AUSTRALIA may be missing a golden opportunity to brand itself to the world – because the @Australia Twitter handle is dormant.
Great Britain and South Africa are among only nine UN member states currently maintaining official, national Twitter accounts – using the @GreatBritain, @SouthAfrica style handles.
The nine accounts, which have tens of thousands of followers, are used to promote tourism and boost national brands.
But the @Australia Twitter handle is registered to a private individual – and is dormant, despite having almost 6500 followers.
The relatively large number of @Australia’s followers, many of whom are overseas and include travel writers, suggests plenty of people are interested in hearing about Australia.
Steve Bowen, a managing director at Burson-Marsteller – which has just published its Twiplomacy report on how nations use Twitter – says the @Australia handle may help with promotion.
“The advantage of having a country handle is obvious in terms of visibility,” he told AAP.
Tourism Australia operates Twitter, YouTube and Facebook accounts.
The youtube.com/australia account has attracted more than seven million viewers.
The Facebook page has more than three million followers and @TourismAus, on Twitter, has more than 6500 followers.
But Mr Bowen said the @Australia handle could be used as part of a broader nation-branding effort, not restricted to tourism or policy alone.
“A national handle is a convenient and memorable banner under which to communicate the many aspects of a nation’s brand,” he added.
“From that perspective, it would be better for countries to own their own identities on Twitter rather than leaving them to other interested (or disinterested) parties.”
Burson-Marsteller classifies the @Australia Twitter account as “dormant” and correctly points out that its only tweet was an argument.
The writer and comedian Ben Pobjie contacted the owner to say: “So @Australia HAS been claimed – and it’s really lame. They should delete it.”
The owner replied: “I would never call @benpobjie lame, yet you see fit to call my @australia twitter account lame who r u ?!?!?”
Mr Bowen said the Australian government could seek to take over the @Australian handle, but it would need to contact the registered owner to ask permission.
Foreign Minister Bob Carr, an active tweeter (@bobjcarr), has been asked to comment. – AAP