@Sweden – Sweden Builds Nation Brand on Twitter

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Imagine handing your Twitter account over to a stranger. Now imagine a country handing over its Twitter feed to a citizen. Crowdsourcing digital communications has reached a new level as @Sweden hands over the official Swedish Twitter account to one of its citizens for a week.

The social public engagement project, called Curators of Sweden, was devised by the Swedish Institute and VisitSweden, both part of NSU, the National Board for the promotion of Sweden.

“No one owns the brand of Sweden more than its people. With this initiative we let them show their Sweden to the world,” says Thomas Brühl, CEO of the country’s tourism agency VisitSweden who has been updating the account since January 2009.

Hasan Ramic (at top) is the Twitter citizen (or as we’re calling it, Twitizen) of the week, who has been given access to Sweden’s national Twitter account to share his recommendations and opinions (in English) about his country and his nine million Swedish brethren.[more]

Ramic, for instance, has answered a question about “the four elements” that comprise Sweden. His response: “Taxes, lingon, falu rödfärg and Bofors.”

His biography shows that the project’s organizers aren’t afraid of an unvarnished, political and no holds barred citizen tweeter: “I live in Hjulsta, which is a suburb to Stockholm, and I see more black faces around here than white ones. I’ve become so used to this, that I find myself fidgeting when I’m moving in the more segregated, all white, places in the Swedish capital. I don’t trust homogeneity. It strikes me as unnatural. That’s why I’ll be doing most of my tweeting from home, and try to represent the more ‘colorful’ side of Sweden, the one I know. The one that doesn’t scare me.”

The core vision of the project, of course, is to promote Sweden and engage the world in a contemporary view of its people: “In an age of mass communication and increasing globalization, a country depends largely on how it is perceived abroad…Sweden’s development and future prosperity depend on strong relations with the outside world and a more active exchange with other countries in many areas,” explains the site.

Using Twitter, “The expectation is that the curators will paint a picture of Sweden, different to that usually obtained through traditional media.”

The agency behind @Sweden, Volontaire has a track record in unusual campaigns, based on five core beliefs:

1. Companies no longer have the power to control their brands
2. Communicate with people, not target groups
3. It’s neither about traditional nor new media
4. No one is waiting for your next advertising campaign
5. Great ideas come from everywhere.

‘Nation Branding is a science’ to them, and initial reactions to @Sweden vary from reinforcing Sweden’s image as among the most open and democratic countries worldwide, to detractors calling it an “insane breach of branding principles.”

The discussion generated made @Sweden one of the top trending tweet streams with thousands of comments and a 50% increase in followers in two days.

The first curator/ruler, 22-year old Jack Werner, used his week to introduce the world to Swedish Christmas traditions “while cursing, posting outrageous pictures and refusing to have Justin Bieber perform in his country.”

As the previous Twitizen (@kwasbeb) got up to speed, his tweets included:

• Listen up, folks! I’m @kwasbeb, a regular swedish dude, and I’m taking over this goddamned account for a week! Expect bad sex and slapstick…

• Just got word that my grand-grandmother passed away tonight, just days before her 100th birthday. She will be missed.

• Well, ok, I’ll swede the LOT of you: meat balls äre guud, änd naked girls make me sæy “jaa!”.

• On the docket for curation, a priest, a teacher and a lesbian Trucker.

Thoughts on this social nation branding exercise?

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