FCO threw thousands of pounds into “social media training”

A freedom of information (FOI) request has revealed that the Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) has spent £92,574 on “social media training” since May 2010.

The Office was asked how much money was spent on social media training, who received the training, what kind of training was received and who conducted it.

The same questions were asked again, but specifically applying to the Twitter social network – however FCO claimed it was not possible to break the given figure down in that way.

However, it was able to elaborate on social media training given, for example staff have been trained on how to use social sites in crisis situations such as the Kenyan shopping mall terrorist attack in 2013.

Besides this training has been given on using the @FCOtravel Twitter account to promote travel advice updates and answering consular questions from UK nationals to reduce time spent on the phone.

The FCO has also received education on communicating within its own policies, as well as wider government rules on open governance and transparency.

Further training was received in explain the Office’s work to the public and using social media to improve understanding of public and civil society opinion on foreign policy issues.

Training made available to wide range of staff

The FCO staff that received the education were consular staff in London and overseas, press and communications officers, Office web editors and digital staff, senior management and staff in policy roles.

The FOI response also reveals that providers responsible for providing the training were Whiteoaks, NixonMcInnes, West Lemorann SL and DEMSOC.

“The [Office] uses social media to help promote UK objectives around the world,” claims a letter published by the FCO earlier this week.

“We support British nationals, providing answers to travel queries and using social media in crisis situations to identify British nationals in need of help,” it adds.

Porthole AThe letter also explains that FCO uses social media to promote British trade and tourism, objectives and values and in building its understanding of political situations and key influencers, as well as openly engaging on and explaining foreign policy.