Trending on Twitter is a big deal—and the @Sweden experiment has been doing just that. It started as a government-backed venture to promote, through Twitter, a new, exciting, and diverse image of Sweden worldwide. Since its inception a mere six months ago, @Sweden has spurred a tweeting trend that’s achieving global reach, dubbed Rotation Curation (#rotationcuration) by its founders.
@Sweden is the country’s official Twitter account, handed over to a different citizen to manage each week. They’re selected by the three brains behind the idea: the Swedish Institute, a government agency, Sweden’s official tourism website VisitSweden, and a Swedish communications firm called Volontaire.
“The idea to have different people per week was actually our first idea,” Philip Ahlqwist, one of Volontaire’s creative directors told ABC News. Volontaire was approached by the Sweden Institute and Visit Sweden in late 2011 with the task of re-vamping their official Twitter account, in place since January 2009.
“When we looked into what the @Sweden brand promised, we thought about how Sweden is one of the most democratic countries in the world,” explained Ahlqwist, “and Twitter is one of the most democratic tools today, with the ability to reach 140 million people. ”
Team @Sweden pride themselves on the diversity of their account’s curators, and fact that nothing is censored. Sergio Guimaraes, a spokesperson for the Swedish Institute, happily listed some past @Swedes: “we have a woman who has introduced herself as a “coffee drinking lesbian truck driver,” a man who is proud of doing something that “scares the crap out of” him every year, and a woman who was very passionate about her right to breastfeed in public.”
Guimaraes and Ahlqwist both hail Twitter as a beacon of free speech, dismissing ideas potential absurdity of unfiltered tweets, or the possible vanity of account curators. On the topic of skeptics, Ahlqwist smiled: “start following @Sweden and see if you still feel the same.”
Current @Sweden curator, imparting personal words of wisdom to almost 32,000 followers, Sonja Abrahamsson said that she was told to just be herself and tweet as herself.
“A good Twitter account is smart, even when it’s stupid, and has a good heart,” Abrahamsson told ABC News.
So far, @Sweden candidates have to be nominated by a third party. “The dream is to one day have a pay it forward model,” said Ahlqwist. “The last person would suggest the next, and so on.”
Said Guimareas, “there are hundreds of applicants that we haven’t used,” adding that some were nominated by previous @Sweden curators.
And this kind of domino-Twitter effect is not limited to @Sweden followers or the @Sweden account.
“Where I see this going is literally a revolution for world communications,” said Nelson Bonner, a 66-year-old California native, and the founder of @TweetWeekUSA, @TweetWeekNYC, and the Rotation Curation website. “What I wanted to do is to open a dialogue between people in the US about what’s going on in their country, and in the world.”
Bonner’s Tweek Week accounts are just two out of 35-plus that have cropped up in the image of @Sweden. Accounts ranging from from @IAm_Pakistan – re-activated today after an unexplained suspension by Twitter for weeks – to @PeopleofLeeds, are also characterized by the weekly rotation of its tweeter, but, notably, these accounts stand independently to any organization or government agency.
@PeopleofLeeds founder Kirsty Ware, now also running @PeopleofUK described her rotation curation accounts as “just a way to connect the community I’m part of. And I think that’s what happened with all the accounts since – they’re all normal people who just want to share their lives and their city and interests.”
Ware now helps to run the Rotation Curation project overseen by Bonner. She said that she hopes that soon anyone, anywhere in the world will be able to open Twitter and access a variety of Rotation Curation accounts. “I never thought setting up the Leeds account would lead to people tweeting about Syria. You met passionate people who are curious and want to help.”
The “curiosity” and “passion” expressed by many Rotation Curation tweeters is greeted with gratitude by the @Sweden veterans, including Tommy Sollen, the social media manager at VisitSweden.
“After some time and a couple of accounts it was obvious this was truly a movement,” said Sollen. “I believe we are witnessing the next evolutionary step in the Internet’s democratization, we’ve opened up for crowd-sourced nation branding.”
For that, the Rotation-ists take their hats off to Twitter.
“It’s a revolutionary form of communication,” said Bonner. “Immediate, easy to receive and digest, it encompasses multimedia, and it’s tag-able and link-able.”
Now six years old, the social network has come a long way from it’s beginnings as “Twttr“, a kind of online SMS service.
Click here to watch a video made by one Rotation enthusiast, about how @Sweden led to #RotationCuration.