Curated Social Media: How @Sweden has Inspired Twitter

First published May 6, 2012 – theredlens.com 

It would be the Swedes, famous for minimalist design and the concept of lagom, to inspire the world in only 140 characters.

Gamla Stan, Stockholm. Photo by Katie Haverluk

In December 2011, Swedish citizens became in charge of their country’s official Twitter account. Tasked with representing their country on a global, social platform, the direct involvement by the people, for their country led to the self-proclaimed “most democratic Twitter account.”

Go ahead…check out @Sweden.

Late in 2011, Visit Sweden and the Swedish Institute, along with creative agency Volantaire, decided that the citizens should “tweet” for their own country. Calling the project the Curators of Sweden, it expands on the idea that, as CEO Thomas Brühl says, “a single voice cannot describe Sweden.”

About the Curators of Sweden via curatorsofsweden.com

According to the results of an online survey, as published by Visit Sweden in “A Guide to Sweden – Sweden” tourist magazine, potential visitors associate the country with nature, being cold and expensive, IKEA, and blonde people; however, through Twitter, Swedes have proven to be much more than their global stereotype. Sweden is celebrating the unique diversity that truly makes up its population by publicly endorsing its citizens’ opinions via social media.

Ask yourself: Would the United States do this? How about Egypt?  Would businesses even think of letting their customers tweet for or about them?

What Sweden has started on Twitter is revolutionary. The world’s opinion of Sweden lies directly in its citizen’s hands.

Nominated Individuals

In order to be considered as a potential Curator, one must be a Swedish citizen, active Twitter user, and nominated by another person.

Anna Åberg, a Curator from March 5-11, didn’t know she was nominated and in the running to represent Sweden. “I just got a phone call,” she said, “ ‘Hi, we’re doing this project, do you know about us?’ ‘Yeah, I know about that, I’ve followed for a couple weeks.’  I knew about it, I was very pleased, I was like, why me?” Åberg was able to choose a week that suited her best, “I need a week when I work a lot. I can see the interest in me working as a firefighter.”

The goal of the project, to increase interest in Sweden for tourism and international relations, has certainly been fulfilled by the diverse Curators. Going from 8,000 to nearly 29,000 followers in just 5 months, each person has engaged with curious followers by answering questions, discussing their Swedish life, and sometimes stirring up controversy.

“They encourage you to just be you, to keep on talking about what you think is important.” In deciding what she wanted to talk about, Åberg said, “I’m one of a hundred female firefighters, it’s important for me to talk about gender roles and what we promote girls to do or not to do. So, I took the chance, and it ended up with great discussions.”

What Sweden Has Created

@Sweden certainly isn’t a stranger to controversy. The very first curator, Jack, managed to stir up questions of whether putting the account in just anyone’s hands is a good idea. During his first days, as he tweeted things like:

via www.curatorsofsweden.com/archive/

Anna Dahlström, a blogger and Swedish woman living abroad, opined that turning the account over to regular citizens was a disgrace. Other outlets picked up on her view and used it to argue why this project may not work if even a Swede doesn’t like the idea. Since then, however, she has updated her original post stating:

“As I write below I am not opposed to the idea. Just what the first curator tweeted, particularly during his first day. Since then there’s been some brilliant curators and lovely, insightful tweets. However, it doesn’t change the fact that social media does need to be monitored.”

So, what happens when a curator becomes too controversial?

A curator during the month of March, Natashja Blomberg, a self-described feminist, posted personal photos breastfeeding her kids and asked if anyone was offended by it. Using the hashtag #breastfeedingriot, she started a broad discussion, engaging and surprising followers with her candidness. This created a renewed buzz around @Sweden with followers, bloggers, and journalists asking if she could be starting a worldwide movement, or if this was taking the account too far.

Project Manager with Sweden.se, Inger Ridderstolpe, told thelocal.com:

“We are happy with Natashja as @sweden. She’s representing herself, she’s true to her normal Twitter feed, as we ask all curators to be. We want curators that like to debate and that like to have a dialogue with their followers.

Natashja answers all questions she gets and she does it with humour and self-respect. She is not afraid of speaking her mind and she does it! Equality is something Sweden like to promote and we’re happy that she does it in her way”

Likewise, Jessica Sandberg, curator during the first week of May wasn’t about to censor herself.

Despite any controversy, followers have expressed that they enjoy what @Sweden has to say, and continuously look forward to who or what may come next.

In addition to broad public interest, @Sweden has been such a success that the prestigious Swedish Golden Egg awards have recognized the account with a Golden Egg (Guldägg) in Public Relations and a Silver Egg (Silverägg) in Digital. In May 2012, international acclaim came in the form of a Gold Clio award in Public Relations.

This significant recognition rewards the innovative use of using social media. Reaching 120+ countries, gaining followers at an incredible pace, and opening up discussion on topics ranging from immigration, homosexuality, gender equality, religion, and more, there is a reason the world keeps coming back for more.

Rotation Curation

Curated accounts are now trending on Twitter and other countries have been quick to follow suit. Dubbed first as “location curation” (#locationcuration, originally from @kirkstallonline), within one month of @Sweden becoming a curated account, the people of Leeds (UK), Australia, USA, Mexico, and Basque people abroad had each started unofficial accounts.

Throughout 2012, 30 accounts (and counting) have been created to represent not only more locations, but also groups like LGBTQ, Fairfax, VA commuters, and the UK Financial Times. The movement is now largely being called “rotation curation” (#rotationcuration, coined by @newzealand founder, @auldzealand), as it is no longer only a location specific movement.

Nelson Bonner, creator of @TweetWeekUSA, has taken a lead in the rotation curation movement, creating the site www.rotationcuration.com to organize the accounts for greater reference. It’s unclear how long @Sweden will stay in the people’s hands, but if the increase in curated accounts is any indication, they won’t be going away soon.

Infographic by Katie Haverluk

Twitter: the ideal site

Curated accounts work so well with Twitter because of the inherent nature of the site’s simple design. Short quips about life are shared throughout the day, there is no need to remember to check in an account because tweets show up on the constantly updating home page, and the ability to easily mention someone facilitates open communication and fosters dialogue.

Answering the question “Why do you think #rotationcuration accounts work so well on Twitter” @TheCatCantina tweeted, “…people hear so much negativity on the news & want to know how the people in these countries really live…” Recent @TweetWeekUSA curator, Sue Palmer (@suepalmer21) tweeted, “It’s a consortium of like minded ppl willing to share themselves & their world for the benefit of others.”

Responses why Twitter works well for Rotation Curation

According to a previous Red Lens survey, over 93% of readers think that @Sweden has something going for them. How do you feel about the Rotation Curation movement today? Do you think curated accounts could work on any other social media site?

Photo: Katie Haverluk

Leave a comment or tweet me @khaverluk22 to respond.