Using the traditional approach, these accounts are managed by professionals employed by agencies and tourism bodies, communicating with official approved messages.
The best example of this is from Sweden, where the tourist board’s official @Sweden Twitter account has been given to a different citizen each week to curate and tweet from since December 2011.
The account has, at times, attracted some controversy, however it appears the Swedish Government is mature enough to manage this in an adult fashion and their citizens continue to tweet about topics ranging from the weather to body parts to politics (including mention of Australian politics). Any controversial tweets also haven't dampened interest in the account, which has over 66,000 followers.
The citizens who operate the account (termed 'curators') are selected by an official panel and given guidance before being set loose, however tweets are not reviewed or approved by officials.
The account is supported by a website (http://curatorsofsweden.com/) explaining how @Sweden works, providing details of curators and a video (embedded below) with a Q&A with former curators.
Another example of an official account run by citizens, is the US state of Vermont's @ThisisVT, which follows a similar model of a week per curator, selected through a nomination process by a panel (to manage risk).
The account was launched in late July 2012 and now has almost 2,500 followers. It is also supported by a website, www.thisisvt.com, to promote Vermont to tourists from across the US and elsewhere.
These initiatives are building the brand identity of nations and states by presenting citizen perspectives, rather than an institution's carefully packaged messaging.
Essentially the curators are brand ambassadors, providing a human face and personality for potential tourists to bond with.
This isn't in itself a revolutionary concept. Many jurisdictions use brand ambassadors - though normally choose internationally known actors or sports people. However the approach through social media is new, rather than picking celebrities (and their price tags), normal citizens are selected to provide realistic faces for these brands.
Would this 'everyperson' approach be accepted in Australia?
Actually a similar approach already has won awards and enormous praise. The Queensland 'Best job in the world' campaign' selected an individual from over 34,000 entries to visit the state as a working tourist, reporting their experiences to the world via video and blogging.
Of course the 'Best job' campaign selected a single ambassador, whereas @Sweden and @ThisisVT select a new ambassador each week, so provide greater diversity but less celebrity. However I expect we'll see more of this (far lower cost) rotation approach.
Even if Australian governments remain too fearful of having citizens represent the nation, state or region to the world, it is already happening.
These 'Rotation Curation' social media accounts are already appearing, outside government control, with over 30 projects around the world.
There are already at least two unofficial Australian accounts, @WeAreAustralia and @IndigenousX (specifically for Indigenous tweeters), hosting a range of citizen views.
Many other 'unofficial' accounts are listed in Wikipedia, with notable accounts such as:
- @TweetWeekSyria (Syria)
- @JustaCypriot (Cyprus)
- @WeAreFilipinos (Phillipines)
- @HellofrmSG (Singapore)
- @ireland (Ireland)
- @CuratorsMexico (Mexico)
- @Bristol52 (Bristol, UK)
- @IamBremen (Bremen, Germany)
- @BasquesAbroad (by Basques, global account)
So would Australian jurisdictions allow Australian citizens to curate and communicate from an official account without approval?
Are tourism authorities - and other government agencies - ready to trust their own citizens?
I hope so, given the examples already out there.
I wonder which government will be first to break through the fear barrier and give it a try - even if only for a few months.