden website. I’m interested to see how future curators represent their country, so I’ll be checking back in with @Sweden. I just hope they’re prepared for the negative feedback I’m sure is coming.

What do you think about the Curators of Sweden project — genius or madness? Sound off in the comments!


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Submitted by Kelly on Wed, 12/28/2011 - 9:40am

This is an interesting idea, if your going to visit a country, you want to know what the people are like. This is a raw take on the people who as Sweden. Although this has a lot of potential for damage, I would hope this would go through some approval/workflow process. Just imagine if you got some one the fringe, like an Occupy Wall Street participant or a tea partier speaking on behalf of a nation, could get a little messy.

Submitted by Amy Peveto on Wed, 12/28/2011 - 9:48am

I think it's a great idea for an experiment, but like you, I hope that there was some sort of screening process. I'm guessing that people had to apply, and hopefully they were given some guidelines on what was acceptable.

I'm also guessing that if someone totally insane somehow got approved and started spewing nonsense or vitriol, the organizers would remove them from the project.

Even so...it only takes one tweet to cause a huge amount of havoc. I haven't seen any other mentions of it, though, so maybe it's going well. I'd be interested to see what their ROI is. I wonder if tourism will go up?

Submitted by Pekka on Sat, 12/31/2011 - 12:37pm

I have enjoyed the visitsweden pages and the information therein several times when planning holidays. To me the one week ownership of @sweden by individuals is a brave experiment with social media, and it is unlikely to change my view about Sweden in general. If someone gets the stage for one week and wastes the opportunity with bad jokes, it’s his problem.

In the internet everyone has the right to make a fool of himself. Besides Jack's "bad attitude" is getting a lot of attention which is always good for marketing. The timing of the campaign also points to a plan from ad agency rather than "an accident".

Happy New Year,

Submitted by Amy Peveto on Mon, 01/02/2012 - 10:09am

I see what you mean, Pekka. Most reasonable people aren't going to be dissuaded from visiting Sweden on holiday simply because a few people acted like idiots on Sweden's Twitter feed.

However, I must disagree with the statement, "...which is always good for marketing." It's similar to the idea that "even bad PR is PR!"

Negative PR can increase visits to the site and social media mentions, but it's still negative PR. And it will always be there, indexed in Google, visible to anyone who searches. So it's important to be careful about what kind of marketing you use.

That said, I don't think this is a terrible move on Sweden's part. I haven't seen any more major blog posts about it, so I don't think it's garnering negative attention. I'm interested in seeing if VisitSweden releases any information on ROI of the experiment — did visits go up? Are there more or fewer Twitter followers? etc.

Submitted by Curated Social… on Mon, 05/07/2012 - 3:35am

[...] brave move, the account hasn’t gone without controversy. The first curator, Jack, managed to stir up questions of whether putting the account in just anyone’s hands is a good idea during his [...]