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Cablegate: Lebanon: Facebook: Beirut's Newest Tool in Youth

VZCZCXRO8313
RR RUEHBC RUEHDA RUEHDE RUEHGI RUEHJS RUEHKUK RUEHLH RUEHPW RUEHROV
DE RUEHLB #0347 0671020
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
R 071020Z MAR 08
FM AMEMBASSY BEIRUT
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC 1232
INFO RUCNISL/ISLAMIC COLLECTIVE

UNCLAS BEIRUT 000347

SIPDIS

SIPDIS

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: OIIP OEXC KPAO KMPI
SUBJECT: LEBANON: FACEBOOK: BEIRUT'S NEWEST TOOL IN YOUTH
OUTREACH

REF: BEIRUT 335

1. Summary: Responding to the overwhelming popularity in
Lebanon of an American-based social networking website,
Public Diplomacy (PD) Beirut is inviting tech-savvy Lebanese
youth from all walks of life to become friends...on Facebook.
With a membership base of 256,000 people in Lebanon and
growing, Facebook is an accessible and cost-effective medium
of communication with PD's target youth audience. Visitors to
PD's interactive Facebook profile can learn about upcoming
exchange and training programs and communicate with PD staff,
with or without becoming Facebook friends. So far, user
feedback has been positive. End summary.

2. To engage the Lebanese, known for their desire to remain
at the fore of everything trendy, PD designed and launched a
Facebook profile (BeirutUs Embassy) in November 2007 to tap
into a membership base spanning from high school teenagers to
mid-career professionals, PD's target demographic range.
According to Alexa.com, a site measuring internet traffic by
country, the most visited website in Lebanon is Facebook,
even ahead of internet giants Google and Yahoo. The outreach
potential through Facebook is staggering. According to
Facebook, currently 256,000 people in Lebanon have Facebook
profiles, 50% of whom are 22 years old or younger. This
number grows considerably once Lebanese expatriates, avid
visitors to the site, are factored in.

3. PD's profile already hosts more than 250 friends (composed
of prospective program participants, alumni and the general
public) with new ones added daily. In fact, after plugging
PD's profile during an interview on LBC TV, more than 20
friend requests appeared the same day. (Note: To become a
Facebook "friend," a member sends a request to another's
profile and awaits confirmation from the recipient. Once the
friendship is established, the new friends can see each
other's complete profile including a list of each other's
friends. This, in essence, is how a member's Facebook network
expands, by linking with friends of friends. End note.) Since
the BeirutUs Embassy profile is visible to anyone with a
Facebook account, PD reaches an audience wider than just
those who make the commitment to become full-fledged friends.


4. PD Beirut now promotes all student and young professional
programs on Facebook (reftel) in addition to on the Embassy's
own website. Facebook's interactive nature allows PD to post
program information, including pictures of recent
PD-sponsored events, while visitors send private messages or
publicly share thoughts or ask questions on "the wall," a
forum visible to all Facebook members. In addition to
advertising youth-oriented PD programs such as Fulbright,
Fusion Arts Exchange and Youth Exchange and Study (YES), PD
started incorporating Middle East Partnership Initiative
(MEPI) recruitment material as well, the first being for the
Student Leaders Institutes scholarship. To further one
post-designed project ("US-Lebanon Sister Schools"), PD
created a Facebook group for each of the four school pairs so
the American and Lebanese students can communicate and
develop friendships. This site is an effective medium since
most of the Sister Schools participants already had Facebook
accounts. Even many English Access students, typically from
humble socio-economic backgrounds, are active members.

5. User feedback thus far has been positive. One 22-year-old,
for example, sent this message: "It is cool you are giving a
chance to access to (sic) such a formal institution from a
friendly way." He then went on to ask for advice on how to
apply for one of PD's advertised programs. Facebook, in only
a short time, has proven to be a cost-effective way (the site
is free to join) to communicate with a large audience in PD's
target demographic, promote upcoming programs and maintain
contact with alumni. PD Beirut will continue to monitor
Lebanon's response to the profile to measure the Facebook's
effectiveness as an outreach tool, specifically in program
recruitment.

SISON

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