Social media is often associated with the fast-paced dynamic of modern life, but the Italian Embassy in the USA took a moment to remember the past with a video marking the 156th anniversary of Italian Unity. The video features the Frecce Tricolori – the Italian air force aerobatic unit – colouring the Rome sky with green, white, and red while men in uniform stand to attention and a trumpet sounds in the background. The video demonstrated the impact of tapping into history and sharing a nation’s story as part of wider diplomatic efforts.

Social Media and History

Tourists who flock to the ancient sites of Rome, or viewers of this video, may be surprised to hear that Italy is in fact one of the youngest countries in Europe. In 1861, the kingdom of Italy was proclaimed and the country’s parliament made Victor Emmanuel II its first monarch. Italian Unification, known as the Risorgimento, was a defining moment in Italian history and its memory continues to permeate Italian culture and politics today. Despite contentions about Italy’s past and how it has impacted the present, this example of digital diplomacy highlights the importance for governments to share their history with the world.

Creating a Narrative

The video is short, visually appealing, and immediately captures the viewers’ attention. The impressive Frecce Tricolori are a powerful symbol of how Italy wants to project itself to the world as a positive display of patriotism and commemoration. The caption too is apt. In referencing St. Patrick’s Day, a more well-known celebration in countries like US, the embassy is relating the discussion with a more familiar narrative before addressing the main point of the video. The post does enter into detail about Italian unification, as viewers are unlikely to want to be overwhelmed with historical facts. It does, however, provoke curiosity and those who are interested may find themselves inspired to find out more. The message also conveys a key message, taking a few key words from President Sergio Mattarella’s speech about the ideals for which the country stands: independence, justice, liberty and democracy.

The fact that the video has had over 29k views is testament to its success in engaging a wide audience. However, it should be viewed within the context of a wider narrative being told through the Italian Embassy’s Facebook page. The embassy posts content daily, including photos, videos and live streaming, on topics ranging from education, language, culture, and politics to the digital economy and food. All of this content contributes to an ongoing and evolving story, one in which foreign publics are encouraged to participate.

Lessons for Organisations

  • Use short, visually appealing content to capture the attention of your audience.
  • Facebook posts should be part of a coherent narrative.
  • Post relevant content consistently and vary the types of content.
  • Make sure posts have a clear message.
  • Speak to your target audience by combining the familiar (things they identify with) with the new (things they might want to know more about).