Heads of State on Instagram

We didn’t need Selfiegate to teach us that Instagram is probably the ultimate tool for camera happy politicians and diplomats.

Prime Minister of Russia Demitry Medvedev on Instagram

Prime Minister of Russia Demitry Medvedev’s Instagram Profile Pic

This week, Instagram posted a list of Heads of State accounts worth following on their tumblr blog.

Here it is:

  • Elio Di Rupo, Prime Minister of Belgium — @eliodirupo
  • Dilma Rousseff, President of Brazil — @palaciodoplanalto
  • Stephen Harper, Prime Minister of Canada — @pmstephenharper
  • Rania Al Abdullah, Queen of Jordan — @queenrania
  • Ani Yudhoyono, First Lady of Indonesia — @aniyudhoyono
  • Shimon Peres, President of Israel — @shimonperes
  • Uhuru Kenyatta, President of Kenya — @ukenyatta
  • Najib Razak, Prime Minister of Malaysia — @najib_razak
  • Enrique Peña Nieto, President of Mexico — @penanieto
  • Horacio Cartes, President of Paraguay — @horaciocartespy
  • Dmitry Medvedev, Prime Minister of Russia — @damedvedev
  • Lee Hsien Loong, Prime Minister of Singapore — @leehsienloong
  • Borut Pahor, President of Slovenia — @borutpahor
  • Abdullah Gül, President of Turkey — @cbabdullahgul
  • European Parliament — @europeanparliament
  • Clarence House — Members of the United Kingdom’s Royal Family including The Prince of Wales, The Duchess of Cornwall, The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge and Prince Harry — @clarencehouse

Click here to view the full list of best accounts of heads of state to follow on Instagram

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Deadly Smartphones

The military is probably the most threatened organization by the digital revolution. This is one of the main reasons why today’s militaries across the world, though pushing for rapid technological advancement, remain as primitive as they possibly can when it comes to basic telecommunications.

I can’t begin to describe how frustrating it ishomeland security not to be able to use a flash drive, a Gmail account or connect an outlook address to a phone. I mean, come on, this is the military, no?

The Israeli military, for example, is in the midst of upgrading its staff’s cell phones to the latest iOS and Android models. Knowing that high speed internet connections and high resolution cameras,

as well as personal involvement in social media networks come with a high risk to national security, the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) launched an extensive awareness campaign along with rewriting its telecom field intelligence doctrines.

Before you is an inside look at the advertising campaign which has already been shared via military diplomacy channels, with counterparts around the world who are facing the same challenges:

Who is the Target Audience? instagram for diplomacy

The military, in Israel as well as all over the world, is a client which heavily restricts the advertising agency in all its departments, which definitely has its toll on the creative department but at the same time, poses a great challenge to produce excellent results that is memorable and truly penetrates the target audience. The campaign was intended for the senior officers of the Israel Defense Forces, as part of the organized transition to smart phones in the use of military personnel. The campaign ran in the various military bases and concentrated mostly on print and related BTL materials, as part of a nationwide information campaign scope.

Maintaining Maximum Minimalism

The specific target audience of this campaign was mostly officers and soldiers of the Israel Defense Forces. The underlying assumption was that the target audience is intelligent and that we have to touch a nerve in order to get to them, while striving to maintain maximum twiplomacyminimalism. The response of the Israel Defense Forces officers was very positive resulted in minimal violations of the regulations imposed by the IDF’s Information Security Department. When addressing soldiers, it is best to use terminology relevant to the military world, therefore the smart phone applications were turned into “arms” in order to convey the message that media can serve as a “weapon” if used incorrectly.

The audience is asked “not to point it at us” (i.e to be used under the proper Field Security regulations). A simple message, precise and visually clear backed with a wink and used in slang and updated lingo.

Sense and Sensibility

With technological progress and endless media options available today comes the major challenge of keeping information secure, a severe problem for an organization of high sensitivity as IDF intelligence. Israel Defense Forces, like many western armies around the world, upgraded to smart mobile phone use by officers in order to improve communication within the military. The main challenge faced by military officials after this move, is the prevention of leakage of confidential content and classified information. As part of coping with the challenge, the IDF contacted a well known advertising company in request to produce a campaign highlighting the phone’s weak spots in relation to information security.

In a country like Israel, where security issues are particularly sensitive, the importance of a wide- ranged campaign was gravely important. In addition to the campaign, a special PR team was established to hop between bases to provide workshops on the subject. Ideological concept of the campaign – the smart phone is a weapon. Do not point it against us.

Known icons from the app world, smart phones and social networks were given a visual twist making them resemble weapons, thus visually iphone killssharpening the sense of danger.

The campaign was well received by the officers and soldiers. It ran in all IDF units (though the initial thought was to run the campaign strictly in the Intelligence Corps). In addition, the campaign was presented to senior intelligence officers of other countries military organizations who as a result, will be adapting the method, namely the Italian and American armies.

I recently visited my old base, reporting for reserve duty, and indeed, the posters are up everywhere: Twitters cute little bird dropping a bomb, Instagram’s lens zoning in on a target, Facebook’s F is holding a gun and so many more little deathly adaptations of icons. At times visually forced but overall very cute and effective.

Too bad they can’t spread them on a banner due to security restrictions…

US Ambassador, Dan Shapiro Asks Facebook Fans to Post Obama Pics on Timeline

US Ambassador to Israel, Dan Shapiro, is asking his 4,500 Facebook fans to post their own Obama-related pictures and memes on his timeline in celebration of the president’s visit, expected this week.

obama visits israel

Israeli memologists are already bombarding social networks

The visit, tagged #obamainisrael has already been honored with an App, available for both Android and iOS devices, designed to give  an inside look at the visit and provide  real-time video and picture updates as well as ways to communicate with the Israeli Prime Minister’s Office at all times.

Given the proximity to Passover, and the frenzy that always surrounds him wherever he goes, this meme is my own personal tribute the president.

Welcome to Israel Mr. President, wishing you a successful visit!

Digital Diplomacy Colors the AppStore RED

On November 17th, I posted one of my most viewed posts “Gaza Shells Israel on Twitter” where I tried to make the point that the lack of Israeli presence on Twitter is harming the country’s public diplomacy efforts in light of the latest round of hostilities between Gaza and Israel. I simply said: “Israel is the startup nation and the hub of technological innovation – Don’t ask them for photos, don’t create hashtags that no one searches for. Develop a simple, visual, location-based app that would enable people to share real-time alarms/sirens, rocket shells and of course photos and tags that will help them share their experience with everyone in the world, and not just their own circles.”

Surely enough, today, only two days later, an app named “Tzeva Adom” (literal translation: Color Red, which is the name of the sirens sounded throughout the country when a rocket is fired in its direction) appeared in the AppStore!

color red siren app israel

The Tzeva Adom App as appears in the AppStore

Funnily enough, I learned about it from an article on Ynetnews, reporting that Knesset (Parliament) Member Gila Gamliel from the Likud party currently in power, called upon foreign ambassadors posted in Israel to download the app in order to “get some understanding of what is going on in Southern-Israel”.

Whether this was a direct result of my post, a spark of common sense or lessons well learned on the go, it is interesting to see the growing understanding of the importance of digital diplomacy and how to utilize it as part of the overall diplomatic effort.

Gaza Shells Israel On Twitter

My uniform is ironed, folded and ready for the anticipated call from my unit. After barrages of rockets from Gaza to Israel, it was time to retaliate. Many Israelis, who were getting tired of the situation, kept posting memes and updated their statuses expressing their wish to block rocket attacks and get back to normal life. It was at a certain point that the government decided to strike back, and has been doing so in surgical, pin-pointed airstrikes designed to stop the rockets by exploding them in mid-air as well as pounding at Hamas, its leadership and its infrastructure.

On Facebook, you couldn’t help but notice the heartwarming gestures of people living in the central and northern parts of the country, offering their homes and sending warm wishes to the 1 million civilians within rocket range. But soon after, rockets started falling in central Israel, making it 5 million civilians under rocket range, exposed to physical danger as well as much frustration, confusion and anxiety.

Israelis love Facebook so much that they forget there is a whole world out there which isn’t comprised of family and friends and who doesn’t necessarily support, understand or even know the slightest thing about what is happening now between Gaza and Israel. I noticed many of my friends, calling their friends and fans to post photos and testimonies of the rockets flying over their heads so that “the whole world will see”.

gaza fires rockets on israel

“The Foreign Ministry calls upon the citizens of Southern-Israel to send videos, photos that show your lives under rocket threat”

The Israeli Ministry of Foreign Affairs has asked civilians to email them videos and photos so that they may use them to create posters, memes and clips that will serve as advocacy materials in the public diplomacy efforts to keep the world informed and to maintain the first time ever general support of Israel and the opinion that Hamas launching daily, if not hourly rocket attacks from Gaza to Israel is the direct cause of this escalation.

But you see, the conversation is on Twitter, not just on Facebook. If Facebook is a social network, then Twitter is a source of information to all, at any given time, on any topic.

gaza shells israel on twitter

Gaza & Israel, or should we say just Gaza, on Twitter

Israelis, as opposed to Palestinians, don’t use Twitter. And when it comes to Instagram, they seem to keep the tags very local. This simple truth leaves the 4th battle field totally neglected.

A quick scroll down the twitter feed using the tags #Israel or #Gaza will show exactly who is shaping and controlling the conversation. No matter how many advocacy groups and governemt organizations will try to contribute, it is the people, in this case the Palestinians who control the Twittersphere simply because it isn’t used by Israelis.

As I wait to be called for duty, I would like to call upon the Foreign Ministry, the Israel Defense Forces and everyone interested mobilizing civilians to keep the world informed:

Israel is the startup nation and the hub of technological innovation – Don’t ask them for photos, don’t create hashtags that no one searches for. Develop a simple, visual, location-based app that would enable people to share real-time alarms/sirens, rocket shells and of course photos and tags that will help them share their experience with everyone in the world, and not just their own circles.

The concern of a location based app revealing to Hamas the exact location of where the rockets fell I s understandable. So is the fear of encouraging people to take pictures of rockets when they should be running for shelter. But the thing is that, Hamas will know whether you tell them or not, and people will be taking pictures of rockets anyway…

Once again, the best speakers and the people themselves, the moment you do it for them, you lose the ears and the hearts of your potential audience which is not yours, it’s in fact, theirs.

Having an APPtitude

I’ve noticed that recently, governments on both local and national levels have entered the marvelous mobile world by developing apps designed to provide citizens, tourists and expats with relevant information serving their needs.

Such initiatives are important tools in providing service and increasing visibility.

It also helps governments on any level position themselves as progressive, in tuned with the public, moving with the times, and well-organized. Especially in an era when people’s patience is wearing thin and bureaucracy, well bureaucracy never goes anywhere.

Going back to some of my previous posts, those who may be seeking this information are already engaged with your country one way or another and though it helps you strengthen their appreciation of you more, it doesn’t do enough for making new friends.

Encouraging tourism or foreign investments starts by raising awareness to what your country has to offer. In addition to campaigns, conferences and other forms of targeted engagement, I propose a slightly less likely utilization of apps:

Wait for it…: Gaming.

Before you raise your brow or go back to checking your emails, hear me out.

Gaming is not just a lifestyle of junk food and avatars. We’ve all resorted to games conveniently available on our phones at least once while attending a boring meeting or lecture or even on the train or flight on some business trip.

According to an article published on Mashable.com,  In September 2012, 251 million people played games on Facebook, up from 226 million in September of 2011. Beyond the growth rate, the scary part is that those number refer only to  Facebook!

Every game we play, whether on an old-school board game or on a savvy flashy mobile phone have one thing in common: A Background.

A background can be a storyline and or a location in which the game takes place. Why not make the background your own?

Now, obviously if your aim is to improve your country’s image and to increase tourism and foreign investments you wouldn’t want to design a bloody war quest set in your land. But if business capital is what you seek, why not complement your efforts by producing a rollercoaster or runner game set in the downtown business quarter of your financial and commercial capital? Or if tourism is your goal, why not use the beautiful landscapes of your country as a background even for an angry birds style game? Sounds silly? Maybe…but you have an opportunity to make your country visible and attractive without an obvious direct affiliation and positioning one or more of your cities with an already well-known and strong place brand that you aspire to become like or even surpass.

Think about it for a moment. If the game you designed allows the gamer to choose a layout setting or even simply advance to different levels using the same group of cities, the long-term effect of associating the place you are promoting, is that it is in the same league as the other cities in the group.

If your game takes place in Tokyo, London, New York and a city in your country, what does it imply about its economic importance or its fashion industry?

This is not a new concept and is found mainly in track racing games, but it is applicable to almost any genre. The better the game, the more people download the app, the more people consume you regardless of their existing perception of you.

All you have to do is decide what aspect of your country you what to amplify in conjunction with your branding efforts, invest a small amount of money or even have an intern do it for you for free and use your contacts to launch the game.

As far as promoting the game goes – the sky s the limit. You might find it effective to promoting the app by giving people who share their high scores on your Facebook page or a game fan page prizes that support your message.

There is really no need to reinvent the wheel. Move with the times, and give people what they love.