STOCKHOLM (Reuters) - Sweden is tweeting to the world, and this week she is Hanna, “just your average lesbian truck driver.”
Officials at Sweden’s tourism board agreed to hand over control of their @sweden Twitter feed in December to a different Swedish citizen each week.
The project — billed as “the world’s most democratic Twitter account” — has so far been hugely popular, featuring a female priest, an advertising executive and an organic sheep farmer.
Its 20,000 followers may be small in a social media world where Lady Gaga has almost 20 million, but those behind @sweden say it is one of a kind and has more than doubled its number of followers in just five weeks.
“In this age of internet and transparency, if you want to be credible, you have to let go of control and empower the people,” said Tommy Sollen, VisitSweden’s social media manager, who was part of the team that came up with the idea.
Sollen said the project, which will continue indefinitely, is less about boosting tourism and more about creating long-term branding for a nation that is often associated with tall blondes, meatballs and neutrality.
“We want to be seen as progressive, open, credible and truthful,” he said.
People from around the world have logged on in the past weeks to follow tweets and discussions that have covered everything from immigration to new and old music, food, alcohol and sobriety, religion and hunting.
“Gosh, I really enjoy being @sweden,” writes Hanna. “They’ll have to grab the account out of my dying hands.”
Sometimes @sweden talks about the weather, a popular topic in the Nordic country of 9 million, but other topics are harder hitting.
Anders Dalenius, the third Swede on the stand, kicked off his week with a photo of himself in the middle of the woods, decked out in bright orange hunting gear.
“Hi all! Im Anders and right now we’re hunting moose and wild boar. Join me!” he tweeted, sparking a huge debate over hunting.
This week, an upbeat 32-year-old who drives trucks and drinks too much coffee is tweeting on her breaks.
“Sweden won’t be a location as much as a state of mind,” Hanna told Reuters by phone before climbing into her 17-metre, 40-tonne truck on her way to Denmark and the Netherlands.
“I just am doing what I always do, writing about my life. Sometimes I write about politics and social welfare, but not with a true agenda. I mostly just express my own opinions when I see something that bothers me or I find interesting.”
Sollen said the guest tweeters have free rein, though they are asked to make clear that their views are their own.
Hasan Ramic, a Swedish immigrant who fled Bosnia in the early 1990s, was openly critical of the country’s foreign minister during his week as @sweden.
He describes himself as not trusting homogeneity.
“It strikes me as unnatural,” he said.
He would try to represent the more “colorful” side of Sweden — “the one I know.”
Relative to its size, Sweden has been among the top five nations in the European Union in taking in refugees and asylum-seekers, including those fleeing the Balkan wars of the 1990s and Iraq after the U.S. invasion.
Ramic also shared with his followers a link to what he said was Sweden’s national dish — the “kebabpizza” — calling it “a genius outcome of Swedish immigration policies.”
Reporting by Mia Shanley, editing by Paul Casciato