No doubt: The United Nations system can seem intractable and unwieldy. But the multilateral body — and its specialized agencies and programs — has been trying to change that perception, in part by reaching out to the public via social media.
In fact, the global body and its various institutions are among the most popular development-focused groups on social media channels like Twitter, Facebook and YouTube.
These accounts feature news, photos and videos. But more than that, they allow aid groups to connect with members of the public who often share their values but are unsure how to get engaged.
The United Nations’ official account on Twitter is @UN, which has more than 796,000 followers. Its Facebook account, meanwhile, has about 137,000 likes and the United Nations YouTube channel has more than 23,000 subscribers.
One of the most elaborate U.N. social media campaigns in recent months was a global conversation with Ban Ki-moon, the first by the U.N. secretary-general. The September 2011 event was streamed on Facebook, Livestream, Tumblr and the U.N. webcast site. Expect similar campaigns in the future, especially around Rio+20, the upcoming U.N. Conference on Sustainable Development.
Want to connect directly with a particular specialized agency or program? Most have their own social media accounts. Of these, the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees is among the most popular. Its Twitter account has more than 1.21 million followers — the most of any U.N. entity that uses the microblogging site. Its Facebook account boasts 134,795 likes. The agency, however, has fewer YouTube subscribers than the main U.N. account — only 4,242.
UNICEF is also popular among netizens on social media, especially on Facebook, where it has earned more than 1.68 million likes. Its Twitter account, meanwhile, is followed by 900,000 users while nearly 26,000 YouTube users are subscribed to its account on the video sharing site. All these accounts currently focus on UNICEF’s campaign to raise awareness about the Sahel crisis.
Other U.N. entities with strong social media presence are the World Health Organization, World Food Program, Food and Agriculture Organization, and the U.N. Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs.
Of course, several U.N. officials have their own social media accounts, and some of them post quite regularly. Then there are the media and public relations accounts, including @UN_Spokesperson and @UN_News_Centre on Twitter.
Traffic on these social media accounts is especially high during international events. For instance, expect WHO to be more active around World Health Day, April 7, which is also the specialized agency’s 64th anniversary.
Read our previous DevTrivia.