28 JUN 2012: When Visit Sweden’s ad agency Volontaire presented the concept it seemed like a really cool idea. As Creative Director Patrick Kampmann put it “Sweden stands for certain values; being progressive, democratic, and creative.” Little did he realize just how creative.
The idea was to create a ‘Curators of Sweden’ programme whereby control of @Sweden, Visit Sweden’s Twitter page, would be handed over to “an ordinary Swede” for a week at a time. No one can apply for it themselves, but nominees are interviewed and selected by a committee of three. To qualify for consideration, nominees have to be, “interesting, Twitter-literate (an oxymoron if ever I heard one!) and willing to post in English.”
One ordinary Swede, Muslim lawyer Cherin Awad who was @Sweden for a week back in February stated, “we were told not to make it sound like the entire Sweden feels that way.” Mr. Kampmann said he counsels all the @Sweden-for-a-week Tweeters to engage in their normal Twitter behavior and to do it with some dignity – once again something that sounds a little contradictory.
The very first @Sweden got the programme out of the blocks with what can only be described as a somewhat jerky start. Jack Werner’s overly candid commentary on his favorite pastimes earned him the nickname of ‘The Masturbating Swede’.
One must assume that Visit Sweden probably had more touristy pursuits in mind like the posts they got from another @Sweden who put up pictures of his family’s Christmas moose hunt. Mr. Awad (the Muslim lawyer) meanwhile took to discussing the ubiquity of the name Muhammad among immigrants with nary a mention of a Muslim moose.
The oldest @Sweden to date was 60 and the youngest has been 16-year-old Eric Isberg. When asked by one of @Sweden’s (then 28,000) followers about the origins of Sweden’s National Day, a holiday introduced in 2005, Mr. Isberg responded, “No one knows why we celebrate it, usually we just eat something nice for dinner.”
And then, along came Sonja...
Gothenburg native Sonja Abrahamsson, who describes herself as “a 27-year-old womanlike human” (sic) took up the reins of @Sweden on June 18th and immediately proceeded to make all those who had gone before look like Nobel Prize winners by comparison.
Her first post was, “Once I asked a co-worker what a Jew is. He was ‘part-Jew’ whatever that means He’s like ‘uuuh, Jews are uh well educated?” And this was one of the less offensive posts!
She continued with a litany of crude jokes about AIDS and Down Syndrome and stories about her four-year-old son finding her stash of pornography and hash.
US talk-show host Stephen Colbert (The Colbert Report) got in on the act when, on-air, he announced his desire to become @Sweden for a week. Hardly surprisingly, in Sweden the knives were soon out as Visit Sweden was accused by many an upstanding Swede of making an international laughingstock of their country.
A huge mistake?
Well it would seem not! Visit Sweden is unabashedly hailing it as a huge PR coup!
By the numbers, @Sweden more than doubled its followers in the one week that Sonja was at the helm. Not only that but hundreds twittered their support of Sonja’s quirky points of view and her courage in expressing them.
From Visit Sweden’s target overseas markets came tweets like this one declaring, “Sonja has made me want to move to Sweden more than ABBA and IKEA combined.”
Even more surprising was support coming from places like The Times of Israel where a blog article made a well reasoned defense of Sonja’s remarks stating, “She asks questions that I am sure many people wonder about.”
Sonja finished her week as the national twitterix with the posting of a YouTube video in which she told her new global fan club that “I have got emails from Jews and non-Jews all over the world. Not one was angry. Think about that. And I learned a new word: ‘kosher’ Koosher...kooosher. It has something to do with food.”
So how’s about it CTC?
There is already an @Canada in existence, albeit that nobody seems to want to claim ownership of it. And frankly it could certainly use a Sonja – recent posts include such stimulating stuff as, “On this day in 1759 General James Wolfe begins the siege of Quebec.” Or, “Heh @Canada your national anthem is too on the nose. There’s no subtext, tell me a story, make me care.”
The most interesting post though is one that reads. “If this were an official @Canada account it would be 140 character apologies.”
Maybe Sonja could be talked into moving to Ottawa – the winter climate is very similar to Gothenburg and to paraphrase Rabbie Burns, “A Tweet’s a Tweet for a’ that.”