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IS propaganda

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Precision Guided Message – Radical Islam, Social Media, and Building a Sleeper “Army”

Wednesday, 23 July 2014

One of the contributing factors in the forward momentum of the Islamic State (IS) [formerly and variously the Islamic State of Iraq & Syria (ISIS) or the Islamic State of Iraq & al-Sham; and the Islamic State of Iraq & the Levant (ISIL)] is the rapid and regimented dissemination of the organization’s message.

In contrast to the occasionally disorganized and single-language social messages of other extremist groups, IS’s strategic use of social media is filled with attempts to intimidate and demoralize as well as recruit both local and Western audiences. Depending on the intended objective or the target audience the IS message and the methods adopt a different “tone of voice” and set of production values.

With a reported 2500 Western fighters (Grose, 2014), IS’s efforts would appear to be a success, but how influential was the use of social media and what are they doing differently? Additionally, are “boots on the ground” the only indicator of success. We do not believe so. A more threatening and undermining effect of this strategy is the construction of a sleeper network and the manipulation of international cells whom IS never intend to draw to the actual conflict zones.

To solely focus on the immediate effect in terms of IS fighting numbers in the field and to encourage this social media activity so that Western intelligence agencies can locate activists or anticipate operations in the short term is one dimensional and ignores the more worrying mid to long term effects and possible strategic intentions of IS.

TMG Corporate Services is conducting a long range study, to determine the success of these methods on all levels while considering established notions about social media, persuasion, and the psychology of scarcity.

‘IS’ as a Corporation – Employing savvy social media use to build a Western “Army”

IS is a more sophisticated and organized extremist organization than most identified in the past, rising from the ashes of Abu Musab al-Zarqawi’s al Qaeda in Iraq (AQI) and its carefully planned four-part operation to target separate processes and terrorize select groups of individuals involved in the rebuilding of Iraq (Kirdar, 2011).

It should come as no surprise, then, that their media wing operates as a manipulative, top-tier, social media savvy corporation with carefully prepared materials in a variety of languages, designed to appeal to myriad audiences. IS uses the same Twitter strategies adopted by key players in social media customer service, including the careful use of hash-tags, tweeting to celebrities, and mobilizing their Twitter followers with calls to action.

The findings of Burson-Marsteller’s first Global Twitter Influence Study (2014) show individuals who follow large corporations are predominantly young, male, Western, and have a social pull 3,274 times stronger than their peers – a powerful audience of potential recruits that IS has designed a very careful social media strategy in order to reach. IS, as a corporation with a carefully deployed social media strategy, uses two main tools: YouTube and Twitter.

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