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.

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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.

8 Simple Steps Towards Reaching A Broader Audience

As I have mentioned in previous posts, your country’s achievements may seem wonderful to you and your Diaspora, but if your goal is to make friends for your country, showing off is not enough, and can sometimes be annoying. I mean, if your country has a strong economy and you are promoting that aspect in a country that suffers from high unemployment, you might start pissing people off.

You must show how your country’s achievements benefit the region or city you reside in.

It is classic “What’s In It For Me” only with the mind-set of ‘What’s In It for Them’ elevated by social media, and creating a win for all situation.

For example, let’s say that one of the pillars of your country’s overall branding strategy is its medical field. It is part of your job to make people aware of the fact that you have a lot to offer in that realm. So what’s the problem? Write a few words, add hashtags and attach an article from a website published in your native country raving all about it and post on your Facebook page, right? Sure if you want it to end right there, but if you want to be effective there are more ways to do it, and here is one of them:

  1. Contact the author of the article as well as the hero of the story.
  2. Email the article to local bloggers who would be interested in that content and offer to connect them with the above.
  3. Contact an online medical publication as well as a specific community that would be positively affected by this breakthrough, and get them to publish the story (written by the blogger who picked it up) on their website, newsletter and social networks. Don’t just post it on their page, it works better for all involved if they post it on their website and later share it themselves.
  4. Tell them all that you will be more than happy to promote the post using your mission’s networks as well.
  5. Once it is published, keep your promise and share it on your Social Media Channels using effective hashtags.
  6. Post on your website that the local publication/blog/organization wrote about this amazing discovery in your country, give the gist of it and share the link to where it was published.
  7. Thank the blogger as well as the organization/publication for posting and promise to let them know if and when you receive anything that would be of interest to them and send them the link to the featured article on your website.
  8. Use the information in the article and refer to it in an answer you compose in response to that or a related topic on Quora or any other significant Q&A based social network.

By applying these simple and basic PR moves, you will be able to:

  1. Deliver your message to a broader audience.
  2. Give your country positive exposure.
  3. Make new connections with bloggers, organizations and publications that will in the future be open and willing to receive more information from you and also possibly host or co-sponsor joint events, delegations or co-ops.
  4. Contribute to the local community and show how relevant you are to their day-to-day lives.
  5. Improve your country’s online presence and reputation. The circulation of linked information from one website to another, as well as newsletters, tweets and shares help search engines pick up on you and the story.

An Introduction

Every diplomatic mission has an ultimate goal based on their country’s strategic interest. Simply put – it is all about making friends.

The challenge for any representative is to get the message across. However, a successful diplomatic effort gets others to convey the message for you.

Diplomatic missions all over the world have recognized social media as an efficient tool to achieve their goals, but I feel that they are using new tools, old school style, failing to understand and utilize the very essence of social media marketing.

Diplomatic missions – embassies, consulates and delegations are still preaching to their own choirs with very little success in reaching out to new audiences which are and should be their top priority.

One can argue that the choir’s broader network does get exposed to the content, but is that really the case and if so, how effective is it?

The initial fan drive’s importance lies first and foremost  in beefing up your following so that you, as a government don’t look pathetic… I found that the easiest way to do that is by asking your friends and relatives who you left behind at home to like your Facebook page or follow you on Twitter. They won’t all do it, of course. Not everyone wants to show that they LIKE something that the government is doing. But I told people it would be a great way for them to keep track of me and what I’m doing. Who would have thought that they would be interested? Lucky for me, they were!

Cultivating your natural audience is important, especially when you are at an early stage of building your following. But once you have done that, the real hard work begins, and that is keeping your audience engaged and motivated to share your content out of interest, and eventually branching out to new audiences who you would have never thought possible to reach.

As we progress in this blog, I will be examining as well as sharing mine and other professionals’ insights on this matter as well as the many issues and challenges not only in building a following but also engaging and fulfilling strategic goals via digital diplomacy.