The Foreign Ministry’s “Foreign Ministry Web Consul” page was launched in Facebook today. On the page www.facebook.com/veebikonsul, officials from the Foreign Ministry’s consular department share information regarding travel and consular services and answer questions. In a crisis situation the page will be used to provide updates and advice.
Foreign Minister Urmas Paet stated that virtual environments allow the state to converse with its citizens more quickly and openly. “We want to bring our know-how to an environment where people are spending their time anyway. That way citizens can more quickly and easily get the exact information or advice they need,” said Foreign Minister Paet.
Director general of the Foreign Ministry consular department Rasmus Lumi said that Facebook, the most popular social networking site in Estonia, offers a good opportunity to communicate with people directly. “If needed, we will consider expanding the work of the web consul to other virtual environments as well,” said Lumi.
The Foreign Ministry has been active in social media for five years. The Foreign Ministry and Estonia’s foreign representations are active on Facebook, Twitter and YouTube. The Foreign Ministry also has a collaborative blog. The use of social media has already paid off for the Foreign Ministry—for example, it has been utilised successfully during crisis situations. In April 2010, when an ash cloud from an Icelandic volcano wreaked havoc on European flight traffic, the Foreign Ministry used social media to reach out to citizens caught in the “ash trap” and helped to arrange alternative transport for them.