The Israel Defense Forces sophisticated approach to social media positions Israel as a defensive actor in the conflict in Gaza--and shows the power of the medium.
Café in Tel Aviv, Israel
For years now, businesses have been using social media to build brand awarenes and a special bond with fans and followers. The idea of social media bringing communities together is not new for businesses, but how about times of war?
Both Israel and Hamas have taken to social media to document their sides of the conflict in Gaza and rally their communities behind them. Most notably, the Israel Defense Forces took to Twitter and Facebook to give up-to-the-minute updates on what's happening, even beyond the cease-fire last week.
Social media is known as a two-way conversation and Israel is knowingly opening up that dialogue to controversial issues. While not the first time Israel has used social media during a conflict, it has taken a new degree of influence--and is helping shape the discount around the conflict.
Here are two examples from Twitter, and a third from Facebook:
As you can see, social media is a key strategy for the Israel Defense Forces, not an afterthought. Israel has been employing social media engagement best practices including so-called calls to action--"share this if you agree"--and encouraging participants to spread the message.
While there has been clear opposition to this strategy, Israel has also been hugely successful at it. Increasingly positive sentiment around the conflict in Israel's favor has been seen across social networks in the United States and beyond. With information so accessible about what is happening in the Middle East, users are becoming more educated about Israel's perspecitve, and have better ability to speak out too.
Israel has also been taking big risks with this social media strategy. As with any social effort, you never know how the public will react. Unlike press releases and commercials that can take weeks or months to finalize, everything Israel does on social happens on Facebook and Twitter in real time. Every tweet, no matter how harsh or controversial, could prompt serious backlash. Still, Israel has not been shy; it is using stats and photos from the ground to incite jaw-dropping reactions.
Here's risk-taking examples from Twitter, and Facebook:
What do you think of Israel's social media strategy during this time of conflict in the Gaza strip? Is Israel using word of mouth-to-inform the public of acts in the Middle East, or is this just a new form of propaganda? I'd love to read your point-of-view in the comments below.