Foreign Office spends £92,574 on social media training

The FCO has spent £92,574 on social media training since 2010, according to a freedom of information request

The Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) has spent £92,574 on social media training since 2010, according to a freedom of information (FOI) request.

The department said the money has been spent on training diplomats and staff in using social media in crisis, by tracking and assisting British nationals, as well as providing travel and security advice.

The FOI request released by the department this week, also said the FCO uses social media – including the Twitter account @FCOtravel – to support British nationals by providing travel updates and answering questions, reducing the time spent on the phone.

The money was spent on FCO staff in senior management positions, consular staff, press and communications officers, digital staff and web editors, and staff in policy roles – in London and overseas.

The department said the use of social media fits in line with the government’s push for openness and transparency. It said it uses social media to improve the understanding of public and civil society opinion on foreign policy issues, leading to more informed foreign policy making.

“The FCO uses social media to help promote UK objectives around the world,” said the FOI. “We support British nationals, providing answers to travel queries and using social media in crisis situations to identify British nationals in need of help. 

"We promote British trade and tourism – through supporting the GREAT Britain campaign, for example. We promote British objectives and values, including explaining our policy in Syria or building up support to end sexual violence in conflict situations.

“We also use it to build our understanding of the political situation and key influencers in the countries in which we operate, as well as more openly engaging on and explaining our foreign policy.”

Training has been delivered by digital agencies, including Whiteoaks, NixonMcInnes and West Lemorann SL, as well as the The Democratic Society (Demsoc).

The FOI was requested last September, but was only released this week as part of a batch of older FOI documents. 

The FCO’s crisis response IT system, Crisis Hub, went live in December 2013.

Using a new, agile IT system sourced through the G-Cloud, the Crisis Hub allows British nationals to ask the FCO for help. Britons can phone the crisis hotline, send a text message, complete an online form or speak to a member of the crisis team on the ground.


Read more on IT for government and public sector