U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton was in Manila November 15-16, 2011 to participate in the 60th anniversary celebration of the U.S.-Philippines Mutual Defense Treaty (MDT) and to launch the implementation phase of the Partnership for Growth (PFG) with the Philippines.
Her visit included meetings with Philippine President Benigno Aquino and Foreign Affairs Secretary Albert del Rosario; a signing of the "Manila Declaration" reaffirming our nations' commitments under the 1951 Mutual Defense Treaty and charting a course for our alliance in the 21st century; a signing of the Partnership for Growth statement of principles; and a televised live social media conversation with Filipino youth in Manila.
U.S. Embassy Manila's Public Affairs Section teamed up with one of the leading local television networks in the Philippines -- GMA -- and with telecommunications company PLDT to deliver a high-tech, youth-focused dialogue between Secretary Clinton and Filipino youth across the country. The Secretary wowed the Philippines in this youth-focused event that was broadcast live on TV and streamed on the Internet, thus enabling her to reach out to a far broader audience during her visit.
Combining elements of a town hall meeting, a televised interview, and a webchat, "A Conversation in Manila" communicated the importance of the strong and historic U.S.-Philippine relationship with a live audienc. The majority of guests were between the ages of 25 and 35. This group of bloggers, young professionals, and student journalists brought their cameras, cell phones, iPads, and laptops into the event, and they shared their time with the Secretary with their online networks through tweets, status updates, photos, and video. The audience also included graduates of the USAID-supported Congressional Internship Program for young leaders hailing from the southern island of Mindanao.
In the days leading up to the event, Filipinos across the country submitted questions and comments via Twitter, Facebook, and Skype. The Secretary entertained questions, both in-person and via social media, during her 45-minute conversation at Manila's National Museum.
Partnerships with media and telecommunications companies enabled us to reach beyond the historic venue by broadcasting the Secretary's conversation live on television, and streaming it over the Internet. More significantly, the generous amount of bandwidth PLDT provided during the event enabled our guests to tweet, click, and update their Facebook pages throughout the event, sharing their experience via many diverse social networks.
One component of the social media strategy for the Secretary's visit was a Facebook challenge called Chikahan Tayo ("Let's Chat"). Entrants submitted a 100-word "micro-essay" in response to a choice of questions. The day of the event, four very surprised authors of the winning essays were invited to attend, and they met the Secretary in person before the event!
The most valuable social media outcome of the National Museum event was the engagement, retweeting and encouragement to use the official hashtag that generated more than 5,000 tweets -- enough for #SecClintonManila to become a top trending topic in the Philippines for more than three hours on the day of the Secretary's visit.
From the Secretary's visit on November 16, U.S. Embassy Manila gained 900 followers on Twitter and nearly 400 on Facebook. Our new Twitter followers were attracted by the first-hand updates provided by the embassy and GMA during the Secretary's visit, where major media outlets around the country re-tweeted information about her visit.
This high-tech "Conversation" explored new territory with the United States' top diplomat, leveraging the social media power of institutions and individuals to reach out to a broad swathe of the Filipino public and expanding our connections with Filipino youth.