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!

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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.