The United Nations and social media in 2016

Nancy Groves
Dec 27, 2016 · 5 min read

With an average of 10 to 15 tweets per day and additional posts on platforms like Facebook and Instagram, it’s impossible to come up with a “best of” list when it comes to United Nations social media posts originating from the Secretariat-managed accounts. But as December winds down, we’ve taken a look back at the last 12 months and are happy to share some notable highlights — in no particular order — from our work.

UN General Assembly High-level Week

View of UN Headquarters Visitor Plaza in September 2016. Photo credit: Nancy Groves, UN Social Media

Once again, our “giant #UNGA hashtag” welcomed visitors to the UN General Assembly high-level events in New York City in September. Not only did it remind people how to join the online conversations, it served a popular photo spot.

Our “VIP Social Media Space” was crowded with special guests. Photo credit: Charles Nonde, UNIC Zambia

This year we hosted representatives from Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat, Twitter and Weibo at our “VIP Social Media Space” to help world leaders create special content for their platforms. In addition to recording live videos on Facebook and short videos using the Twitter “Mirror,” photographer Robert Clark and a team from Flixel created special “cinemagraph” images only available on our United Nations Instagram account.

Cinemagraphs shared on the United Nations Instagram account

The situation of refugees and migrants

In the lead up to the September UN Summit for Refugees and Migrants, we used the hashtag #UN4RefugeesMigrants to draw attention to the work of the UN System all over the world.

A key priority was to share facts about the crisis. One way we did so was to create infographics featuring the latest data which were widely shared.

For the first time ever, Olympians, who happened to be refugees, took part under the flag of the Olympics. Photo credit: UNHCR

One related highlight was that colleagues at the UN Refugee Agency worked with the Olympics to share the stories of #TeamRefugees who amazed all of us with their talent, spirit and determination in Rio de Janeiro over the summer.

All year we worked to change the toxic narratives about refugees and migrants often found on social media platforms. Going forward, TOGETHER, a new global initiative that promotes respect, safety and dignity for everyone forced to flee their homes in search of a better life, will continue this important effort started in 2016. Everyone is invited to #JoinTogether in 2017 and beyond.

Paris Agreement and Climate Action

Climate action in the lead up to November’s historic entry into force of the Paris Agreement was also a major focus of our work. We also used our Sustainable Development Goals-focused accounts on Twitter and Facebook to post regular updates on action everyone can take to work toward achieving a sustainable future.

Screenshot from the United Nations Facebook page

Also, thank you to UN Environment Programme Goodwill Ambassador and Solar Impulse pilot Bertrand Piccard for working with us in 2016 several times to explain how clean technology can be profitable, including by taking part in a Facebook “Live” session at November’s COP 22 conference in Marrakech.

The Solar Impulse team also celebrated Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon’s birthday during its stopover at JFK International Airport in NYC. Photo credit: Ariel Alexovich, UN Social Media Team

Partnering for the Global Goals

We are so grateful to partners who work with us to make special materials to share on our social media platforms. One example from 2016 was the #AngryBirdsHappyPlanet campaign which highlighted ways to take climate action. Videos and other multimedia images showcased the Angry Birds characters doing simple things like turning the lights off, conserving water and using less plastic make a big difference.

In addition to this special campaign related to the International Day of Happiness, we shared tips for how everyone everywhere can take action.

Another special partnership is the ongoing support from Project Everyone which has created great videos like “We Have a Plan” to raise awareness of the Sustainable Development Goals.

Also, don’t miss the the SDGs in Action app made by GSMA and Project Everyone in cooperation with the UN. Available for download now on iOS and Android.

Crisis response

In addition to these special events and campaigns, every day we covered the UN System’s response to crises around the world with regular updates from Burundi, Central African Republic, Haiti, Iraq, South Sudan and Syria.

Whether it’s blankets, food aid, health supplies, shelter or more, the needs are endless. Thank you for considering supporting these UN funds, programmes and agencies.


Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon in transit. Photo credit: Giles Clarke, Getty Images Reportages

And, as 2016 comes to a close, we will say goodbye to our 8th Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon who ends his 2nd five-year term on 31 December. While Mr. Ban didn’t personally share items on social media (with one exception — his LinkedIn “Influencer” account), he was always interested to know what social media fans and followers were saying online and to take part in special social media activities with our team.

All year long, Getty Images Reportage photographer Giles Clarke traveled with Ban Ki-moon and was generous enough to share snaps with our team, many of which made it on to our Instagram account.

Ban Ki-moon in Sri Lanka. Photo credit: Giles Clark, Getty Images Reportage

As 2017 opens, we’ll welcome our 9th Secretary-General Antonio Guterres who took the oath of office on 12 December. Stay tuned for special social media plans we expect to unveil in January.

New platform: Medium

On Human Rights Day, we launched our newest platform, Medium, and our “We the Peoples” publication to highlight voices of UN experts.

Follow our UN colleagues right here on Medium


First launched on Yoga Day in 2015, our “United-Nations” Snapchat account continues take on a special place of importance in our social media strategy. Join us there to see one-of-a-kind posts and check in every day so you don’t miss them before they disappear!

Thank you, NYC, for creating this rainbow crosswalk in support of the UN’s Free and Equal Campaign
We talked to this family from Syria whose mother was spotlighted at the UN on World Humanitarian Day.
The UN Spokesperson’s Office, a key partner for us, tagged along with Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon when he took the subway to City Hall to meet with NYC Mayor Bill DiBlasio.

And, finally, some of our favorite and/or most popular tweets

See more highlights on Twitter in this 2016 Twitter “Moment.”

Looking for additional updates, you can see more of our multilingual platforms here:

We The Peoples

Voices from around the United Nations, with updates on…

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