The internet is all atwitter about the latest Middle Eastern military skirmish. But the actual ground operation is not necessarily what is creating the loudest chatter. What has grabbed the news headlines are the channels used to announce the attack: Twitter, YouTube and a blog.
Coincidentally, I was on twitter when I first learned of the attack. A tweet popped into my feed, saying something along the lines of: “Israeli defence and Hamas exchange threats via twitter.” .
I didn’t immediately click on it, because my first thought was: “No way. Israel is not tweeting about a military operation in real-time.” Then I remembered the cartoon bomb that made its world debut at this year’s UN General Assembly.
So I gave in and clicked on the third article I came across, which expressed shock and disbelief that a government organization would tweet and post video of a military strike to its official twitter handle (@IDFSpokesperson). However, I approached the story from a slightly different perspective.
Putting aside my opinion on whether or not the actions taken by the military were legitimate, I focused on the Israel Defense Forces’ (IDF) choice of communications mediums and the strategy behind it.
Social Media Offensive
The tweets sent out to followers of IDF (and subsequently, the world) accomplished more than just providing fodder for pundits and talk show hosts. Israel managed to do what all people, brands and organizations WANT to do when faced with an issue that has the potential to become crisis: get ahead of the story and frame the narrative.
By bypassing the traditional information gatekeepers (tweets preceded the official press conference) and delivering its messages straight to Israeli citizens and other influencers (since only those invested in Israel would be following their feed), the IDF connected directly with its audience by live-tweeting and blogging its key messages; with photos and YouTube video (over 150,000 views) used to provide visual evidence.
Upon closer examination of the content of the tweets a deliberate narrative unfolds.
- Intent to attack: A statement of intent outlined the IDF’s position on military action if they felt it warranted.
- Reason for attack: Announces military action against Hamas due to previous attacks against Israel. Tweet is also accompanied by hashtags to monitor trending and comments.
- Target of the attack: The following two messages identify the intended military target and provide a link back to the IDF’s blog, which lists the alleged crimes perpetrated by the individual.
- Reinforcement of action: This tweet provides a link to information on past disputes between the two forces. Providing a history of conflict to perhaps reinforce the IDF’s assessment of the threat posed by Hamas.
So why was this effective?
Using the reach and immediacy provided by social media, the IDF not only engaged the public to gain support for its military campaign, it gained global coverage of the story it wanted to tell – in its own words. Indicating that the organization has a true understanding of how social media combined with strong communications planning can provide a direct line to stakeholders.
We will have to wait and see how the rest of the story unfolds. But the boldness of the IDF’s social media strategy could herald a future trend.
What are your thoughts? Did the IDF manage to frame this issue? What would you do differently?